Collaboration Updated on: 5 April 2019

How do you handle arguments at work?

How do you have arguments at work?


Arguments that take place at work are not always as negative as they seem. It isn’t what the argument is about that matters most, it is how you react to the situation that will impact the end result.

10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion. 90% are due to wrong tone of voice.

Many may think that running away from the first sign of a disagreement is the best policy to follow especially when dealing with coworkers. But this may not be the best approach to take. Having a difference of opinion can actually benefit you and your team.

…having heated, yet healthy, arguments to generate a portfolio of alternatives. People in innovative organizations have learned how to inquire, actively listen, and advocate for their point of view. They understand that you rarely get innovation without diversity of thought and conflict.

In an interview with Laura A. Hill, author of Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, she says conflicting arguments lead to better innovation of products and ideas within a team. Ignoring the problem at hand will only build more tension, which can severely impact the productivity and energy of the group. Follow these suggestions for how to act before and during an argument to get your team used to having productive arguments.

How to prepare yourself for a potential argument

Debating back and forth on an issue is healthy as long as it does not go into emotional fighting. How you handle an argument that involves emotional fighting will determine the amount of trust and respect you have with your coworkers and will weigh on the kind of relationship you have with others at work. But before it comes to that, here are a few ways to prepare yourself before an argument that you know might come:

      1. Before a meeting or a confrontation, inform everyone involved about what it will be about and what points will be covered. This will give all participants a chance to look over the material so there are no surprises.
      2. Before a heated topic, do your homework on your audience. Find out what your audiences’ personalities are like and their views on certain ideas. The more information you know, the better your approach can be to convince your audience to follow you.

How to react when an argument takes place

If and when an argument takes place, the way you react to it will affect how intense it can become. Follow these tips on positive ways to act to turn an argument into a constructive one. 

      1. Always be civil

No matter what the argument is about, never lose your temper. Especially when the stress level and emotions are running high, it is easy to forget how to act and respond appropriately. Launching personal attacks and getting confrontational will only worsen the situation, instead of finding a solution. You will also lose all credibility the minute you raise your voice.

      1. Always listen

When in a confrontation with someone, you should always listen to their entire argument. Become a master listener by paying attention to exactly what is being said. People will become less defensive when they see that you are making a solid effort to understand their point of view. 

      1. Further clarification can always help

When listening, asking to further clarify a specific point or idea is always helpful for you to completely understand the reason for them to feel a certain way. Don’t be afraid to ask for more details to get a complete grasp on their opinion.

      1. Watch the language you use

When you are expressing yourself, try to avoid using the words “but” and “however”. Including these words in the conversation will make the other person believe that their ideas are not valued or important.

      1. Ask the right question

Instead of asking “why” the other person is thinking or feeling a certain way, ask them “how”. This change of question will bring a lot more results with facts and figures than a plain “because” answer.

      1. Watch your body posture

Many arguments can be avoided, or at least calmed, simply by expressing positive body language. For example, try to align your body with whom you’re speaking to, keep your arms uncrossed, and keep non-threatening eye contact. Here are some more tips that can help you portray positive body language.

Instead of focusing on winning the argument, showing full cooperation and listening to others will bring you to a solution that everyone can agree with. Having different opinions and diverse thinking can be beneficial for the spirit of the group, it can pool together more ideas and alternatives to a problem. Use the opportunity of an argument to turn it into a valuable solution, that can also help with the productivity and innovation of your team. 

We’ve put together an infographic for tips on positive ways to turn an argument into a constructive one. Check it out below:

Postive ways to act for constructive arguments


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