Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How to Lose an Argument

Raising your voice is one of the worst things you can do when you are trying to persuade someone. We often see situations in which a company or someone in government does something that someone doesn’t like. Hoping they will reverse the decision, the person goes to them to state their case in a public forum. As they begin to talk, their emotions overwhelm them and they begin to yell.

The natural reaction is to view this as a challenge. Consider a situation in which the decision maker made the decision without looking at all sides of the issue. The decision maker may not be attached to the decision he made. When presented with a well stated reason to reverse the decision, he might be easily persuaded. But suppose someone comes to him and says, “How could you be so stupid?” His natural reaction is to grasp for things that will support his original decision. Faced with a challenge, it becomes mentally painful for him to change his decision. To side with the challenger is equivalent to him agreeing that he is stupid.

A better approach is to have the attitude that the decision maker had what he believed was a good reason for the decision he made. If possible, come to an understanding of what that reason was before attempting to persuade the other person. You may find that you would’ve made the same decision if you had been in his shoes. Once the reasoning is known, identify reasons why you believe the reasoning is flawed, but do so in a non-challenging way. When the decision maker sees you as trying to help him make the best decision, it is easier for him to listen to your point of view and givens him freedom to change his decision.

Raising your voice or calling a person names is equivalent to saying, “I’m more important than you, so you have to do what I say.” Unless you are a person in authority over the person, they will not listen. Think about how much more effective it is for a coach to yell at his players than it is for him to yell at the other team.