Donald Trump’s Advocacy Without Inquiry

We have all met folks whose opinions are not flexible. Discussing things with these folks usually leads to argument. It gets personal. and nothing gets resolved.

The problem is wide spread. And it is easily resolved. Lafley and Martin bring out the solution in their book “Playing to Win”. They write

In any conversation, organizational or otherwise, people tend to overuse one particular rhetorical tool at the expense of all the others. People’s default mode of communication tends to be advocacy  — argumentation in favor of their own conclusions and  theories, statements about the truth of their own point of view.

They suggest a different form

The kind of dialogue we wanted to foster (at Proctor and Gamble) is called assertive inquiry. Built on the work of organizational learning theorist Chris Argyris at Harvard Business School., this approach sincere expression of your own thinking (advocacy)  with a sincere exploration of the thinking of others (inquiry). In other words, it means clearly articulating your own ideas and sharing the data and reasoning behind them, while genuinely inquiring into the thoughts and reasoning of your peers.

How do you do that?

To do this effectively, individuals need to embrace a particular stance about their role in a  discussion. The stance we tried to instill … was a reasonably straightforward but traditionally underused one “I have a view worth hearing, but I might be missing something.”

We are all good at assertion. We are less practiced at inquiry. But if we want to do exchanges at the highest possible level, that is a skill that we must master.

So what about Donald Trump? Have you ever wondered where his opinions come from? What is the basis for his conclusions? Sometimes he refers to facts — which are often false. But he NEVER leaves room for inquiry. There is never any opportunity for LEARNING.

For this reason alone, the sooner we can get beyond this dude, the better. We can do better and we need to do better.


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