Contentious conversations are a big part of a business owner’s life.
How to you handle negotiations, arguments, debates, or just plain disagreements can make or break important opportunities for your business growth.
So how do you handle them? Can you keep a level head?
When it really comes down to it, using proven rhetorical techniques are the best way to win over your argumentative opponents. Threats, raised voices, and insults rarely work well for getting your points across.
Here are 5 ways to improve your arguments:
1. Find common ground
You may disagree on a point, but likely there are many things you do agree on. Perhaps you recognize the purpose or goal is valid, while you believe the steps to get there should be different. Take time to look for places you can agree.
This is actually one of the best ways to WIN an argument… point out the truth in their view, but then show them a new angle that also proves a flaw. By giving them a little win, you provide validation as well as an opening into changing their mind.
2. Support and praise
Start with supporting and praising those areas that you find in common. You might complement a co-worker on being a hard worker or on taking time to consider this problem. You might express appreciation to your boss for taking time to listen and for his clear expectations.
There are always things that are good about others. Praising them first deflects the impression you are attacking them when you disagree. These steps will help with employee retention.
Be their friend. Join their side. Build them up. Arguments, debates, and negotiations are always better if it’s framed as a mutual plan of action rather than a war.
3. Ask questions
When you see flaws in a plan, rather than just disagreeing, start by asking questions. You might say any of the following:
- "I'm not quite seeing how this will work out. What about [share the concern]?"
- "Have you considered ... ...?"
- "How do you think xxxxxxxxx will respond to this direction?"
Asking careful, thoughtful questions opens up the opportunity to find common ground. You may learn things that change your perspective. The person you disagree with has time to consider possible obstacles and change his or her viewpoint.
By asking questions, you are giving them an opportunity to discover their argument’s own flaws, which will always be more convincing than someone else pointing them out.
But be careful not to lead them into an embarrassing trap of some sort… we all remember how that ended for Socrates.
4. Look and act pleasant
Little of our communication is conveyed through the words we speak. Most comes from tone of voice, inflection, body language, facial expressions, etc. While your words may sound professional, your inflection and body language may say something else.
The tone of voice and body language always influence more than the words alone. Make sure you don’t sound disagreeable. Cultivate a cooperative, interested, concerned tone of voice.
This is a big one… and probably also the most simple. Although depending on your temperament it might also be the most difficult.
Be cooperative rather than aggressive. Soften your voice and avoid intimidating words or actions. If they get defensive, the task of convincing them just became twice as difficult.
5. Reframe the situation
While you may not agree on method or action, you will agree on something larger. If possible frame the situation as both of you working to solve a common problem. When you are both on the same side, it’s easier to work things out. You might say, “Hey, John, both of us want to move this project forward. How can we work this out in the best way?”
The first stage of compromise is finding a common goal that you can both agree on.
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