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How to End Any Argument Immediately

How to End Any Argument Immediately

“You are an arrogant prick, and I can’t stand having to work with you!”

Not the best way to start an impromptu business meeting, but that’s what I got.

I was working for Dell as a sales rep—part of a three-person team chosen to manage a group of mid-sized business clients.  The guy yelling, we’ll call him Jeb (not his real name), was on the same team, and we disagreed on how we should be dealing with a particular customer. Normally, a disagreement about something sales-related is an easy problem to solve, unless the two people absolutely can’t stand each other.

Such was my case with this particular co-worker.

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As soon as the door to our small conference room closed, I was assaulted with a barrage of insults: my sales skills were terrible, my attitude was horrible, customers didn’t like me at all, and I was ruining everyone’s chances of hitting quota.

I knew these were mostly false charges.  I had been a sales trainer for 7 years and ended the last quarter as the #1 rep in my division.  I walked in every day with a smile and generally got along well with people.  Some new customers didn’t care for me very much, but some of the customers who didn’t like the previous rep liked me much more; not everyone connects with their sales rep.  We were exceeding our quota expectations and looked like we would hit it early.

In the split-second before I threw all of these brilliant facts in Jeb’s face, I made a fascinating, and long overdu, realization: pointing out how he was wrong about everything would simply lead us into another long and unfruitful argument, leaving us both angry and less productive. Instead, I found myself saying “You know, I’ve never really thought of it that way.  Can you explain it to me a little more?”

It took every ounce of will power and happy thoughts I had to say these words without clenching my teeth.  I smiled a genuine smile and listened politely.

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The results amazed me.

Jeb started pointing out exactly what I had done wrong with all of my interactions, explaining in great detail my many poor decisions and statements.  He gave sort of a musical quality to his speech, starting off high on tempo and excitement, fading down to low notes, then rising to new vocal heights as he really thought about what was pissing him off. Through it all, I looked him in the eye and didn’t say a word. After about three minutes, the speech changed.  He started saying things like “I know you don’t mean anything by…” and “I think you’re a good salesman, but with some of these customers, you rub them wrong when you say…”

Eventually, I went from “arrogant prick” to “new guy on the team still learning where he fits in.”  Granted, this wasn’t the best outcome I could have hoped for (Jeb deciding he was absolutely wrong and I had been right about everything) but it was a far cry better than what he and I usually left the conference room with. Since that fateful day, I’ve reused this exact sentence over and over, and the results are always the same: angry details followed by understanding, then a willingness to work together on the issue.

Why does this sentence work?

The answer is simple: you can’t argue with someone who doesn’t argue back.

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The moment you ask someone to clarify, and then let them talk, you are actually taking away their ability to argue with you.  The person can’t respond to “can you explain that a little more?” with “No!” without sounding and feeling like an idiot.  Even if they do, they will probably be embarrassed enough to leave the room anyway (which I suppose is another way to end the argument.)

There is a second, more powerful reason this technique is so effective: our natural desire for attention. One of the biggest reasons arguments get so out of hand is because each person is trying to be heard OVER the other person.  When we satisfy this desire, we tend to calm down.  We have no need to raise our voice if the other person is being calm.

Lastly, and the best reason why this technique works so well, is that you will actually look stronger and smarter after using it.  Weak and scared people always seek to defend themselves, while strong, confident people seek feedback and criticism in order to improve.  Whether it’s just the two of you, or a group of people watching, you will look cool and collected—always a good choice.

A final note: this technique only works if you respectfully listen to the other person and DO NOT interrupt.  Wait until they feel obligated to ask you for a response before speaking, and don’t sulk or get upset with the person talking; they are being honest with you and you should be grateful this conversation is happening in your presence instead of behind your back.

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Jeb and I never became friends.  He isn’t a bad guy, just someone with a very different view on a lot of things.  We WERE able to work together until I left the company, and we closed some pretty nice deals together—sometimes acceptance is all we can achieve, and that’s okay.

Now, let me ask you a question: what’s a situation in which you feel this technique wouldn’t work?  Please leave a comment below; I’d love to hear a little more about it.

Trent

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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