Peoples reaction to a question, choice, or situation is always coloured by their experience, education, background, and a myriad of other qualitative factors. Where there is a divergence of views, it can become heated, as people invest emotionally in an outcome consistent with their existing mental frameworks. This step from a simple divergence of views to an emotional disagreement can be very small, and quick to make.
Mediating many disagreements over the years ,I have found that arriving at a sensible conclusion rather than just a compromise, is usually achieved in a three stage process:
- Recognise and agree on what is data, supposition, and opinion.
- Understand what the data tells you, and what you can agree on
- Ask what would have to be true for the parties to the conversation to alter their position on an issue.
This simple device of separating what we think from what we know, identifying the gaps, then filling them with data that is agreed serves as a useful tool to both diffuse volatile discussions, and usefully identify information gaps needed to be filled for a sustainable decision to be made, rathe than a compromise reached that falls apart under pressure.
Try it, next time ask “what would have to be true” when faced by a decision, emotion, and a lack of objectivity.