Avoid Arguments. Ask Questions.
June 27, 2020
Sometimes when dealing with colleagues, friends, or family, arguments flare-up.
An argument ensues when two individuals with opposing views get into a heated or angry exchange of words trying to convince one another about one being right and the other person being wrong.
There is a distinction between a discussion and an argument. In a discussion, the focus is on WHAT is right. In an argument, the focus is always on WHO is right. An argument is always personal.
Words have the power to create harmony or havoc. The way you frame your language determines whether you will get into an argument or not.
“This is not the right way to handle this issue “. When you make a statement like this, you are sharing your view. But also you are sending a not too subtle message that is saying “you are handling the issue the wrong way.” A framing like this is very likely to precipitate an argument.
A better way to frame the same view could be, “Is there a better way to handle this issue?”
” You are singing the notes the wrong way.” I am sharing a view that my son is singing a musical note the wrong way and also taking a position that I know better than him. This will most certainly evoke a defensive response that will deteriorate into an argument.
A smarter way to frame the same message could be, ” Can you check if you are singing the note correctly?”
“We have given the sales team everything they need. They are not doing a good job of selling”. A statement like this implies that the other side is failing at their job. Such a comment is very likely to lead to an I’m Right-You’re Wrong argument.
A more appropriate way to handle this feedback could be, ” We have given the sales team all the necessary tools, yet the results are not looking good. What could the sales team do to improve the numbers?”
As a rule of thumb, opinions lead to arguments, while questions lead to insights and discussion.
Therefore, to get the best out of any interaction, have the presence of mind to avoid opinions. Instead, focus on the issue by asking the right questions.
There is no real upside in proving to the other side that you are right and that they are wrong, even if that may be true. It is always better to let the other person discover what is right or wrong on their own by asking powerful questions that force introspection and also help avoid getting into arguments.
In the Book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes “the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.”
The next time you see yourself getting into an argument, remember this. Questions are better than opinions and a great way to avoid arguments.