Here's a question I never ask at work: Who are you voting for in the U.S. presidential election?
Let's not talk about it. Because if we disagreed, that wouldn't feel good. And neither of us would change our mind.
Even worse, I suffer from a crazy belief - I'm not proud of this - called "I'm right."
And yet . . . 64 million people (half the electorate) prefer the other candidate. And many of these people are very smart and very sensible. And they're convinced that they're right too.
Another problem: I have no idea, really, how I decided. Or even when.
Sure, I watched the debates, every second, but mostly as theatre. I've been watching presidential debates for years; I can't remember the last one that changed my mind.
If you asked why I prefer this candidate to that one, I'd give you reasons. There are always reasons. But it's more like these reasons came later, to justify an already-formed opinion.
So, this decision - some decisions are like this - is less about reasons, and more about something deeper, like values. And that's why debating your politics feels like debating your religion.
We identify, strongly, with our values. We don't say, "These (Democrats, Republicans, wild-eyed extremists) have some intriguing ideas."
We say, "I AM (a Democrat, Republican, wild-eyed extremist)."
And some people say, "I don't even want to meet anybody who's from the other party." That's what clients are telling Chicago matchmaking service, Selective Search (Wall Street Journal, 10/29/12).
How does this relate to work? Well, hopefully, at work you and I do the exact opposite (apart from avoiding politics).
That is, we're open-minded. Let's check. To what extent do you:
1) Actively seek out divergent opinions.
2) Suspend judgment, at least temporarily, and really listen to those opinions.
3) Sometimes, change your mind.
The U.S presidential election, analysts tell us, will be decided by the undecided voters. I have never met one, but if these voters really exist, they have something to teach us about open-mindedness.
I just hope, on election day, these undecided voters make the right decision.
Tip: Ever get triggered when others disagree with your opinion? Ever feel like they're attacking YOU?
It's easy to feel that way. But hard, then, to learn anything new.
© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.