Julia Dhar – How to disagree productively: The lost art of constructive conversations 

How good are you at changing your mind?

It’s not a question we tend to ask ourselves often. 

Usually we focus on why other people should change their minds, or how we can carefully craft an argument to get them to shift position.

I once interviewed a political strategist from Washington, who mentioned that practically no resources are spent trying to ‘convert’ voters from one political party to the next. That there was simply no point.

In fact, according to research, when our viewpoints are challenged we usually dig deeper into our position than before. Essentially battening down to withstand the attack.

So that raises the next question – and one that has been on my mind a fair amount recently – as Australia has just come through its own election process. 

If most of us are terrible at changing our minds, wouldn’t a better focus be to learn how to disagree more productively? 

Now there’s something I don’t remember being taught at school.

And if we could do that, maybe the very act of disagreeing productively – providing the space and respect to listen to the ideas and perspectives of other people – would change more minds than our current approach.

Today’s Guest 

Julia Dhar is a Managing Director and Partner at the Boston Consulting Group and the founder of BeSmart, BCG’s behavioral economics and behavioral insights initiative. 

Julia’s mission is to enable leaders in government and the private sector to apply the science of behavior change across a range of social services and topics, including economic development, finance, education, criminal justice and welfare. 

Her two TED talks on how to have constructive conversations have had at last count over 10 million views. She was also world school debate champion three times.

So it’s safe to say she knows a fair amount about crafting a successful argument.

However, what drew me to Julia wasn’t her ability to persuade, although as you’ll hear she is very persuasive, but instead the vision she’s dedicated her life and career to driving.

That being how as Nations, organizations and families we can start to disagree more productively.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/julia_dhar

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliafetherston/

You’ll Learn

  • Why how we’ve been taught to talk about our differences is broken.
  • The importance of separating ideas from identity – and why learning to debate ideas as separate to ourselves, holds the key to constructive conversations.
  • How to craft an argument for maximum success – and then use that power to argue for the other side (trust me on this one).
  • Why every conversation should start with ‘shared reality’, ideas or intentions you can all agree upon, before heading into differences.
  • And finally… the most beautiful question I have heard in a very long time – “What can you share that will help me see what you see?”

In Julia’s words: “We need people with the technical skills of debate and persuasion. Not because we get to be right, but because we get to change people’s minds AND change our own.”

As part of this conversation you’ll hear her ask me what I’ve changed my mind about recently. Honestly, I haven’t been able to get that question out of my mind since.

It’s easy to believe that we need to take a stance on our viewpoints every chance we get. In person, online, at the dinner table. That we need to be ready to defend our beliefs at a moment’s notice, or lest we let the other side win.  

I think I’m changing my mind about that.

Which as someone who’s not backwards about coming forwards with my viewpoints, marks a substantial change in my approach.

We know factually, that confrontation rarely work. But more than that.

What if it also robs us of the ability to find each other. To discover the places, the ‘shared realities’ where we can meet. Where we can agree. Where we can connect. Where we could take action together on desires larger than our differences.

And maybe in doing that, we might change our own minds.

One of my favorite Rumi quotes says: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there”. 

I don’t know where that field is, but I think it would look a lot like that.

Announcements 

Myself and the team will be taking a break over summer – or in my case the balmy Australian winter. So for the next six weeks we’ve hand picked three of MY all time favorite golden oldie episodes to keep the momentum moving, while we refuel our tanks and travel all over the world to finally see our families.

These are all episodes that over the past three years have stuck with me and, in different ways, radically reshaped my thinking on different topics.

If you’re a long time listener, I think you’ll enjoy the refresher – if you’re new to the Inside Influence crew. Strap in because these are going to be one hell of a ride.

We’re also still planning to launch my new virtual program The Influencer Code in the second half of this year, so if you’re not already on the waitlist to find out when doors open before anyone else – jump onto my website, there’s also a link in the shownotes.

On that note, sit back, stride out, drive safe and enjoy the insightful brilliance of Julia Dhar.

References and links mentioned

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