Stomping your feet or sulking by the dishwasher might get your husband to help you clean up at home, but winning an argument at the office requires a more sophisticated approach. Whether it’s convincing your boss to give you a certain project, or explaining why you shouldn’t be working the late shift anymore – all jobs involve an element of persuasion. That’s the word from Catherine de Lange, a researcher for New Scientist magazine. So, she offers these two valuable tips for helping you win an argument on a professional playing field.
- Watch your language. That should be your first priority, because what you say usually isn’t as important as how you say it. Research shows that the more hesitation words used - such as “umm” and “I mean” – the less credible people believe an argument to be. This is especially true when the person you’re trying to persuade is pressed for time. The less time someone has to listen to what you have to say, the more they’ll be influenced by the way you say it. So be smart, concise and direct.
- The second way to get what you want at work is to “frame” your opinion. What that means, according to psychologist George Bizer in New York, is that anything can be expressed positively or negatively. It’s like seeing the glass as either “half-full” or “half-empty.” This has a big impact when trying to get people to understand your point of view when theirs is the opposite. For example, if you voted for Barack Obama in the presidential election, you’re better off telling a McCain enthusiast that you “supported Obama’s ideas” rather than “opposed McCain’s ideas.” Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when you attack someone else’s, that’s when you run into trouble. So frame your request in a way that doesn’t belittle the other person’s viewpoint. For example, you might tell your boss, “I agree, Donna would do a good job with this project, but I think my customer service experience gives me an advantage over her.” Because, bottom line, being respectful will always score you more points than trying to be right.