The Roman Catholic Church used the Devil’s Advocate to investigate candidates for sainthood to see if there was anything negative concerning their candidacy. The idea behind the Devil’s Advocate is that if it is someone’s job to do an investigation, any detrimental information will come up as a result of this scrutiny. However, in the 1980’s Pope John Paul II did away with the Devil’s Advocate system, probably as outdated.
Mediators use the Devil’s Advocate as a device to give a reality check to one of the parties and point out the flaws in their arguments. The expression used is usually, “Let me play the Devil’s Advocate.” By saying you are going to play the Devil’s Advocate the Mediator is not his own advocate and, therefore, isolated from criticism.
It is a convention so it does not appear that the Mediator is actually making the comments on his own behalf. By taking the outsider’s role, the Mediator can point out the flaws in the other side’s case. It is a great device because the other side cannot take offense. It is not the Mediator talking; it is the Devil.
Obama’s Cabinet is a Group of Rivals. Will this allow them to be Devil’s Advocates? Allowing others to dissent and show that there are negatives to any proposed action is a good thing. It looks as thoughObama is going to allow his staff and cabinet members to question his decisions if they disagree. Maybe the Devil’s Advocate is not so outdated after all.
Rule 29: How To Negotiate Like A Pro
Mary Greenwood, Attorney Mediator, and Author of How to Negotiate like a Pro, 41 Rules for Resolving Disputes