…Improve Your Argument!
Much is written about conflict and how society continues to struggle with managing it in an open forum. I see this struggle first-hand with my own clients who continue to work on their effective communications skills, especially with those who disagree with them. One of the key skills of leadership is the ability to influence and persuade their teams to go where they have not yet gone before, knowing they have to change but cannot do it on the strength of their own motivations. The Leader’s ability to persuade, and manage through the potential resistance, is directly proportional to their ability to build an argument supporting why their followers should behave differently than they are currently.
With the advent of technology infused communications tools, the ability to persuade should be easier. The ability to reach more people efficiently theoretically makes the process itself more efficient. However, if you put a more powerful power saw in the hands of a lousy carpenter, it by itself does not make the carpenter better. Instead, it means the carpenter will screw it up just that much faster! In similar fashion, giving efficiency tools to people who don’t know how to effectively communicate, or think critically, merely highlights these flaws faster!
- Don’t raise your voice – All things being equal, effective leaders should never ever have to raise their voice when faced with conflict or other persuasion scenarios. Invariably, during a spirited conversation, one party’s emotions will show by raising their voice above the norm to be heard. While they may justify the higher volume as a sign of passion behind their point, in reality it means they are losing ground in the rational debate, so they stay front and center with volume. Of course, the natural reaction by the other party, or parties, is to do the same thing, only decibels higher until the conversation nets out to a good old-fashioned shouting match where no one is actually listening anymore, just waiting for the next opportunity to shout back!
- Improve your argument – This is where effective leaders shine in their ability to persuade followers. We’ve written in this forum in the past about the ability to derive context and meaning from a set of facts. This is to minimize, or avoid altogether, the logical fallacies seen in business disagreements such as anecdotal arguments, ad hominem strategies and overusing emotional appeals to name just a few. In this world of fake news, how leaders collect and apply meaning is crucial to improving their arguments. The leader’s argument also needs to resonate with followers which means it has to be both logically grounded and emotionally delivered, but without overdoing the emotional delivery as stated above. People don’t disagree on the facts. They disagree on the interpretation of the facts. Improving the argument means applying critical thinking such that followers are not creating their own interpretation of the facts to suit their own argument, which is likely more favorable to themselves and not to the team or organization as a whole!
I recently came across a quote that resonated given the public “shouting” in the media, both mainstream and social. It goes, “Are we shouting at each other because we disagree or because we agree and don’t know what to do?” I believe most would land on disagreement as the main cause of public disagreement. However, leaders must also consider the second part of the question as an option as well. The ability of the leader to determine whether the argument is about what needs to be done or how it needs to be done rests on their ability to ask the right questions, listen for the logic AND the emotion to get to the core of the issue!
Conflict is not pleasant or easy to manage, especially in the dynamic business environment of the 21st Century. When leaders effectively manage their own emotions and voice levels to continue to seek out the core issue, conflict management becomes easier and much more effective in the long run!
How are you improving your argument?