Posted on May 2, 2014

In my current job I get argued with quite a bit. As a professional people person I have picked up a few tricks that allow me to not win every time but to not lose. The problem with arguing in general is that it gets nothing done.

Arguing kills productivity

Here is what you can do to prevent this:

  1. Don’t argue to win: Even if you know you are right winning is never the goal of arguing. Keep in mind that as much as you think you are right the other person feels the same way. If winning is all the matters you aren’t going to listen to what the other person is saying.
  2. Listen: This one should be a no-brainer but if you are so consumed with winning you won’t be listening to what the other person is saying. You will be focusing your energy on what you are going to say next not on understanding their point of view.
  3. Write stuff down: If you right down their points as they state them you can take time when they are done talking to form your response. This also slows down the pace of the argument allowing both sides to keep cool.
  4. Keep your voice down: If you yell they win. You lose all your credibility if you start yelling. Also if they start yelling step back and figure out what is causing them to get angry and give them a chance to clam down before continuing.
  5. Don’t repeat your position more then twice: It they don’t get it by the second time they aren’t going to get it. Repeating your self does not make you right.
  6. Compromise: This is what you need to do. If you are unable to compromise on a position make that clear from the start. It is pointless to argue about something that there is no way to change.
  7. Stay on topic: If you are pissed about the quality of your movie pop-corn talk about that. Don’t suddenly switch gears about the lack of bubbles in your soda. It is just confusing and makes you look like you don’t know what you are talking about.
  8. Don’t be tricky: There are a lot of tricks you can use to establish dominance in a conversation. Don’t use them. They may work but you are too focused on tricks. State your facts clearly and be able to answer questions about them for the other party.

I have spent a lot of time studying people and their mannerisms. These are common tricks people try to use to get their way:

  • The Steepler: This person steeples there hands in front of their chest or on the table. They are used to winning and feel supremely confident in their position. To counter act mirror what they are doing. This will make shake their confidence and bring them back to the table for an actual discussion.
  • Big Eyebrows: This person raises their eyebrows to their hairline to show how serious they are. This is a method of establishing dominance in the conversation. Don’t let them take charge. Acknowledge the seriousness of the topic but make your points clear.
  • Arm Crosser: Leaning back with their arms crossed is a sign that they are done listening and are not going to budge. End the conversation. These people are done or at the very least they think they are. If you tell them that you will talk to them when they are willing to listen they may rejoin the conversation.
  • The Interrupter: Refusing to let you speak will allow your frustration to get the better of you allowing them to win. Let them know that if they continue to interrupt you will end the conversation. Be aware these people will accuse you of interrupting them any chance they get.
  • The Subject Changer: This person dances around to a lot of subjects very quickly. Help keep them focused by saying “Lets talk about X and then we can talk about Y.” If they still can’t stay focused write down all the topics they bring up and keep bringing them back to the topic at hand.

If you bring this knowledge to all your arguments you will be ready when you encounter these argument tactics. And remember above all else that you may not be correct.