How To Turn An Argument Into A Productive Discussion

If you think about how many hours you spend with colleagues per week, it is easy to see why you may sometimes find yourself smack dab in the middle of an argument. As much as we would like to think arguments can just simply be avoided, the truth is that at times, we just need to, well, have it out. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a right and wrong way to go about having that argument because there is!

Effective Arguing

If you look it up in the dictionary, the term “argue” means such things as to give reason to something, give evidence of, and to consider the pros and cons. It also means to try to prove or persuade. Unlike popular opinion, it doesn’t mean to banter insults back and forth until someone finally yells uncle! There is a right way to have an argument with a colleague, and it is one that will have you both come out better from it!

Here is how you can have a productive argument with a colleague and have you both come out ahead:

1. First, always go into the argument with the idea that something positive is going to result. Because, after all, if nothing positive is going to result, then what is the point in having the argument at all?
2. Next, you both need to know what you are really arguing about. You have probably done it yourself. People often argue about something that isn’t really the issue they are mad about. Sometimes they harbor other resentments or feelings and snowball it all together. You have to know what the real argument is about to really be able to solve any problems. To do this, you can write the issue down or verbally say what the actual argument is about. Avoid dragging anything up that is not about the here and now. Forget what they did before and stick to the present.
3. Make sure that you both get a chance to speak about what you think the problem is. The argument cannot be one sided if it is to be effective. Have each person take a turn sharing their position. And when you do so, use “I” statements, rather than “you” ones, which only puts people on defense. Also, avoid interrupting when the other person has the floor, as it will only create anger.
4. Be prepared to offer a solution to the problem. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to get into an argument about something if you have no suggestions for improving the situation or cannot provide a suggested solution.
5. Determine a compromise that you can both live with. That way there is not one person “winning” the argument, but both of you will walk away feeling better for having said your piece and for compromising.
6. Move past the argument. If you hold a grudge, you will just further damage the relationship. People argue, but once it is over, just focus on moving on.

One Sided and Beyond

As much as you work to master these steps in being able to have an effective argument, you may find that the other person doesn’t want to play by these rules. There is not much you can do about that, unfortunately. But you should still try to follow them yourself because you will know you have done the right thing, and you may find that you help to diffuse the situation by being more diplomatic about it all.

Keep the old American proverb in mind, that says “The more arguments you win, the less friends you will have.” It’s not about winning the argument; it’s really about having an effective outcome and having both people walk away feeling like the situation or relationship is better as a result.


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