Disagreements are not uncommon in the workplace. However, disagreements can become so passionate that they can escalate to a point where they can hurt careers. Here are five tips to help you approach arguments the right way.
1. Know the rules of engagement.
There are certain rules of engagement in a disagreement with someone over a work-related issue:
• State your reasons politely and dispassionately. A polite and calm demeanor gets you further than an angry and emotional one because the listener is focusing on your reasons rather than your demeanor. This increases the chances that the listener will consider what you are saying and lessens the chance she will dismiss your arguments as irrational and emotional. So the next time you need to confront someone over something you feel passionate about, wait and let the anger subside before bringing it up.
• Give the listener respect. Whether the listener is a member of upper management or a peer, she deserves to be spoken to respectfully. Even if you think the person is a jerk and unworthy, it is important to respect the position that the person holds. It gets the listener to believe that you are considerate of what the listener has to say to you. Others who may be participating in the conversation may be positively influenced by your demeanor and listen more carefully to your point of view.
• Sabotage almost always backfires. If lobbying for your position does not work, let it go for now. Don't get caught up in your anger and attempt to prove your point by sabotaging the winner. For instance, if you had a project that did not get priority, try being gracious and helping out in the other project. You will look like a team player and get more respect and consideration for your point of view the next time you propose something. Badmouthing a project or its sponsor can make you look petty and you will lose the respect of your management and peers. That means they will be less likely to help you in the future.