Resolve Arguments Like a Pro with 7 Proven Techniques
Arguing with your spouse? Feuding with your boss? Fighting with your parents or teachers? Adopt a new frame of mind and try solving that dispute one more time.
As a team leader for a large software organization, I sometimes had to help feuding teammates settle an argument. Over the years, I taught my teammates 7 tried and true conflict resolution techniques (some invented, others learned) — and the good news is that you can use these techniques to settle your own arguments, at work or at home.
Each of the 7 techniques below provides a separate and unique frame of mind with which to approach the steps of conflict resolution.
Technique #1: The Observer
Imagine yourself as an observer of the argument instead of a participant. Analyze your own position in the argument as if from the outside looking in. Find a room where you can be alone and write a short paragraph expressing each person’s point of view, including your own — these paragraphs are for your eyes only.
Acting as a dispassionate observer will help you understand the goals of every party involved in the dispute.
Technique #2: The Doppelganger
Temporarily become your opponent. Put yourself in his shoes, internalizing the logic of his argument until you can feel it. If you are unable to create an emotional connection to your opponent’s point of view, at least attempt to supplant your own logic with his.
Your goal is not to become subservient to your opponent’s cause (not at all), but rather to understand and empathize with him so you will be more capable of understanding his needs as you work to address your own.
Tip: If you find yourself unable to truly understand your opponents’ point of view while using the Observer or Doppelganger techniques, try asking your friends or family to help you. Their natural reaction may be to take your side in the argument, so make sure you tell them you’re not looking for sympathy – you’re looking for help understanding a perspective other than your own.
Technique #3: The Common Thread
You and your opponent may seem to disagree on everything under the sun, but look hard to find an element of the debate you agree upon. See if a solution can be reached that uses common ground as a foundation.
Technique #4: Low Hanging Fruit
If you and your opponent have multiple disputes, resolve the easiest ones first. This will build an atmosphere of trust and accomplishment that will help you resolve tougher disputes.
Technique #5: The Psychologist
Often in personal relationships (and sometimes in professional ones too), people argue about one thing, when the real cause of the argument is some other unspoken thing. For example, a married couple might argue about who will wash the dishes when the underlying problem is that someone in the relationship feels under-appreciated or taken for granted.
If you suspect there is an underlying cause for the argument, you can short-circuit the entire debate by attacking the underlying cause directly. Be calm and understanding, as the underlying cause is clearly a hot-button subject.
Technique #6: The Robot
If you’re too emotional to work out a solution, try turning your heated emotions completely off (which may take time and distance). The key here is using logic in place of emotion, and it’s a helpful technique when emotion is a significant barrier.
Technique #7: The Overflowing Cup
If you have a lot of positive history with a person, you may be able to focus on the positive feelings you have for that person instead of the negative feelings associated with this specific dispute. Use those positive feelings as an impetus for a solution. This technique can be helpfulwhen both parties recognize that the underlying relationship is more important than the argument at hand.
These 7 simple conflict resolution techniques cannot make the core components of an argument any simpler, but they do provide helpful frames of mind that can make it easier to find a solution.
The best technique to use will vary depending upon your own comfort level with the technique, the general environment, and the nature of the argument you’re trying to resolve.
For example, I have found the Observer and Doppelganger techniques incredibly helpful in team-oriented work environments where multiple points of view must be reconciled before the team can move forward (ie software development).
And if you find yourself arguing a lot with a spouse or friend over petty things, try using the Psychologist technique because there may be a deeper problem brooding beneath the surface.
Each of these techniques has helped me, and I’m hopeful you will find something in this list that will help you the next time you need to resolve a tough conflict.
June 18, 2007 Monday at 12:28 pm