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Winning Your Next Argument: Negotiation Skills

A good argument at work, around a dinner table or at the pub seems to be a national past time.

But what strikes me is that winning an argument, and persuading the other party to come around to your way of thinking, are two completely different things.

In his satirical poem Hudibras, author Samuel Butler agreed when he said:  “He that complies against his Will, Is of his own Opinion still.

During arguments and negotiations people can get railroaded into a submissive nod, yet deep in their hearts they know they are right and stop arguing because they have been worn down, or can’t be bothered.

The dominant arguer registers this as a win – but have they really achieved what they want?

Or will the person who has “lost” the argument continue to carry on as normal, albeit with a little less respect for the “winner”?

We all have to put forward regular arguments at work.  Around 90% of the people we train have this task before them – whether in a fierce negotiation, or to raise funds, to sell, to gather support on a project or initiative or to discipline others.

So how do we argue more effectively at work to ensure that we are getting what we want more often?

An effective arguer or persuader always starts by finding the other person’s viewpoint. The best path to discovering a viewpoint is by asking intelligent questions.

Good questions will help you understand how passionately people believe in their view.

By asking professional, credible questions you will understand whether the job in front of you is simply one of convincing, or the harder version – convincing against will.

1. Convincing
This is the easiest category to argue against. One of the most effective ways to win an argument when someone needs some convincing is by talking in benefits.

You have hopefully already uncovered the values of the other party by asking them questions.

So you will know how to appeal to these values by putting your argument in terms that will benefit them.

For example, if you know the other party values money more than career, there’s little point pushing the career button.

2. Convincing against will
Some people are stubborn, or very strong-willed. This means that they won’t budge on what they truly believe to be right.

This is a much harder category to be arguing against. Some, like Carnegie, believe it to be impossible to convince against will.

Does that mean we shouldn’t bother?  Not at all.  It just means we have to work a bit harder to convince and persuade with these couple of tips:

a.  Helping the other party think the idea is theirs

This is a very powerful way of persuasion – if it is done in the right way.  For example, Jamie Oliver was delighted for dinner ladies and some politicians to promote healthy school dinners as their idea.

b.  Tiny steps

I think the best advice when you realise that you are arguing ‘against will’ is to take it one step at a time.

With pen and paper, list all the contributing factors, then find out what the areas of common ground are. What are the bits that you can influence now versus later?

A measured approached with small wins over time may contribute to an eventual argument win in your favour.

The bottom line is this: before you start trying to win an argument, question as deeply as possible first.

By quickly ascertaining which category, or ground, you are dealing in, then it will help you to win more arguments and get what you want.

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