Information vs Affirmation

January 24, 2019



Written By: jon

By Jon Simons

Recently, I met with a client to prepare for a feasibility study. We were reviewing a list of potential key community leaders to interview as part of the study. As we assessed each of the potential study participants (rating them based on their potential interest, access, influence and affluence), it became clear that each person identified was a big fan of the organization and most had also been recent donors. Great, right?

Well…sort of.

I inquired about a number of interview prospects who had an “X” next to their names. The director quickly explained that those people, while community leaders, were not big fans of the organization and none of them had ever provided support. She could not even remember the last time she had spoken to any of them.

I shared with her an interesting (and challenging) message I had just heard on a podcast.  While referencing our ability through social media and custom news feeds to create our own realities, the podcast guest encouraged all of us to remain open to alternative ideas, attitudes and perspectives. She cautioned listeners to meet others “where they are” and to seek information not just affirmation.

With that challenge in mind, the director and I agreed to expand our list of potential study participants to some who may not be our biggest fans.  We agreed that there is great value in understanding perspectives that differ from our own.

Not surprisingly, these interviews proved to be some of the most valuable of the entire study. The organization had the opportunity to clarify some misunderstandings, mend some broken relationships and also to understand how it can improve to meet the needs of all in the community.

What’s the takeaway?

  • Get out there!
  • Ask better questions!
  • Listen more than you talk!
  • Seek information, not simply affirmation!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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2 responses to “Information vs Affirmation”

  1. Greg Giles says:

    Thank you Jon for the blog. Helpful reminder for the important work we do at the Y.

  2. John C Alexander says:

    Jon, you offer 4 simple takeaways that are vital to success….and not just in philanthropic work. Thank you!