Disciplined Agile

What to Say When Someone Just Doesn’t Get It

We have all had the experience of someone being hard to convince when the evidence is clear. It could be a co-worker, a manager or someone who reports to you. Sometimes, this lack of seeing is accompanied by belligerence or some other negative attitude. What can you do when this happens? 

The truth is that you have very little power in situations like this. However, here is an approach that can often help, one that I have often used as a coach and trainer. Ask yourself, 

What would an intelligent, motivated person be looking at (or not be looking at) that would have him/her take this position? 

In other words, there is more power to believe you are talking to a motivated, intelligent person than there is in thinking you are talking to a belligerent jerk. In my experience, people who are coming across as belligerent are not jerks; rather, they are looking at the situation differently than I and don’t know how to have a conversation about it. 

This attitude can give you insight in what to do. You can discover what thoughts they are having that are holding them back. 

Don’t tell the person they are wrong in their thinking. Rather, you can ask them if they are thinking this way. Ask them “Why?” or “Why do you say that?” Then engage with them. They will often tell you what they are looking at. 

It is very often the case that talking about certain things are difficult but that talking about the reasons for those things are not as difficult. In fact, such a discussion can often lead to great insights for both you and the person you are talking to. And be prepared that it is could be you who is looking at the wrong things (or not looking at the right things). Your willingness to learn creates a better energy and helps the person create this attitude as well. Admit it: It may be you that needs to learn something. 

Maybe Something Is Missing 

Some people often can’t make certain jumps in logic. Because some others do, and because we take pride in what we know, we often attribute this to a lack of ability in the person we’re coaching. As good coaches we then try to improve their ability to make the jump or just have them do it. But we should also consider that what we are suggesting people do to be easier to understand. In other words, when people don’t understand something about Agile (e.g. tying the big picture to the small task) perhaps it’s not an indication of the person’s inability as much as it’s an indication that something is missing. 

Taking a true attitude of learning opens up lots of possibilities. 

Of course, sometimes you will run across people who are more interested in arguing than in learning. But this is rare. In my years of consulting, I have seen it just a few times. Just remember, you cannot control anyone’s thoughts. But if you take the attitude that people are good and want to learn then you have more power than you would otherwise. True power is not control. It is getting other people to see what will serve them if they only saw it. This is not manipulation, this is service.