At Each Others’ Throats

For the most part, we can all agree about the symptoms of a problem (say, the volume of traffic at rush hour or a spike in complaints from our clients). With some coaxing, we can all agree about the pain the problem causes. But it’s too easy to be (actively or passively) at each others’ throats when we discuss why the problem exists or what to do about it.

What’s going on?

At least three personal drivers cause us to fight over the why and what to do. These are

The need to be right. Ever since elementary school we’ve learned that there’s prestige and pride in being the one with the right answer. So we fight to be the one with the right answer and resist attempts to modify our positions.

The need to belong. We all want to fit and will lead or join a side just for the sake of affiliation. We see this (way too often) in public politics. People will vote for candidates who are bad for their greater interests simply because, “that’s what people like me do.”

The need to win. Our answers to “Why?” and “What to do about it?” can reflect our bias toward, emotional attachment to, or personal benefit from taking a particular course. We perceive that we will be stronger, better accepted, safer, or less criticized if we get our way. It’s mostly not logical; we first have our (often hidden) positions then come up with reasons to justify them.

We know that we can never really sway or be swayed when these drivers are in force.

But, good leader, we can get past them by changing the game. Instead of battling we ask, “How do you see the situation and what would a win look like for you?” We then say how we see it and what a win looks like for us. Both sides listen and confirm understanding. From this point of collaboration, better and more collaborative answers will pretty much automatically start to appear.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Peretz Partensky cc

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