How to Separate Logical and Emotional Objections

As a leader, you frequently come up with ideas that impart change on your organization. Assuming you’re in a healthy and trusting organization, you’ll likely hear objections towards your new idea. The process of defending a proposed idea (devil’s advocate) against objections can be a great way to discover weaknesses or holes in your plan. If you’re unable to defend it, it probably isn’t a great idea.

Not all objections can be debated equally, though. Logical arguments are presented when someone thinks about the changes and discovers sections that may not line up. Emotional arguments are a different animal. These are presented when someone feels an emotion in response to your idea. The most common emotion when discussing change is fear, but others are possible.

In many cases, facial expressions and tone of voice are excellent indicators of an objection coming from a thought or a feeling. With email, text message, social media, and other modes of communication that lack intimacy, we don’t always have that luxury. A common indicator of an emotional argument is a rapid barrage of objections, each more easily defeated than the last. This is reminiscent of shooting silverware out of a cannon after the supply of cannonballs have depleted.

Most emotional arguments (and some logical ones that are poorly presented) are logical fallacies. I don’t recommend pointing out to a fearful and emotional colleague that they just presented you with a straw-man argument, but you mustn’t allow fallacious logic to draw concessions, thus weakening your idea. At this point the emotion is what you need to deal with, not the particular weakness in the idea.

Emotional arguments are a valid indicator of the trouble that may be ahead if you push forward with the change; ignoring them will have consequences further down the line. They aren’t; however, a valid reason to modify your idea. Demonstrate compelling ways in which ones self-interest will be served by making the change and offer (and follow through on that offer) emotional, tactical, training, and technical support for that change when it is eventually implemented.