Open Letter to some of our Thought Leaders (regarding bashing)

October 4, 2011 at 8:48 am 7 comments

Open Letter to some of our Thought Leaders

Dear Thought Leader,

I really appreciate what you did for our community and the progress of our industry in general.

But sometimes I am puzzled. That happens when you bash an idea or even worse a person. The ideas you had and the concepts you developed are great enough to stand for themselves. You don’t have to bash other ideas/persons to make your concepts look brighter.

Here are some examples that might highlight what I am talking about:

“X clearly didn’t understand what Y means.” How do you know? Did you do an in-person test with X to check his understanding of Y? How does it feel for X when you say that? What will be his reaction? Will he check his understanding or is it more likely that X just defends himself?

“In his blog entry X addresses Y but sadly stops at Z and didn’t thought of A.” How do you know that X didn’t thought of A? Perhaps he did and decided to leave it out to keep the article short?

“Y is a stupid idea. It would lead to (unwanted) Z.” At least when people are involved how do you know that Y would lead to Z every time in every situation, especially when you tried Y never or only a few times? Do you think the advocate of Y is lying when he says that Y worked at his place?

I don’t suggest stopping arguing! Arguing is possible without devaluing other ideas/persons.

One could say “X wrote a nice blog post about Y. I’d like to add some thoughts on Z.” or “X presented Y in a way that puzzled me. I would rather think that …” or “Y didn’t work when I tried it. Therefore I tried something different that I’d like to present.” or even “Y simply does not resonate with me. Therefore I used Z.”

If you defined something very clear and X presented it just plain wrong you could just call or email X and make the correction. Don’t spend your previous keynote time correcting one person. There are hundreds in the audience who want to learn something from you.

My wish for the future is that we all learn to become better at arguing without bashing and devaluing.

Yours respectfully,

Stefan Roock

P.S.: I am am sure that I bashed other peoples/ideas as well but that doesn’t make it any better.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. olaflewitz  |  October 4, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Thank you.

  • 2. Johannes  |  October 4, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Who exactly do you address?

  • 3. Markus Andrezak  |  October 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    I guess you took the latest tweets of the latest lean conference as the trigger to write this. At least one calming fact is that none of the living thought leaders took offense of what was regarded as bashing by you 😉

    Actually, they all enjoyed the spirit of the conference. Might be the distance explains the difference in perception.



  • 4. stefanroock  |  October 5, 2011 at 11:05 am

    >I guess you took the latest tweets of the latest lean conference as >the trigger to write this.
    Yes it is was the trigger but not the reason! I had this post in mind for a while and it is by intention not adressed to a specific community.

  • 5. Markus Gärtner (@mgaertne)  |  October 6, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    One addition I would like to make:
    The thing – bashing – you describe is incongruent communication. It does not take into account the other people’s viewpoint as you put it out perfectly. It rather focuses on the own position of the speaker and the context about which we are talking. Virginia Satir taught this as blaming communication – something we have too manifold in our industry already. I hoped that it would stop with managers, but it seems to be a decease spreading around.

  • 6. stefanroock  |  November 2, 2011 at 8:14 am

    @Johannes: I thought about mentioning names, but:
    1. That would have been a very long list.
    2. It would be some kind of bashing, too.
    3. It would reduce that chance that something changes.

  • 7. Jörg Hinrichs  |  January 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    The examples you gave what to do and what not to do reminded me a lot of NVC (non-violent communication). Here is an excellent link about this concept:
    I can highly recommend watching the video which can be found in the middle of the webpage – very enlightening (especially if you have kids :).

    I found that a very effective technique is to build sentences starting with “I” (I am of the opinion / I feel) which expresses your own feelings – actually the part you (and only you) can be sure of.

    On the other hand, building sentences starting with “You” (You didn’t understand / You don’t know what you are talking about) often ends up in blaming. At the same time, you find yourself talking about things you really can’t know for sure. Therefore, as Stefan suggested, it’s a lot better either to say nothing about that or at least presenting it as your own opinion instead of a fact.

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