We have all had the experience of someone being hard to convince when the evidence is clear. It could be a co-worker, a manager, or someone who reports to you. A negative attitude often accompanies this, making you think this person is a jerk. But the moment you throw up your hands and label the person a jerk, you’ve lost all hope of getting them to change their mind.

An approach of not judging can often help, one that I have often used as a coach and trainer. Ask yourself, “What would an intelligent, motivated person be looking at (or not be looking at) that would have him/her take this position?” In other words, pretend that they aren’t a jerk or belligerent

There is more power to believe you are talking to a motivated, intelligent person, even if they are not. In my experience, people coming across as belligerent are usually just looking at the situation differently than I am and don’t know how to have a conversation about it. Sometimes they feel threatened in this situation. Sometimes so do I. 🙂

This attitude can give you insight into what to do. You can discover what thoughts they are having that are holding them back.

Don’t tell the person they are wrong in their thinking. Instead, ask them why they are thinking this way. Engage with them, don’t judge them. They will often tell you what they are looking at.

It is very often the case that talking about differences of opinion is difficult, but talking about the reasons for what we believe is not as difficult. Such a discussion can often lead to great insights for you and the person you are talking to. Be prepared that it could be you looking at the wrong things. Your willingness to learn creates better energy and helps the person improve their attitude. Admit it may be you that needs to learn something.

Maybe Something Is Missing

We have to remember that our ability to connect the dots may be because we’ve got more experience at it or that we’ve been down this road before. Because we take pride in what we know, we often attribute this to a lack of ability in the person we’re coaching. Good coaches will see if they can bridge the thoughts needed to reach a reasonable conclusion. Again, judging the person being talked to as not able to get there is not helpful.

Taking a learning attitude opens up lots of possibilities.

Of course, sometimes you will run across people who are more interested in arguing than learning. I suggest this occurs less frequently than you might think. I have seen this just a few times in my years of consulting. Just remember, you cannot control anyone’s thoughts.

The bottom line is you have more power in the situation when you take the attitude that people are good and want to learn. True power is not achieved by controlling others. It is in helping others see what is in their best interest and how to achieve it. 


Go to Amplio Development: The Path to Effective Lean-Agile Teams 

Go to Being a Professional Coach


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