Playing Nice While Playing Devil’s Advocate

Conflict practically guarantees the success of any team!

Well, not exactly. I’m referring to a very specific kind of “conflict”…the role of devil’s advocate or skeptic.

Amongst other things, I’m an analytical problem-solver. I try to see things from many perspectives which makes me a good marketer. I always look for loopholes, flaws, and gaps in plans, processes, and campaigns to avoid problems popping in unannounced later on.

Because playing devil’s advocate comes naturally to me, I haven’t always considered how my comments might affect my teammates. This has resulted in hurt or anger from time to time. The easiest fix for me is to preface what I say with a statement that I’m stepping into the role of skeptic for due diligence, while making sure my question is posed in a neutral tone of voice.

For many, our work lives define who we are, at least in part. Regardless of how altruistic it may be, a direct and serious “Have you considered…” or “What if…” question from a colleague can feel like personal attack as opposed to a strategic business discussion.

Playing nice while playing devil’s advocate stimulates healthy discussions and yield better results.

© 2021 Tracey Copeland, Rolling Sands Consulting. A version of this post was published to LinkedIn on September 3, 2020.

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