When arguments erupt, especially in business, common sense usually disappears and emotions fly. It’s important to remember that when in a discussion with a colleague, the two most important things are your words and your intent. Unfortunately, those are the 2 hardest things to control when a discussion turns heated and slides into an argument. In those instances, professionals often forget their common sense and go into “win” mode.
There are better and more productive ways to communicate in the face of disagreement. While there are courses that delve into the finer details, try to focus on these key elements that are at the cornerstone of a discussion turning from productive to frivolous.
There is often a misalignment between what you mean when you say something and what the other person hears, especially in a heated discussion. When you are too focused on winning an argument or getting someone to switch their point-of-view, you are never going to listen effectively or notice when our words are doing more harm than good.
Remember that common sense isn’t so common in an argument, but it doesn’t have to completely dissipate. Take a step back, breathe, and remember your common sense. This means trying to remain levelheaded; don’t let the debate cloud your judgement. Remembering to take a step back will allow you to think rationally and reasonably.
If your goal is truly to drive change, you want to approach an argument by encouraging mutual understanding. The best way to accomplish this is to ask questions. By asking questions, you will showcase that you are open to their opinions. This will allow your colleague the safety to open up to you as well.
Asking questions will allow you and your colleague to remember your common sense attributes, being reasonable and practical, to try to understand the other’s side of the argument and to hopefully find common ground.
Relay What You Heard
After you have finished listening and asking questions, try responding by repeating their side of the argument. Start by saying: “What I hear you saying is…”. You will be amazed at how open someone is to your thoughts and ideas when they truly feel heard.
These two simple concepts will not only alleviate the defensive in your verbal sparring partner, but open up true listening and understanding in yourself as well. While we all think our own arguments are the most logical and correct, there is often room for compromise.
If winning an argument means prevailing over your opponents’ arguments then there are arguments that can be won. If it means influencing your opponent to change his or her mind, then arguments are rarely won.
It is better to drop the contentious issue for the time being and focus on those areas where there was agreement and hence issues where the opponent could be influenced. Your intent should never be to “win” an argument, but should be to have the issues heard and progress made. While that attitude is not always shared by those on the other side of the table, leading effective argument strategies by example can be just the thing to drive an argument to an agreeable conclusion.
In the end, don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations. Promote healthy and productive debate using common sense. It may just lead to the breakthrough you were all looking for from the outset.
About Roy Murad
Roy Murad is a father, husband, business advisor, investor, advocate for new business ventures, and consummate entrepreneur. Over the course of 35 years building businesses, guiding companies and identifying strong investment opportunities, while nurturing a thriving family, Roy Murad has amassed a wealth of experience; experience, that may be of value to others who are looking to shape a balanced and successful life experience.
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