Verbal brawling shows a lack of control and an inability to use those vital skills of persuasion. Managers must be able to present their particular point of view or to express an opinion on an issue without being too emotional or engaging in a bout of verbal fisticuffs. Here’s a peaceful way of persuading people to accept your line of thinking and ideas…

1. Avoid arguing with extremists.

Until you are shown otherwise, you must assume that others have some fairly good reasons for taking the position they do in any debate or argument. Indeed, most people are rational, so you can always hope to persuade them to accept your point of view. However, remember that, if someone is a fanatic to a cause, you’ll be unlikely to convince them.

2. Analyse your stance before you get involved.

Be convinced that the subject or issue is worth arguing about. Will you be going on the defensive or the offensive? Will it be worth the emotional effort?

3. Prepare your case in advance if you can.

If the opportunity arises, make ready for the discussion by considering the following:

  • Understand the issue clearly. If you don’t, you’re disadvantaged from the start.
  • Reflect on the issue and clarify your side of the argument.
  • Organise your thoughts. Tease out the issue. Jot down salient points.
  • Consider your opponent’s possible argument; build up ammunition to counter such views rationally.
  • Rehearse.

4. Listen to what the other person has to say.

Speed of reply counts very little in an argument, so let your opponent express an opinion without interruption. Besides, how can you reply cogently if you don’t know what’s been said? So listen carefully while having your own case ready. If you really listen, you’ll be able to refute the faulty points in your opponent’s argument.

5. Give the impression of giving the other side a fair go.

Don’t signal your impatience by responding too quickly. Pause and reflect. Give the impression that at least you are interested in your opponent’s point of view and that you are considering his or her opinions. A rational opponent will return your courtesy – and that’s important if you want to win the day.

6. Keep your cool and present your case logically and calmly.

Calmly stated facts are more effective weapons than intimidation, raised voices, immoderate language, and table thumping. If you allow the debate to degenerate into emotional out-pourings and name-calling, a satisfactory conclusion is unlikely. If your opponent resorts to such statements as ‘Nonsense!’, ‘Ridiculous!’ or ‘That’s crazy!’, insist on knowing why. Make your opponents destroy your line of reasoning logically. If they can’t, your case is almost won.

7. Consider these valuable weapons in winning your case.

  • If you can, make use of a third person to state or support your side of the debate. After all, that’s what lawyers do in court.
  • Resist attacking the conclusions of your opponents. Instead, attack the reasoning that got them there. You have to erode the foundations on which their conclusions are built.
  • Concentrate. In this way you will not only generate more intensity, but also be able to argue more forcefully.
  • Establish and keep in mind the basic principles that underlie both your argument and your opponent’s. Defend yours. Attack theirs.
  • If you attack your opponent’s character or name-call, you’ve all but lost the debate.

8. Let your opponents retire gracefully.

If you sense it is hard for your opponents to admit defeat, give them the chance to save face. For example, say: ‘As you didn’t have all the information at your fingertips, I can see why you felt the way you did…’

9. Move on.

Eventually, the situation will result in your…

  • convincing the others that your position is right or worthy of adoption
  • becoming convinced that the other person is right
  • arriving at a compromise
  • arriving at an impasse.

Whatever the result, it is vital that the discussion not degenerate into a verbal brawl.

Don’t dwell on your victories – or your opponents may dwell on their defeats – and vice versa. If you’ve won the day, your next challenge will be to work with your former adversaries. Having persuaded others that your ideas are best, it’s now time to lead on.

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