Let’s take a quick look at the presumption behind questioning someone’s presumptions, as discussed in Friday’s post. Just as it’s useful to try to guard yourself against failing to make the case for your proposals, it is important not to be overly negative about others when you are testing theirs.
That’s the corollary, here: if you interpret criticism of your thinking as criticism of you – your abilities or, even, your motives – then you are probably fully aware of how unhelpful that tendency is (to make personal attacks or to interpret all criticism as personal) in the effort of all parties concerned to find the truth, or, at least, the best proposal; if, indeed, that is their intent.
It must be acknowledged, after all, that a lot of work in our field is promulgated based on what will sell – as a book, a consulting program, a public address – marketed with scientific precision to target the emotional needs of those who purchase it, and fig-leafed with rational justification.
But an awful lot isn’t – even much of what many of us disagree with. It is genuinely, enthusiastically, and whole-heartedly embraced by its proponents and adherents.
So, while it can be energizing – even therapeutic – to rail against the willfully manipulative and the assertively imbecilic, it is well to recall that this is a sort of Nietzschean abyss: if we revel in it too long, we risk becoming what we ridicule.
That, then, is what I mean by the importance of making your case: Don’t worry about taking a shot. If your argument can withstand it, demonstrate how. If not, thank your persecutor for cutting short your unwitting folly and go back to the drawing board.
Similarly, don’t be shy about taking a shot, yourself; just be prepared to justify your decision to do so, your aim – and look to your own defenses, because you’ll likely see one coming back at you soon enough.
In either event, be sure that you have reconnoitered the field, and chosen your position well. For every high horse you ride in on, and every hill you take, there will soon be someone eager to challenge you. When they do, listen carefully – and not just for what they say, but to see if you can hear your own voice in theirs.
We’re going to be doing some firing away of our own, here, in the coming weeks. I’m hoping you’ll join in!
Today’s tip: Speaking of combat-analogies about work and management thinking, please take a moment to visit this piece and see why Lee Thayer, who authors The Leader’s Journey, compares problem-solving, as it is typically practiced, with the Wild West.
You should really try out this feature provided here by Answers.com: If you double-click on any (non-hypertext-linked) word on the main page of the site, a window will open providing definitions or encyclopedic material about that term, together with links to additional sources of information. Try it out – it’s interesting and fun.
And, of course, while you’re clicking around, don’t forget to click on your choice of an email or RSS-feed subscription to these pages – we’ll be proud to have you join us!