Attitude can be more important than aptitude

We don't recall the name of the psychologist who said it, but the above statement is true. Once people are mentally sold on an idea or perception, getting them to change can be tougher than growing hair on a billiard ball.

11/01/1998


We don't recall the name of the psychologist who said it, but the above statement is true. Once people are mentally sold on an idea or perception, getting them to change can be tougher than growing hair on a billiard ball.

Such was the case when Technical Service Engineer Bill Hirtz got the notion into his head that the only way to accomplish boiler blowdown properly was the procedure he had described in a recently presented report. Matt Kessinger, his supervisor, explained briefly why in the particular case at hand, Bill's proposal wouldn't work. He asked him to revise his report accordingly.

Hirtz would have none of it. His method was firmly fixed in his head, his mind closed to alternatives.

"You're the boss," he told Kessinger. "I'll do what you want if you insist. But I don't agree with it."

Kessinger had considered Hirtz's proposal in depth. A mature and experienced professional, he felt he was right. Ordering the engineer to follow a procedure he didn't agree with ran against his grain. How could he convince Hirtz he was wrong?

Question : What would you do in Kessinger's place?

Cutler's strategy: The supervisor went to his superior for advice. Plant Engineer George Cutler smiled in response to Kessinger's exasperation over Hirtz's stubbornness in refusing to see things his way.

"Nothing is tougher to alter than a person whose attitude is set no matter what. There are two ways to approach the problem depending on the person's intelligence level. Smart people respond best to logic and reasoning. Not-so-smart people are better persuaded emotionally.

"Bill Hirtz is a bright guy. It may take patience to reach him, but I think your best bet is to sit down with him and explain with the facts and figures of the case why you feel he may have lost his objectivity. Who knows, once you start getting to the nuts and bolts involved, he may even convince you that he's right. But one way or other, I think it may produce the desired result."





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