I once worked with someone who never lost a single argument. As you can imagine, a near perfect track record in the art of debate made him powerfully persuasive. This man could just about convince a Gulf Arab Sheikh to build a giant ice pyramid in the middle of the desert.
Larger than life and six foot something, he dominated arguments, both in the workplace and at parties. He exerted power onto others, forcing them, whenever it was in his interest, to do as he wished. Nothing seemed to dampen the growing arrogance of this man.
What he truly skilful? No.
How did he do it then? What was his secret? Simple. He talked over others and never listened. Most people felt bullied when they dealt with him.
That, dear friend, is no way to argue.
Now let me tell you what I’ve learned from my humble experience and careful observation of some highly effective negotiators. Individuals ranging from dealmakers in London’s sophisticated finance market to street stall owners in the busy markets of Mumbai and Hong Kong. And while they may come from different worlds and speak different languages, carefully observing them in action has enabled me to draw interesting parallels from their tactics and approach.
I list the key ones below, which I urge everyone to follow, myself included.
#1 – The Golden rule
It gets no easier than what I’m about to say. Follow this one rule and you’ll immediately become more effective when arguing with others.
- LISTEN TWICE AS MUCH AS YOU SPEAK
If you think about it, it’s as if God even made in that spirit. We were given two ears and one mouth.
Everyone knows information is power. If you’re only thinking of what to say next, rather than listening to what the person across from you is telling you, then you absorb less (power).
There’s a reason the great philosophers, authorities and teachers of our world have told us this from time immemorial. Just trust it.
#2 – Preparation
Come to the table with a few or more already well-thought-out arguments. Strong ones. But do not be fanatically committed to them. Be flexible. Be open to change.
#3 – Use their words against them
If you’re able to rephrase the words of an opponent against them then you’ll increase your chance of winning an argument. Because nobody likes to be contradicted.
#4 – Aim for a Win-Win
Winning if your opponent feels bullied is not a real win. On the other hand, winning and also having your opponent feel they’re also coming out on top, is the best scenario possible. It makes for a pleasant and positive environment. It’s also the hallmark of great leadership.
#5 – Take genuine interest in the other point of view
Understand what concerns, worries or preoccupies your opponent. That way you can respond by saying something like, “I, too, am concerned about …,” or “I’m also very worried about…”.
By doing that, your opponents feels his or her issues become yours and are appreciated. And whatever the outcome, he or she will feel that they played a role.