Why “Just the Facts Ma’am” Doesn’t Work

Fun fact: Joe Friday a well known character in Dragnet, played by Jack Webb, never actually said the much misquoted “Just the facts, ma’am”

You can’t win an argument, particularly an emotional one, with facts, no matter how hard you try. You have tried, right? Did the conversation you were having turn into an argument or debate? Did the other person reach for their own contradictory facts? Rather than changing your mind, did you find yourself becoming more entrenched in your position than you anticipated? Did they? Rather than finding a middle ground, did you find yourselves becoming more polarized in your views?

Why does this happen? Usually when you are passionate about an issue there is something else that is motivating you, something you care deeply about but haven’t yet identified. Rather than refuting the other person’s perspective or argument, you can use the Worldview Intelligence framework to get underneath or beyond the facts to discover what else may be going on.

Is it a question of values? Have you centered on conflicting values rather than finding shared values? Is there different significance to you based on how you have each come to see and experience the issue? Are you seeing and understanding different future implications and is that a source of tension for you? Has your position around this issue become part of how you see yourself?

You can use the WVI framework as an analytical or diagnostic tool to understand the source of the difference and change the conversation to one that is more open and exploratory by moving away from the facts to the core of why this issue matters.