4 Questions that Helped Me Stop Arguing

I have done a lot of arguing in my life. I’m not talking about small disagreements or misunderstandings. I mean scream-till-you’re-hoarse battles. I remember battling with my father as a teenager and when I entered the workforce at eighteen I certainly didn’t have anything that even remotely looked like professional disagreement skills. I didn’t scream at my boss but I had no qualms about pushing back when I thought she was making a “dumb” decision (which I thought pretty often) and I might have not so subtly rolled my eyes once or twice (or three times).

As I made my way up the corporate ladder I had more than one performance review where I was told I wasn’t good at communication. And looking back I can admit that was absolutely true. I believed as long as I was telling the truth, how I said it shouldn’t be important. Sadly in the fourteen years I spent in the corporate world no one was able to suggest or provide me with training, skills or ideas about how I could fix it. (That is one gap I try to fill for others now.)   

When I was in grad school I studied effective communication and conflict resolution and I started asking myself some questions:

Why do I argue? My teenage self argued because it was what I knew. The idea of things being “fair” was very important to me. I often felt that the rules and expectations placed on me were not in line with what I thought was fair. As an adult I realized I was still arguing with this idea of “fairness”. Was I arguing about things that were important now or was my teenage self replaying the arguments with my Dad?

  1. Think about the last argument you had. Why were you arguing? What were you trying to gain, win or accomplish? Did you get it or did both parties lose?  

I can’t remember the details of any of the arguments I had with my Dad as a teenager and I only remember a few I had with various bosses. What I do know is that none of the outcomes were ever win-win and usually I was the one losing in the end. I wonder if I had been able to listen to what they wanted with my logical brain rather than allowing my emotional brain to get caught up in “That’s not fair!” – Could the outcomes have been different?

  1. What if you asked the other person what they wanted the outcome to be and really listened to their answer?

My younger self argued to prove the other person wrong and to “force” them to change their minds. Surly if I made my point loudly enough they would agree with me. The best examples of this type of argument are ones about politics, religion, sexuality and other “charged” subject. Very rarely are these conversations a discussion about different opinions where each side objectively views the other points with interest. They become heated arguments where no one is listening and everyone leaves believing the other person is stupid.

  1. In the grand scheme of things, how important and likely is it that someone will see how “dumb” he/she is and change his/her view to match yours?

Somewhere along the way, while I was learning how to help others become better leaders, team-builders and communicators; I realized that it is possible for two people to disagree and no one to be wrong. The world isn’t as black and white as we make it when we’re in the middle of an argument. There are many shades of grey.

I decided to have discussions rather than arguments; to try to find the places of agreement rather than pounding on the points of disagreement. I’m not saying I never have disagreements. I do. But I work very hard to make them respectful, kind and about information gathering. Rather than trying to prove I’m right and having my ego try to force the world to be fair as I define it.

  1. What if the next time someone started ramping up for an argument you chose to let them get it off their chest and then calmly said, “Hmm, I have a different perspective”?

I believe the ability to stop arguing is a learnable skill. I believe it because I’ve learned it and because I have successfully taught others. How much more successful could you be if you stopped spending your limited time and energy arguing? I can show you. Take the first step and ask.

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

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Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence in all aspects of life through active leadership, powerful teamwork, effective communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com.

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