There is a difference between understanding and accepting

You don’t have to accept but you have to understand

I personally think this is one of the things that gets lost in the shuffle today and causes a lot of the polarization of opinions we see. What I’m talking about here is we need to take the time to hear what the other person is saying and try to understand, from there perspective, why they are saying what they’re saying. This understanding in no way has to imply or state that because you can interpret what they’re saying, that you agree or support what they are saying. It does say though that you have taken the time and made the effort to analyze the assumptions being made, the logical connections being made, why they’re saying what they’re saying and you’ve considered the impacts of the opposite party’s belief. Doing this analysis again does not say you accept their position but it does force you to fully examine and consider another position to your own so that when you make a choice, you are making a fully informed choice. You may in fact, by having fully examined another position from your own, brought to light issues you hadn’t thought of that adds to the final decision

Let me give you a common example. In manufacturing, when it comes to issuing raw materials, we have the choice of issuing the materials in front to the shop order and then receiving into stock the finished product at completion. Our other choice is back flushing. Back flushing removes raw materials from stock at the time of final product completion. In essence, we have two transactions performed at once rather than separately. Clearly a time saver. We may find in the conversations with employees about doing this, that there are some significant barriers that need to be overcome if back flushing is to be implemented. We may find that there are accuracy problems with the bills of materials so that the wrong quantities or parts may get removed from inventory and then we’d have to go back and perform an inventory adjustment to correct the back flush. Now we’ve gained no improvements.

The understand but not accept part comes into play here. We may have people against back flushing because of the bills problem. We need to understand what they’re saying. We need to understand why they are saying what they’re saying, and we need to think about the impact of what they’re saying. This in no way means we have to accept their recommendation. When we consider though the ramifications of what is explained to us, we may find a couple things. We may find we can still perform back flushing successfully with some additional effort and modification. Or we may find that we do in fact postpone implementing back flushing for 2 months while we clean up the bills. In either case, we come up with a more robust and supported decision.

This brings me to one last point. Organizationally and individually, we get so much more support when people feel like they’ve been truly listened to and their opinions are genuinely considered. It brings us closer together, we are more trusting of others, and we are more willing to cut some slack when mistakes are made when we are genuinely listened to.

“I may not agree with your decision, but I can support it and will try it if you’ve genuinely considered my position”