There is a single solution that will keep your discussions from turning into win-lose face-offs: Make the other person feel their contribution is understood and respected. If you are purposeful about it, making it happen isn’t hard. Here are the foundational points you will need:
Listen first! – If you are thinking about what you want to say or that the other person is just wrong, you aren’t really listening to what they have to say. It doesn’t matter how much you disagree or how wrong you think they are, don’t let your emotions run away with you. Take notes on what they are saying if you need help staying focused.
Create a no interruption norm – If there was a transcript made of the conversation would there be hyphens or periods at the end of each person speaking. If you listen without interrupting you have a leg to stand on when you request that someone not interrupt you.
Make it clear you understand – Start your rebuttal (for lack of a better word) by saying “I understand your key points are…. I have concerns about….” Making it clear you understand but disagree will help keep the other person from interrupting you to repeat themselves (Particularly if they are the type of person who thinks if you don’t agree with them you must not have heard them and says the same thing, only louder.)
Request to be heard – Keeping your cool when someone is trying to escalate a discussion into an argument is challenging. It is also the one thing that will keep the conversation from spiraling into a stalemate. Calmly use statements that point out the direction the conversation is going without accusing. “I’m getting the feeling you don’t want to hear my thoughts.” “Nate (using their name makes it personal), I’d like to finish my point so all the information is on the table for a productive conversation… (Continue your thought).
Show that you are on the same side – “I know we are both passionate about reaching the best solution. In that spirit, I’d like to continue my point (Don’t wait for permission. If the floor was yours, keep going.)
End the conversation – This is a bold and last ditch move that is very powerful. “Sue (yes, use their name again), if we aren’t here to share and listen to differing opinions in order to make the best choice there is no reason for us to continue this conversation. I understand where you are coming from and disagree. If you would like to hear my ideas on how I believe we can make a better decision, let’s set up time to talk about it again later.”
It is IMPORTANT that you are never demeaning, patronizing or rude throughout this exchange. The point is not to insult or demoralize the other person; quite the opposite. The point is to have your voice heard and have a meaningful exchange. The entire foundation of creating productive conflict is listening to and understanding the other person. Doing that first gives you the power to confidently request it in return.
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Wishing you the most from your potential!