028 If Leaders Have to Have an Argument, They Need to Make Sure It is a Productive One

If a leader has to have a conversation that escalates into an argument, they need to know how to make it a productive one.  Bob and Alex talk about approaches to be for effective at making that happen.

Alex starts with trying to nip it in the bud if it is at all possible.  Bring the issue to the table on a timely basis in the most appropriate panel, particularly while the issue is fresh.  This can keep the issue from snowballing onto something too big.

Bob reminds us that while stepping away from an argument may be an appropriate negotiation strategy, but it does send the message that you don't care about the issue enough to have the conversation.  You may need to take some time for a cooling off period, or to do some “off line”, and these may be productive.  You want to be sure you let the other side talk.

Shari Alexander writes in an article that the conversation can be like a tennis match.  You need to hear what the other side says.  Otherwise, you end up in a position where you think whoever talks last, wins, or whoever talks the loudest wins.  This calls for patience, often a skill that is in short supply.  Alex says that it also provides an opportunity to check your body language.

Bob suggests that if the conversation starts with or comes to the point where you have to deliver an apology, you have to be careful how you craft it.  The key point is to not deliver the “but”.  Apologize directly and “get to the period” at the end of the sentence.

Above all else, do not make it personal.  If you do that, the gloves are off.  On the other hand, if you are on the receiving end, you need to be ready to take it and keep the conversation moving forward.

The sign that it has become truly productive when there is enough trust that both sides speak frankly about what they really want.  This is the core of integrative negotiation.


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