The importance of the devil’s advocate

The devil’s advocate. The nagger. The critic. Who of us really likes to let someone else take apart our thoughts, ideas, and work? We thought a lot about something and now finally it makes sense to us, or we invest hours upon hours of work into something and are now certain that this is the final version. But if we stop here, we risk success or learning something new for remaining in love with our idea or work.

Yes, it is hard to really be open and invite and maybe even encourage others to take on this role. However, I find it to be invaluable to my own development. I need to add that not everyone is a good devil’s advocate. If they criticize without knowing what they talk about or only for the sake of being critical, then that is not what you need and what I have in mind when I speak about the value of a devil’s advocate.

A good devil’s advocate will broaden your horizon. She/he will tell you truths that will hurt and open your eyes. Their comments will provoke a defensive behavior, but you will feel that you might not be right this time. The best you can do then, if you are not yet there or able to agree, is to be silent and think. Nobody is saying that you have to happily jump up and down if you realized you were wrong. If you do, congratulations =). If you don’t, just take a while. But tell them and admit that you have been wrong. This takes courage, but people will give you credit for that.

Using a devil’s advocate early on might help you to circumvent problems and pitfalls. Good devils’ advocates are often those who have a different way of thinking. They can show you different angles. See their worth and tell them. Or at least, be careful not to let your ego drive them away by not valuing their input or not speaking to them because you are afraid of what they will say.

I am glad that I am surrounded by some devil’s advocate and it helps me to grow and to stay humble =).


Take care, Stephan

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