What do we do when we encounter an opinion or advice we find hard to digest or understand?
A proposal that doesn’t quite add up, yet.
A perspective that is hard for us to embrace.
A suggested course of action that feels unfamiliar.
To start, let’s ignore how these questions play out low trust environments, and instead imagine what we do when the counterintuitive advice comes someone we trust and respect deeply.
For example, I’m reminded the professional coach I worked with for many years.
I was completely convinced she had my back, and similarly convinced that I had a lot to learn from her.
What to do, then, when she would propose a set of things for me to do that felt whacky? A course of action to do that seemed just plain wrong?
In my head, I would kick and scream, convince myself this couldn’t quite be right.
In conversation with her, I would put on a brave face, ask a bunch of questions, and try to figure out why she was giving this crazy advice.
And, in action, I would take a deep breath and do what she suggested.
And, yes, sometimes things went sideways or blew up in my face.
But more often than not, and way more than I expected, things worked out swimmingly.
And, through these surprising outcomes, I’d learn a lot about my incorrect assumptions; the too-narrow field of options I thought were available to me; my many blind spots; my ladders of inference; the huge swaths of the playing field I wasn’t seeing.
Over time, as this cycle repeated itself, it broadened my skills and, eventually, my perspective.
Of course, not all relationships have this particular combination of extreme (trust + competence + benevolence) on the part of the advice-giver.
But surely many of our relationships have some appealing mix of trust / competence / benevolence, one that affords us the opportunity to react differently in the face of surprising advice.
Perhaps, in these cases, we have an option other than to dig in, retrench, fight back, argue our point of view, and cling to our limitations.
Instead, we might ask ourselves:
How might this (crazy idea) be true?
What am I not seeing that they see?
Where are my old patterns not serving me?
Is this a situation in which, if I act as I always have, I’ll get the result I’ve always gotten?
Our opportunity is to embrace the strength of our relationship over our conviction in our own point of view. If the advice-giver is the person we know them to be, then there must be truth, goodness and insight in this surprising thing they’ve just shared.
We embrace these seemingly opposing forces—what our head wants us to do, what our heart is telling us to do—and then act accordingly.