Mind Asking…

I am inquisitive by nature. I like to understand things. I ask questions to understand – to understand thinking, detail, ideas, rationale. I ask questions on topics I think I understand (to increase my understanding) as much as I do on topics I don’t understand (to learn). I ask people lots of questions. I ask myself more. I ask questions to change my thinking…to change my mind.

I only have three rules. I always ask open questions (questions that can’t be answered yes or no) – I am after information not affirmation. I never use discount lines (‘this maybe be a silly question’…’this may be a hard question’) – they tend to distract the recipient. And I never worry.

All of which goes to explain why I am so engaged when I find the answer to something that I have never understood…. even more so if my lack of understanding has been irritating me.

I have strong views on Brexit. But I was irritated by the lack of quality of the 2016 UK referendum. It felt to me like there was no significant debate about any substantive issues. No debate at all. Just soundbites, billboards and commercials. Finger pointing, denying and statements with no facts. It drove me to distraction. I just couldn’t understand it.

I asked lots of people. Eventually I stopped asking myself. I didn’t get any help and couldn’t help myself. Most everyone I spoke to seemed to agree with my observations on the politics (or lack of) – even where we disagreed on the outcome.

Today I am happy. I have increased understanding. I read an article at the end of last week analysing the 2016 US election. It gave me an answer. Based on politics granted, but really based on us. On people. And the answer was obvious. Most good answers are obvious when someone who understands explains them to you.

It is much harder to change someone’s mind than it is to influence something they already believe.

That Brexit referendum then – the objective was to target people who were ‘not sure’ – individuals who were undecided on whether we should stay or leave, but who were anxious about one or two high profile topics. The strategy was to focus on these – more emotional – issues to influence opinion – healthcare, immigration, family, employment. And the approach was emotional – hence the lack of data, depth and rationale. It was all about emotions…from both sides. The goal was only ever to influence thoughts rather than to change minds.

This concept I can relate to. When I believe something it is hard to change my mind. Changing anything – culture, leadership, work, strategy, friends – takes time. Changing what any of us already believe is not easy. Influencing – increasing or decreasing – something we are already thinking is more straightforward.

Back to Brexit – the winner simply had to have more votes than the loser. There wasn’t any requirement for minimum number of voters, or minimum percentage to win. It was first past the post. More votes on your side. Less votes cast against. There was no need for anyone to try to change the mind of those who had strong views either way.

Now I understand. Now I am just disappointed…rather than irritated.

Back to work. Or to life. What does this learning mean? How does it help? Does it help? Maybe it just means I am not as open to learning as I thought I was? Or as open to change as I believed? Maybe I am just seeking affirmation of something I already believe? Maybe we all are?

More questions. Questions are good…

…I am inquisitive by nature.




About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 10 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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1 Response to Mind Asking…

  1. Chris says:

    Thanks Steve,
    Actually you touched on something rather interesting. Aristotle defined 3 modes of persuasion – Ethos (convince through the credibility of the speaker), Logos (convince through logic and fact), and Pathos (convince through emotion). What you described is the latter – it doesn’t need facts or someone you trust or respect to be speaking; it can cut through both of those and still resonate with the audience. Further, with skill, it can undermine counter arguments that rely on the other approaches such as through personal attacks (anti-ethos) or statements like ‘we’ve had enough of experts’ (anti-logos). It feels as if this approach is being more frequently used in politics now – often to the detriment of good decisions! Next time you hear an argument – look to see how it is driven home!

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