Nothing is more destructive to a leader than his ego. Our ego is never more present that in an argument.

It’s our ego that insists our idea is the best, that we know the answer, that people just need to do what we say and everything will be good.

It’s our ego that makes us say snarky, sarcastic, cruel things to the people we love the most.  

And it’s our ego that makes us get the last word in and do whatever it takes to “win” the argument.

Here’s a secret. You don’t win an argument by being right. You win an argument by being humble and curious.

This small change can dramatically transform the results you get in your business and your life.

Here’s how arguments normally work:

  • Two people have a conversation; it could be two strangers, a husband and wife, two co-workers, even a mother and child.
  • One or both of them don’t feel heard, so they get angry. The argument escalates as each of them try to get the other person to understand their point of view.
  • The argument ends with hurt feelings on both sides

Here’s how to short circuit that normal argument cycle:

1. Change your objective for the conversation

If your goal of the conversation is to get your point across, you’re probably both going to lose.

Instead, your goal should be curiosity…to seek to understand where they are coming from and why they think that way. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them. But if you spend the conversation asking questions and honestly seeking to understand their perspective, not only will you learn a lot, but they will also be much more open to hearing what you think.

Unhealthy conflict is any conflict in which both sides are willing to do anything to force their will, or viewpoint on the other.

Healthy conflict is any conflict in which both sides seek to understand what the other truly thinks and why they think it.

Healthy conflicts are much more likely to result in a win/win outcome.

Unhealthy conflicts are much more likely to result in anger, frustration, and failure.

2. Stop making it about you

If you spend the argument taking it personally and being defensive all you do is perpetuate the two of you not hearing each other.

Instead, practice humility. Understand that the other person’s perspective, frustration, or even anger isn’t about you…it’s about them.

Men are the worst at this. Call it machismo, testosterone, or whatever. But strong, grown men turn into petulant little boys when we feel like we aren’t being heard.

Gentlemen, knock that shit off!

Get over yourself.

It’s not about you.

It’s not even your job to fix whatever their problem is. It is however, your job to ask questions, to listen, and to help the two of you get clarity.

What Next?

Suck it up and act like a leader.

This humble/curious approach to arguing is really difficult.

To humble yourself enough to not make it about you, to seek to understand instead of being “right”…those are almost causes for sainthood.

Part of the reason this approach is so powerful is that it is so difficult that almost nobody does it.

It takes immense confidence and strength to pull off. But the results are life-changing.

Just remember, every time you do whatever it takes to “win” an argument, you sacrifice the long-term relationship and results for the short-term righteous feeling that comes with getting the last word in.

When you seek to understand more than you care about being heard, you lay the foundation for trust, intimacy, love and all the good things we want in our lives.

The magical thing about this is that they are much more likely to listen to you and to even change their minds and agree with you, if you just stop trying to convince them that you’re right.

Until next time, go win a few arguments, and let me know how it goes.