Leadership Discussions: Slow Down

Have you ever found yourself in a discussion in which you’ve been pushing hard and suddenly suspect you might be wrong? It’s hard to back out, isn’t it? It’s easy to get caught up in winning even though you may not be right. (Photo: Freedigitalphotos.net)

Momentum is hard to resist. Someone makes a harsh statement, and I find myself taking the opposite side, even supporting ideas I might not know enough about. Or a colleague makes an investment or business decision… when they’ve spent time, energy, emotion and money on something, it’s hard to back out when things go south.

When things aren’t working, and there’s so much invested, it’s hard to face the mistake. We start to see things as we had expected or wanted, rather than how things really are. Psychologists call this the confirmation bias.

I’ve been reading Peter Bregman’s book 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. It’s full of good tips. I particularly appreciate his suggestions for slowing down in a heated discussion. You can buy some time by saying things like:

  • “That’s an interesting point, I need to think about it some more.”
  • “Tell me more about what you mean.”
  • “I hadn’t read that article (or report); can you send me the link?”

Listening more to your “opponent” buys time to think things through and to find a way to successfully exit the discussion without committing you to any point of view. Give yourself time to back away from being so invested in being right.

I’ve seen colleagues and friends destroy relationships because they didn’t want to appear weak. It takes great strength of character and confidence to admit you might not have the answers and sometimes might even be wrong. And I believe that most others perceive this as a strength as well.

Good leaders are able to slow down, look critically at their own perspectives and stay open to other people’s view points. They are able to listen, reflect, and be generous in their comments. Do you agree?

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