The other day I was listening to Radio 5 live. Presenter Chris Warburton was doing a piece on putting newspapers on the top shelf to prevent children seeing disturbing headlines. He had recruited the standard two ‘experts’ – someone from a women’s group who supported the idea, and a bloke who thought it was ridiculous. Warburton issued the immortal challenge above, and predictably the two protagonists dug in behind their rehearsed (and firmly held) points of view, and gave not an inch.
Was it even remotely surprising that neither speaker changed their mind? No.
Did it make good radio? No.
Yet in business meeting after meeting everyone wastes their time while people who fundamentally disagree kick seven bells out of each other.
Faux democracy has much to answer for. Presumably that is the justification for giving up valuable work time for pointless debate. Confrontational and adversarial behaviour is all round us. Listen to hostile interviews on the Today Programme. Suffer every Thursday evening watching Question Time. Marvel at the selection of the cage fighters on The Apprentice. Observe how people behave at football matches and when driving.
Why do we allow so many meetings to deteriorate into an unregulated free for all?
Meetings are essentially the way we work together now. So it becomes the responsibility of companies and meeting organisers to lay down rules on behaviour and etiquette. I’m not against constructive debate. Nor do I expect everyone to turn the other cheek. But confrontational behaviour has two big downsides. Opponents seldom change their mind. And it all wastes even more valuable time.
Empathy is the miracle remedy. The next time you are gearing up for a frontal assault, just imagine yourself in the shoes of your intended target. Treat them as you would like to be treated yourself. That is the spirit of Mote – the super meeting.
This is David’s December post for the Marketing Society https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/why-don%E2%80%99t-you-two-persuade-each-other-change-your-minds
This is David’s Marketing Society post for December https://www.marketingsociety.com/the-library/why-don%E2%80%99t-you-two-persuade-each-other-change-your-minds