Sure, numerous conversations and meetings benefit from subtlety and agreement. Yet at least as many conversations and meetings require all involved to be able to argue effectively, to candidly speak out, to respectfully tell it as they see it, to challenge conventional wisdom without sugar-coating, and to openly call out mishaps, cowardice, ego-trouble, misguided intentions, or simply an opposing view or unlikely perspective.

So how do you do this thing called ‘arguing effectively’?

  1. Objectives must be shared, explained, and understood.
  2. Intentions must be constructive and trusted.
  3. Substantive debate must be everyone’s priority.
  4. Empathy and curiosity must accompany candor and persuasion.
  5. Participants must be willing to assume the other person’s position.
  6. Participants must distinguish between the person and their opinion.
  7.  Participants must be capable and willing to give/receive respectful, candid feedback
  8.  You want a no-tolerance approach to dominating, condemning, remaining locked in the past, and attacking someone’s character.

It is impossible and, more importantly, highly undesirable to eliminate all arguments from conversations and meetings. It is possible to argue respectfully and constructively so you can dive deeper into important topics, allow otherwise suppressed opinions, and clear the air of possibly toxic thoughts and emotions.

All involved need to realize that a lack of agreement does not have to equal conflict, and that deeper connections, smarter solutions, and stronger commitments result from expressing, respecting, and seriously considering a contrarian’s point of view.