Ever been caught up in the moment, found yourself arguing some point with someone; perhaps some small detail or point you just won’t let go of until they come around to your point of view? Many times of course the other person knows exactly that you want them to concede on the point so they only dig their heels in more and you have an impasse and the conversation just goes around and around in circles?
Just as often as the above scenario, sometimes it takes a third person who has been listening to intervene and draw your attention to the bigger picture. It’s then you realize perhaps that winning the point isn’t as important as maintaining the relationship with the person with whom you are arguing. Looking at the big picture, you’ve expressed your point of view and hopefully heard theirs, and unless it’s a life or death situation, best to refocus on other things and just let it go.
The big picture is really just another way of getting some perspective. When you look at the situation in which you find yourself and at the same time have a broader view of where that discussion fits into the bigger picture, sometimes what you are advocating for so strongly suddenly seems less absolute. It’s just that in the heat of the moment, when your mind is only racing to come up with a convincing counter argument to the one the person is making, all you can think of is the next 3 seconds and the need to, ‘win’ at all costs can take over.
So when some third person says, “Pick your battles”, what they are really suggesting is that your need to walk away having, ‘won’ that point you were so passionate about may actually have done you more harm than good because you may have won at the expense of the relationship. There will usually be other opportunities and further discussions. A break – for both of the people in the argument – is often suggested and all the break really accomplishes is to give each person time to gain….perspective.
So how does this help you on the job? Well just like in the relationships you have outside the workplace, you are bound to run into situations in your workplace where you find yourself having differing views on procedures with your co-workers. It could be on how to best move forward on a promotional project, how to best co-facilitate a seminar, what to include or exclude in some literature or booklet. You might feel passionately and strongly on one course of action and find that a co-contributor feels just as strongly about taking an alternative plan of action.
So there you are on what looks like opposing sides of an issue. You want to ‘win’ them over to your view, and may even feel the more you listen to them the crazier their point of view appears to be. “Why can’t they see that my idea is ultimately the best course of action?” Of course you might be right so let’s acknowledge that. However, the odds you are right the next time, and the time after that go down. No one is right all the time. In fact, encouraging others to come forward with their ideas is healthy. However, if you keep ‘winning’ and shutting down other people, those ideas are going to be silenced.
Ironically, some people might say, “Great! Silencing others so only my opinions are heard and acted on is exactly what I’m out to do!” Yes there will always be a small group of folks who ramrod their points of view all the time and just don’t see the value in having any point of view other than their own. How unfortunate.
So in the workplace, it’s a positive thing to look around the table and provide your co-workers with the space, freedom and permission to voice their opinions and ideas. Now this doesn’t mean you don’t contribute your own of course; no, your own ideas and arguments for or against a plan of action are just as equally valid as the views of others. Did you notice however that the words essential in the previous sentence is ‘equally valid’? Neither better nor worse mind….equally valid.
Here’s a key thing to realize however: If you expect people to grow and develop, expect their ideas to mature over time and become stronger, more applicable, more relevant; you have to provide them with opportunities to contribute early. So if an idea or suggestion is weak or fraught with some difficulties and challenges, it should still be shared in a brainstorming fashion, and then like all ideas, the pros and cons of each debated. By validating the idea, you validate the person. When the flaws are discovered, it may be that the person themselves withdraws their own idea or saves it for another and better applicable situation. What they learn is how to critique their own ideas first.
It’s also essential to ensure that you revisit your goal(s) and keep the focus on your overall objective so that your small details over which you debate don’t derail the process or move the group in directions not intended.
The big picture considers not where people are today but where you are guiding and leading them. You’re ability to mentor and develop talent demands the big picture, broader perspective approach. Well that’s just my opinion!