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By David RichmanNational Director, Eaton Vance Advisor Institute

Who do you want to sound like in conversation: a preacher, a prosecutor, a politician or a scientist? In an interview promoting his latest book, "Think Again," Wharton Professor Adam Grant zeroed in on the differences in each of these approaches. Hopefully, his analogues speak to you (paraphrased):

  • When we are in preacher mode, we are spreading our gospel
  • When we are in prosecutor mode, we are proving our case and proving them wrong
  • When we are in politician mode, we are following our tribe, seeking to gain their approval
  • When we think like a scientist, we choose humility over pride and curiosity over conviction

Think about it. Scientists question things — remember the "null hypothesis" from science class? The null hypothesis is what is commonly accepted. Scientists actually work to reject the null hypothesis with an alternative hypothesis.

For example, perhaps the null hypothesis could be your view about where we are in the economic cycle right now. Could the alternative hypothesis be a prospective client's or team member's differing point of view? Consider where this alternative mindset might take you in conversation. Do you sound more like a preacher, prosecutor or politician rather than a scientist?

Bottom line: Be the scientist and lead with genuine curiosity rather than approaching conversations preaching, arguing or seeking approval.