Saying No to Yes Men

Many of my friends and colleagues are big proponents of deliberation and dialogue – conversations where diverse community members evaluate and address community problems.

At it’s root, deliberative processes assume that the best outcomes come from the most voices. That groups make better decisions than individuals.

It sounds pretty good in theory, but there are many complications to making this work.

The one on my mind today is the risk of ‘yes men,’ as it were.

This can take many forms – from deliberately surrounding yourself with people who agree with you to incidentally ending up with a network of people much like yourself.

Whether intentional or not, being surround by people who generally agree with you limits the possible outcomes of any process. The resulting outcome may be okay. Or it may not be. But it will almost certainly not be as good as it could be.

Conversations with disagreement can be hard. But, that’s okay. That’s good.

Disagreeing doesn’t need to mean table flipping and shouting matches. Reasonable people can disagree in reasonable ways. Share view points, explain motivations, evaluate impulses.

But often we don’t get to have those conversations.

Socially, we seem to be trained to just go with the flow. Agree with whomever is in charge or has the most social clout.

And sometimes that makes sense. Sometimes it’s just not worth the fight.

But I get nervous when no one disagrees with me. Who’s holding back? Who doesn’t feel comfortable sharing their view?

Having those divergent voices is critical – to us as individuals and to the societies we live in.

So ask yourself – do you create welcoming space for different view points?

When was the last time someone disagreed with you?


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