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Three Ways To Being More Effective In Challenging Conversations

Challenging Conversations

Thanks to the competitive world we live in today, many of us have this false assumption that the key to victory in any debate, negotiation, or argument is going into battle armed with airtight logic and rigorous data. As a result, we are laser-focused on convincing the other side to accept our viewpoints and rethink theirs. And in the process, we end up rubbing them the wrong way.

The truth is we won’t have much luck changing other people’s minds if we are not ready to change ours. But, unfortunately, we all have this flawed expectation that the other side should be reasonable in their expectations and demands while we are intransigent in our own.

Conversations, debates, and negotiations are always productive when both sides are reasonable. Being reasonable means, we can be reasoned with, that we are open to evolving and shifting our view viewpoints in light of logic and data.

In his Book Think Again, Adam Grant presents three simple but effective rules to become more effective in dealing with challenging conversations.

Always Look For Common Ground. 

A lot of people make the mistake of looking at challenging conversations or debates as a combative exercise. They go into the battle fixed in their mind about their expectations without pausing to think about anticipated areas of agreement. As a result, they forget to look for common ground where both sides can agree.

Present Lesser But More Compelling Reasons

Whenever there is a meaningful discussion or debate, there is this tendency to pile up many arguments to win the intellectual high ground. Unfortunately, exhausting someone in arguments is not the same as convincing them. If anything, people who come up with multiple arguments to establish their point of view lose the debate because of the weakness of their less compelling points. A better approach is always to go with one or two cohesive and compelling arguments to make your point.

Ask Questions And Listen

Many think winning an argument means shooting down the other side’s proposal and doubling down on their own position. But here’s the thing. We don’t need to convince the other side that we are right to win a debate or argument. Instead, we just need to open their minds to the possibility that they might be wrong. This process of unlocking the other side’s thinking always happens when we show up being curious and asking questions. “Have you considered the possibility that this could fail?” Or “Can you tell me more about how you are thinking about this issue?” Or “What evidence would change your mind?”

Adam Grant says it nicely in the book. If we approach any argument or negotiation as a war, there will be winners and losers. It becomes a zero-sum game. But if we approach it as a dance, there is a chance to choreograph a way forward. 

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