Disagreements happen. You can't always get your way. Everyone has an opinion. There are two sides to every argument.
When you're dealing with family or friends, you expect to have differences of opinion. Perhaps you are willing to fight for your views and what's important to you. And often, because of the personal relationships you have, you find a way to work things out.
At work, the dynamic is very different. The professional relationships you develop are based more on achieving success and moving up. Of course, you've become friends too, but competition is still part of the system. You want to be seen as a team player, but you want your ideas respected. You don't want to get a reputation for making trouble. You need to be picky about picking fights.
Disputes that are not worth pursuing fall into several categories:
- The other person will not change. Perhaps they are just as grounded in their principles as you are, and not willing to listen or consider another point of view. Compromise may not be an option in any case.
- The results won't change the outcome substantially. Think hard about whether it is more important to get your way or to just let it go.
- All the facts aren't available. Decisions need to be based on the best possible information. Guessing to fill in the blanks will not benefit anyone.
- Other issues are more important. Keep your priorities straight and concentrate on the most pressing issues. Not all issues carry the same weight.
- You're just trying to prove yourself, not improve the situation. What you will prove is that your ego is more important than the problem you are trying to solve.
- You really have no chance of winning. You may be a voice in the wilderness, and 100 percent correct in your assessment, but save your breath until you can realistically bring others around.
But there are valid reasons for holding your ground which need no explanation. Pursue a fight when: Your own ideas are being stolen. Your reputation is at stake. Your company's reputation is being threatened. The action being taken is unethical or illegal. And cost is a major factor.
When an argument ensues, focus on the issue, not the person raising the objection. Make sure your facts are correct and complete. Have documentation available to back up your points. Stay calm -- yelling and ranting make you look out of control rather than on top of the issue. Respect the other people and let them have their say. Compromise wherever possible. Bear in mind that you will be working with these co-workers and the success of future dealings hinges on how you treat them.
Letting a disagreement fester is counterproductive in many ways: It creates a hostile workplace, discourages teamwork, wastes time and resources, and in the end, accomplishes nothing. Everyone loses.
Fortunately, with some preparation, you can improve your chances of persuading others to consider your ideas. If I know I'm going into difficult negotiations, I don't want the result to be an argument. I want everyone to feel like they contributed to the solution. It has to be a win-win situation. Here's how I proceed: