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Phoenix Forward

5 ways to win an argument at work

How to win an argument

What should you do in a heated discussion at work? Hold your tongue and take a chill pill, advises Jim Lipot, instructor in the MBA program for the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus. Follow his five simple rules for coming out on top in your next office debate:

1. Wait before responding.

When you sense an argument brewing with a co-worker, hold off on firing back your response, Lipot encourages. Instead, calmly tell your opponent, “I will have to get back to you on this topic.” This will give you ample time to do some research and consult any records you have in support of your side of the argument.

2. Keep your personal opinions out of the discussion.

Always use researched facts to make your points, recommends Lipot, who is also a corporate consultant. “Most statements made in an argument are backed up with anecdotal evidence,” he says, “such as the statement, ‘Well, Joe said we weren’t supposed to do it that way.’ Until you have consulted Joe and confirmed what he actually said, you aren’t using a fact. A fact is something that cannot be disputed, and everyone can agree on it.”

3. Listen to the other side.

It’s important to understand where the other side is coming from, Lipot points out. You can achieve this by being an active listener. “Listen to what the other person has to say, and paraphrase it back,” Lipot says, “so that you are certain you are understanding that side accurately.

“Use statements that start with: ‘So if I understand you correctly, you are saying that …,’ And then ask, ‘Is this what you are saying?’” Only by completely understanding the other point of view can you overcome your opponent’s objections.

4. Turn it into a win-win situation.

Try to reframe your argument as a simple misunderstanding rather than a drag-down fight, so it’s not about having a winner and a loser. “When there’s a heated argument and you win, the loser is going to be disgruntled — and angry — and the next time you do something wrong, that person will pounce on you,” Lipot says.

“If you can keep personality and people out of it,” he says, “and make it about the situation and the facts, you are less likely to have a win-lose situation on your hands.”

5. Know when to walk away.

When a person keeps making the argument personal — despite your neutral, non-defensive position — that’s a sign that it’s time to walk. This is likely an argument that just isn’t worth the effort.

“Sometimes you cannot win the argument because the other person will simply not accept anything you offer as fact or proof that you are correct,” Lipot says. “In this case, the only way to win the argument is by walking away.”

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