Steve Pavlina, a widely recognized and successful personal development blogger, pointed out in his article How to Win an Argument, “The way to win an argument is to aim for a goal other than being right.”
Well, often times, the goal most people assume is to settle on terms to keep away with the argument. Compromise, if you feel like describing it. However, let me remind you that it does not always end up like this in real situations. Sometimes we act as if we have overcome a recent battle and that none of the two parties is affected, but in reality, we may have ended a good relationship, worse, lost a dear friend or a loved one, just because we overlooked some critical points that may have emotionally disturbed the other end.
The goal Steve is trying to point here is beyond coping with existing disagreement. It can be your goal on how to handle the situation. May also be the aim to understand the real motivation of the other person or party, favorable time to lend a helping hand if needed, or the appropriate occasion at which you are ready to give up, to mention a few.
"OK, assuming that I have a goal now, how can this help me succeed in an argument?"
“Good question.” Let me further help you digest the true meaning of a “successful argument”. Don’t worry we won’t be needing extra enzymes here. Just be ready to chew and assimilate the point.
Succeeding is just a bonus. The key to a successful argument lies in our ability to understand that an argument is not a competition, as opposed to what almost all people might believe. Lee J. Ballard has explained this very interestingly and I suggest that you jump to his site for further reading.
Once you are convinced that argument is not a competition then it is time for you to understand some effective ways to handle arguments.
I summarized here effective approaches I have tried, single or in combination, and collated them for everyone to study and understand. I am not an expert on arguments, but I found these tactics useful in almost every situation, whether in workplace, at home or with loved ones and friends. I hope you will find the guide useful.
- Be mature and calm at all times. Being calm goes hand in hand with being mature and is paramount in dealing with arguments. Yelling, for example, during an argument, is a sign of immaturity. People always seem to shout in arguments because of anger. This is unavoidable if they get agitated and become heated during a disagreement. Always bear in mind that anger will lead you nowhere. You will likely harvest anxiety and will not help you win a fight. Stay cool during an argument and it will certainly aid you.
- Avoid bad air. If the other person is in a tainted temper, you will not get your message across. Just play as the listener for now.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Arguing with your boss or bosses is bound to make them feel their authority is being undermined. So let them speak and understand their intentions. Agree when necessary and let them hear your thoughts only when called for. Instead of stating your views, try asking questions that show genuine interest. You will realize what I am trying to point out here once you become the ruler of the game.
- Make a plan if you must. That is if you can, write down your three main points when time permits. In this way, you will not get lost while listening to their arguments.
- Never harbor on criticisms. Do not talk because you want to criticize. Keep your mind open to issues and raise your concerns constructively. Avoid resorting to irrational criticisms just to keep others from agreeing with you.
- Use sympathetic body language. Cautiously embrace the same bearing as the other person and mimic their gesture. Though you may not say anything, your actions speak louder than words and can leave a lasting impression.
- Discover the other person’s real motivation. Sometimes you need to read between the lines. Your friend in the workplace, for example, complains he never sees you, but the real issue could be jealousy of your new job. Try to arrest fictional reason before it finds ways to transform into a "monster". Keep your radars open.
- Do not be afraid to give up. Yes, giving up does not mean you are at the losing end. It only shows you are a mature being and ready to submit. With this kind of disposition, you will feel more confident since people around will respect you…but why? Simply because you equally respect them with their opinions. At the end of the encounter, you will feel, sometimes, much better than the so-called winners do.
Next time you are caught in an argument, do not aim to WIN but decide to handle it effectively, instead.
What’s on your mind? Care to share your thoughts? Do you agree on this guide or you have other experiences to share? Feel free to leave your ideas.
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