Resolve arguments quickly (and do NOT call Captain Hindsight)

24th September 2013

Captain Hindsight is the worst superhero I’ve ever heard of…

Blessed with the power of “perfect hindsight”, he flies to the scene of a disaster. But instead of saving the victims, he explains everything they could have done to have avoided the catastrophe. He then flies away, leaving them to try to survive on their own (you can see him in action here). He is useless.

I imagine that, like me, you’ve met a few Captain Hindsights in your time? You know the type:

  • You’re looking to find the solution to a problem; but a colleague is more intent on apportioning blame
  • You’re working to resolve an argument, but the other person keeps discussing what you did that annoyed them
  • You’re trying to suggest how to improve things at work, but someone keeps giving “evidence” from what they’ve seen in the past that proves your idea won’t work
  • The people who continually complain about what’s just happened

And, when you get two Captain Hindsights chatting together, the fun really starts:

A: You shouldn’t have done X

B: Well I did

A: Yes, but you shouldn’t have

B: Well I did. And anyway, you did Y

A: Well, after you’d already done X, what did you expect?

Nobody likes to think they’re like this. But some people must be; or we wouldn’t come across them so often.

To help ensure you’re not a Captain Hindsight, when having an awkward conversation, remember to focus on two things:

  1. the future (not the past) and
  2. ‘we’ (not ‘you versus me’).

So, “Let’s look at how we can resolve this” is much better than “what were you thinking of?” Other good examples: “So how can we both move forward here?”, “What can we do to improve things?”

As far as I know, there isn’t yet a super hero called Captain Future Enhancing Thing (it’s not a good name, I admit). But, if there was, he’d be much more useful than Captain Hindsight.

Who would you rather be “saved” by?

Who would you rather be?

Action point

Next time you’re in a challenging conversation, remember to concentrate on (1) the future and (2) “we”. If you aren’t finding a good solution quickly enough, the discussion probably isn’t focusing enough on one or both of them.

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