We tried to change things before; it doesn't work. This is the way we've always done it…

by Shannon Paul on July 29, 2008

If you’re anything like me you run into this attitude a lot. Just for fun, I have been compiling a very short list of responses that diffuse rote contradiction and unnecessary conflict when I encounter this mindset.

1. “There is no try. I really think we can make this happen.”

2. “Maybe it just wasn’t the right time before. Maybe the right time is now.”

3. “Do you think I shouldn’t try?”

The last one is my favorite and almost invariably elicits an apologetic response from the other person. Nobody wants to tell somebody that they shouldn’t try to improve something — especially when they’re passionate about changing things for the better.

How do you move past the hump of mediocrity? How do you inspire others to move past it with you?

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July 30, 2008 Tim (@Twalk) Walker 1

You’ve touched on a huge, important topic in this short post. To my mind, comeback #1 is less likely to be effective, simply because the conversation (maybe just with my friends / colleagues) is likely to devolve into poor Yoda imitations.

But #2 is very good, because it short-circuits our tendency to make hard-and-fast dichotomies. It’s way too easy for folks who have been burned once — whether because of poor timing, lack of skills, lack of effort, random back luck, whatever — to assume that they’ll be burned again if they try.

And you’re absolutely right that #3 is the devastating one. I think it’s because it gently puts the skeptic on the spot: are you saying that *I* should share your cynicism? Most of us don’t embrace the cynic’s role, I think, and most of us don’t want to rain on others’ parades. So we back up and figure out how to be helpful or remove a barrier or share some wisdom, instead of falling back reflexively on our objections.


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