Narrating this very particular incident that took place during early years of starting my professional life into corporate reminds me of this term Devil’s Advocate.
In common parlance, a devil’s advocate is someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with, for the sake of argument. In taking such position, the individual taking on the devil’s advocate role seeks to engage others in an argumentative discussion process. The purpose of such process is typically to test the quality of the original argument and identify weaknesses in its structure, and to use such information to either improve or abandon the original, opposing position.
I remember once during a Communications training we were given a topic for debate. As a part of my professional life we have to go through few corporate training‘s. The topic was on “If Women should work or stay home after becoming a mother…” A very interesting & debatable topic. I started thinking, “Why not? She should work, if she wants too.” As a part of rule of debate everyone had to say something on the topic & of-course there were few female members in the group as well. The debate started & I was 7th to put my opinion on board.
1st colleague: I think, if the girl wants her husband should not stop her from pursuing her career.
2nd colleague: I agree, they have right to work and no one should stop them.
3rd colleague: I think both of them are saying true. No one should put such restrictions on women.
4th colleague: Agree, Women should be allowed to work. They can manage the family & work, with equal support from better-half.
5th colleague: I will agree….
6th colleague also joined in the same league…..
Frankly when 5th one was talking I felt this conversation was going no-where. No Dispute, No Argument. A group of people, working in corporate (few of us just passed out of college), age range 22 – 29, a few married – a few still bachelors, are going to say what 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th colleague said considering their backgrounds.
This tempted me to make a very different move when my turn came to say my opinion.
I just said: “I Disagree.” & I saw the spark in the debate. All 6 colleagues who had put their opinions seemed to have got alive and then started a very interesting debate. Many interesting points were bought up during this debate by participating member’s, which I think would have never come on discussion.
I had just put couple of statements in supporting to my opinion “No, I Disagree” & it made every one in the training to think & come up with every point they can defend to “Why not?”
I never knew I was playing Devil’s Advocate. What I knew was, I made that conversation a bit spicy & interesting.
At the end of the Debate, my trainer told me that my statements were a bit harsh & if this would not have been a debate I would have hurt sentiments of female members participating debate.
- A very interesting Debate with many interesting points bought up by many members.
- I became the Actor in negative role in this story
Playing a devil’s advocate is interesting, however frame of context & situation matters a lot. This technique helps to analyze a situation, discover the truth, and solve problems. The intentions are good and the willingness to help is clear, which demonstrates empathy. However, these are not always apparent to the other party in a relationship and the devil’s advocate technique usually backfires.
- Question and Answer about the Devil’s Advocate (sanderssays.typepad.com)
- The problem with devil’s advocates (sanderssays.typepad.com)
- Everyone Needs a Devil’s Advocate (gautamghosh.net)