7 Rules for Persuasive Dissent - Deepstash
7 Rules for Persuasive Dissent

7 Rules for Persuasive Dissent


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7 Rules for Persuasive Dissent

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Dissent In The Team

Decisions formed from a diversity of opinions usually lead to better long-term outcomes. So, when you believe that your team or organization is missing something important, moving in the wrong direction, or taking too much risk, you need to speak up. Done effectively, dissent challenges groupthink, reminds those in the majority that there are alternative paths, and prompts everyone to get creative about solutions.


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How To Bell The Cat

Six decades of scientific research point to strategies those without formal power can use to make sure their dissenting ideas are heard.

  • First, pass the in-group test by showing how you fit in.
  • Then pass the group threat test by showing how you have your team’s best interest at heart.
  • Make sure your message is consistent but creative and tailored for different people, lean on objective information, address obstacles and risks, and encourage collaboration.
  • Finally, make sure to get support.
  • Dissent isn’t easy but it can be extremely worthwhile.


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Demonstrate how Your Work Has Benefitted the Team

Perhaps you have indispensable skills, specialized knowledge, or vast experience that allowed you to play a “glue role” in an organization. You answer questions, help people, and amplify the contributions of others.

You might also point to mentorship, service, sacrifices, and overdrive mode in the presence of time, financial, and personnel constraints. This will remind people that you accumulated a large number of “idiosyncrasy credits” – that is license to cash in the goodwill you’ve earned and challenge the majority opinion.


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Pass the Group Threat Test

Illustrate that you have the best interests of the group at heart. Show that your primary concern is boosting the team’s chances of success and longevity.

Acknowledge potential upfront costs or short-term pain points, but explain that you’re focused on a better long-term future. If you stand to benefit from the direction suggested, address that conflict of interest. You want to inspire trust and evoke curiosity, not fear.


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Be Creative with Your Consistency

Recognize that mindless repetition doesn’t often work. What triggers and holds curiosity is expressing the same message in different ways. Use anecdotes and stories as well as data. Include precise details on the benefits of ideas. Help people imagine what they will be doing, thinking, and feeling six months and one year in the future. 

Make the relevance of your message clear to each person and tie it to what is deeply interesting and valuable to them. While you won’t know which arguments will be attractive to whom, you can have a master list from which to choose.


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Lean on Objective Information

Label what is a subjective opinion and what has supported evidence. You earn an audience’s trust by anticipating their questions and already having answers ready. Show how your own view has updated over time in response to new high-quality information.


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Address Obstacles and Risks

It might feel intuitive to focus only on the positives and what an audience will gain. But it’s important to be upfront about the difficulty of executing your idea and the dangers that might arise as you pursue it. Transparency boosts persuasive appeal.


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Encourage Collaboration

Reduce the distance between you and your audience. Use “we” instead of “I.” Investigate and embrace the expertise of your teammates and explicitly ask for their assistance to improve on your idea. Show you know their background, and ask them to leverage this knowledge, strength, and skill. Offer opportunities for them to volunteer criticism and refinements.

Try also to meet with potential detractors in private (instead of public forums) so you can effectively address their concerns. Let them know how they’ve been helpful and give them credit as contributors to solutions.


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Get Support

Demanding activities, like dissent, are less daunting when bolstered by friends. Over the past few decades, scientists have discovered that the mere thought of existing healthy relationships allows us to believe that more is possible and act with bravery. When we know allies are just a phone call away, we view their capabilities as part of our own supply and can act with more confidence and resilience.


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The Bottom Line

Results are not guaranteed, but these seven rules ensure a greater probability of winning over an audience and turning dissenting ideas into accomplishments. What the world needs now are not conventional thinkers but people who dare to differ, deviate, and defy to make their organizations – and society – a better place.


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