In a recent workshop, I provided suggestions for how to have conversations that encourage people to change. One of the participants asked what to say when the dialogue seemed to be at a standstill with both parties having different points of view.

One technique that can be helpful is to introduce a “third party” into the discussion. This may not be a literal third person, rather some information that serves as a proxy for them. It’s different than a pure debate with outside sources and factual research; in this scenario, you are bringing another viewpoint into the conversation. It could be through survey results (“the members said…”), a professional code of ethics (“the association recommends that we…”), an edict from higher-ups (“the administration needs us to….”), input from your constituents (“the students want…”) or something similar.

By bringing in a presumably neutral data point, you may be able to shift the conversation from a continuous back-and-forth impasse to more of a triangle that takes another perspective into consideration. It no longer becomes just you vs. them and just may create a window for both of you to alter your stance.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: