I’ve struggled a lot with those who like the play “the Devil’s advocate” because I’ve often interpreted this way of thinking to be anti-progress. It’s felt more like an effort to squelch discussion rather than further the group. But, I’ve been working on this. Many years ago (now) I identified this as a trigger for me and have worked on how to respond to this way of thinking and use it to make progress.
I was helped, most recently, by Eric Geiger’s post 3 Better Alternatives to Playing “Devil’s Advocate”. In particular, he urged these three alternatives to taking up the mantle of “the Devil’s Advocate”:
- Anthropologist – thinking about how real people will be impacted. Take the discussion from heady, ethereal realms to the ground floor, boots on the ground, impact.
- Experimenter – consider how something could be tried on a small scale before you explain all the reasons it will fail
- Hurdler – quickly recognizing challenges that changes may pose and considering how they can be cleared for the good of the organization
You might drift into the devil’s advocacy. If that’s how you’re wired, consider these approaches for the good of those you are seeking to serve.