Showing posts with label Devil's Advocate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Devil's Advocate. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Playing Devil's Advocate - Don't!

Dear Readers, today I am celebrating MY 300TH POST! 

I am celebrating and asking you to celebrate with me.  If you like my blog, then I would love you to join the celebration and share it, not just this post, but any post that you enjoy and let me know what you think.  And let's keep the celebration going.  Also thank you to all of you who have been reading my posts and supporting me.  It means a lot.  I hope you will continue to join me here every Tuesday for my "mature" rants about life and pop culture and on Fridays for my "mature" view on current films, DVDs and books and hopefully we can all share a laugh or two as well (and I promise to review more fiction)!

And for those of you who are regular readers who haven't yet noticed, Rosy the Reviewer now has her own domain name at (and if you don't like to type that much, you can also get there by just typing

Anyway, today's post is one of the shorter ones.

One, because I was going on a little vacation and wanted to get ahead of the game, and two, I have something to say about this topic but not THAT much to say about it.  Some of you might be thinking, thank goodness!

Anyway, a few years ago when I was still working as a librarian, I attended a presentation at the American Library Association Conference, and it was centered around Tom Kelley's book "The Ten Faces of Innovation:  IDEO's Strategies for Defeating the Devil's Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization (2005)." 

Basically, the point was this.  Let me set the scene. You are happily and enthusiastically pitching an idea that you have and before you have even gotten very much of your point across, someone raises his hand (I'm sorry, I have to say "his" because it's usually a guy) and says, "Let me play devil's advocate for a minute."

Do you know what that does?  It basically says, "Shut up a minute while I try to show why your idea sucks."  End of creative thought.  And ultimately, the end of you/our taking the initiative of thinking up any more creative thoughts to share, because why bother, when there is always going to be someone who thinks it's his job to poke a hole in our idea?

Watching that presentation and hearing about that changed my whole perspective on the whole playing "devil's advocate" thing.  I will never say "Let me play devil's advocate" again.

As you know, I am retired, which technically means I am no longer working.  But that doesn't mean I am not working.  I have volunteer work that I do, not to mention this blog, my TV and movie watching and whatever strikes me as important.  As I have written about in the past, retirement is my new job and it's a lot of work!

One of my volunteer jobs is with a group that advocates for issues of interest and importance to seniors.  In this group is a guy who just can't help himself.  Every time someone brings up an idea, he says" That's interesting but I am going to have to push back on that a little."  He has a problem with every idea and has to add his two cents which is usually something that takes the wind out of the sails of the idea.  I would actually prefer he say "Let me play devil's advocate" because that sounds less bad than "pushing back," but they are both the same thing.

Think about it.  You are having a discussion and you throw out what you think is a great idea.  Instead of someone saying, "What a great idea," the person says, "Let me play devil's advocate," so you know what's coming.  That person does not think your idea is great and is now going to make you wish you had never brought it up.  And isn't it funny?  People can't even own it when they are starting an argument.  They have to blame it on the devil!  Saying "Let me play devil's advocate" is supposed to cover up what they are really saying which is "Your idea is awful and here's why."  Why don't you just tell me to "shut up?!"  Because that is ultimately what playing devil's advocate does.  It shuts people up.

Now you might be thinking, "That wouldn't shut me up.  I would just argue my point with that person."  Well, OK, that's YOU.  But you know what?  Most people are not like you.  Most people don't even share their ideas, but if they get up the courage to do it, what do you think happens when someone brings up "The Devil?"  That's the last time you will hear any ideas from that person.

And this isn't just something that happens in the workplace.  It happens among friends, in marriages and all sorts of relationships.

Here is something I wrote on Facebook three years ago and I believe it just as strongly today.

"I don't think people validate each other enough. And lord knows, lack of validation is at the heart of many emotional issues. I know growing up I would tell my mother I was feeling sad and she would say something like, "What do you have to feel sad about...etc. etc. etc." And that would be the end of it. But that was the 1950's. They didn't know any better, right? But today, we should. So when you have the chance, say, "That's a great idea," or "You are so smart" or "I appreciate that you did that for me." It means more than you know."

So as Michael Stevens wrote in his article in "Library Journal" "Speak of the Devil," he advocates "Angel's Advocates."  It's possible to share ideas without putting down someone else's.

You don't want to be known as a naysayer, do you? - Someone who always has a problem with other people's ideas? - Someone, who when you speak, everyone at the table rolls their eyes? I know when that guy in my group opens his mouth, he is going to say, "I'm sorry, I have to push back on that..." and I think, "OK, here we go..." and I am sure I am not alone.  I see a lot of eye-rolling and hear a lot of sighing.  You don't want to be that person.

I think what works best in meetings is brainstorming, that little practice where all ideas are good ones and no one is allowed to dissect them.  A good facilitator knows to take all ideas and then help the group narrow them down without stopping the flow of creativity.

In life, outside of the workplace, whether it's your significant other, your child or your friend, when someone has an idea, acknowledge it.  At the very least say "That's interesting" which is always slightly damning, but at least it's better than dismissing it.  At best, "What a good idea" is in order and then if you don't agree use "and."  Never use "but."  "But" is just another name for a "devil's advocate."  Say "What a good idea AND what about this?"  Believe it or not, there are good ideas out there that you probably don't agree with!

We don't need more devil's advocates.  It's called DEVIL'S advocate for a reason. I think the devil advocates just fine all by himself.  What we need more of are validators.

In a training I took not too long ago, one of the messages was "Connect, don't correct." 

Let's take the time to acknowledge, validate and connect. Don't worry, you will get to make your point, but if you don't first listen and validate, you will never connect and you might miss something really great.

So next time you want to say "Let me play devil's advocate" - do us all a favor. 

Be an angel and...


Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
for my review of
"The Huntsman: Winter's War"

The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before

 I Die Project."

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