A recent thread on our Authentic Conversations Facebook page addressed one of the conversations skills that people really struggle with. It began with this statement posted by Jamie:

“Here's a thought: Taking the other person's side demonstrates understanding and is the heart of collaboration.”

The first response to this posting came from a long-time, dear friend — a skilled and seasoned organization development consultant. He wrote:

“Hey Jamie. I have another thought. Listening to the other person's side is at the heart of collaboration. Not taking their side. Especially when you don't agree. If you take their side and don't agree you are just being in pretense! Just another thought!”


He raises one of the most common push backs that we hear when we talk with others about this concept. Our friend is right — if  ‘taking the other person’s side’ is done as a technique for winning the argument or getting your way, the pretense is the same as any other form of manipulation.

Here is why in the book and in our work we advocate stating — out loud — the other person’s point of view during a conversation:  


  • To deepen your understanding of their point of view, whether you agree with it or not

  • To demonstrate you are listening (you can't accurately restate if you didn't really hear it)

  • To give them the opportunity to feel truly understood

Doing this gives their point of the view the same validity as yours, and it doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. After taking their side you can then state say something like, "I have a different point of view that I’d like to share.” Or, "Here are some distinctions I want to draw."

Why are people reluctant to take the other side? It usually boils down to fears that doing so will:


  • Give your point of view more power than mine

  • Validate your position in a way that will keep my argument from prevailing

  • Lead to a conclusion that I actually do agree with you

These concerns have to do with wanting to win or be right, which are stone-cold barriers to collaboration. We suggest that if you feel strongly about prevailing, just state that upfront along with the rationale for your position. This way your intentions are clear.
Collaboration means caring as much about the good of the whole as I do about winning my position. Taking the other side is a powerful way to be collaborative in the moment.
Want to join our Facebook conversation? Check it out, we'd love to have your participation!