Modern Etiquette-The 7 Secrets of Civil Skepticism

Mon Aug 19, 2013 6:35am EDT
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By Mary M. Mitchell

SEATTLE (Reuters) - There's skepticism, and then there's skepticism.

The best-known kind is the dim or jaundiced view one adopts when faced with an improbable explanation, get-rich-quick offer, emailed appeal for money from Nigerian ex-royalty, food nearing its expiration date, cliff-diving invitation, or what have you. This kind of skepticism (justified or not) is decidedly negative.

Then there's "Professional Skepticism" — an accounting term I learned from Ken Daly, CEO and president of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) back in 2007.

Professional skepticism uses a questioning mind and a critical assessment of audit evidence. That may sound just like regular old skepticism, but in this case, the auditor does not assume that management is either honest or dishonest.

Now, one needn't be an accountant to practice professional skepticism. Imagine the impact on our workplaces if we could all keep an open mind, pre-judge less, listen more and gather information more effectively.

Multiplied across an organization, the potential for better corporate governance and performance is boundless.

But how does one get there in the real world? How do professional skeptics keep an open mind and ask tough questions about sensitive topics without igniting drama, dissembling and defensiveness?

The answer: By applying the basic rules of etiquette. Which brings us to your seven secrets of civil skepticism.   Continued...