No workplace is immune from the occasional argument. If you work on a high-performing team, you’re bound to disagree with your manager or colleagues on a number of issues. Arguments don’t have to be hostile. In fact, you should always aim to remain civil in the workplace. 

Arguments at work can be interpersonal, related to specific tasks, or may even be caused by conflicting personalities within a team. Since your team offers so many great perspectives, look at arguments as an opportunity to improve your problem solving, hone communication skills, and most importantly, resolve conflict. Let’s discuss persuading your colleagues of the value of your ideas and using skills you already have to win your next argument. 

Things to do when trying to win an argument at work

1Backup your points

Let’s say your colleague is set on tackling a project and you’re unhappy with the direction they’re taking it. If you disagree with their approach due to your previous experience working on similar projects, you can use data and findings from your own endeavors to add value to your argument. It’s hard to refute facts, so be sure that your evidence isn’t strictly anecdotal. Always use surveys, statistics, and research from relevant sources to strengthen your case. 

Great meetings are just the start

Run an efficient meeting that fosters communication and collaboration by including an agenda the whole team can contribute to. Try using a tool like Fellow!

2Be logical 

Using logic means showing how one idea follows another. You can use your problem-solving and critical thinking skills in an argument to persuade your opponent. Be logical when making your case by: reflecting on your own experiences or situations that backup your argument, aligning your position to the team or company’s values, and practicing your delivery beforehand. Act with your head and the available facts at your disposal to suggest a reasonable solution that will benefit everyone.

3Tell the truth 

If in doubt, always be honest when engaging in an argument. Don’t lie or embellish details even if it will help you persuade the other party. After all, the validity of your argument will crumble if anyone finds out that you weren’t truthful. Remember that other participants can make their case, but they won’t be able to dispute your facts. If you realize that the facts aren’t on your side mid-argument, don’t be afraid to admit this to your teammates. Honesty is the best policy as it provides a solid foundation for building a cohesive and authentic team dynamic. 

4Stay open-minded

Remember: you’re not arguing for the sake of arguing. You’re arguing because you want to develop practical solutions to the issue at hand or reach common ground with a coworker. Consider their perspective and any proposed solutions. You owe it to the other party to give them the benefit of the doubt. Go into the conversation expecting that your opinion on the topic may shift. Be prepared to alter your opinion if you receive new information during the discussion. 

5Control your emotions 

Stay calm, but passionate. Losing your temper could mean losing the argument altogether. If you must, kindly ask your coworker to take a brief break from the conversation to regain your composure and ensure you’ll be level-headed throughout the remainder of the discussion. Write down what you want to say during this time and practice your points before returning to the person. Your position will carry more weight if you’re reasonable. Try your best to not let anger or tears get in the way of your thoughtful stance on the issue.  

6Let the other person speak 

Give the individual or colleagues you’re chatting with plenty of time to make their case throughout the conversation. Just because you disagree doesn’t mean that the other party deserves to be disrespected. Practice active listening techniques throughout the discussion. Use nonverbal cues to express interest in the other party’s message, ask plenty of questions, and encourage them to elaborate on their position. Doing so will build trust with the other participants. When all attendees feel heard, you’re setting the foundation for a productive and collaborative conversation. 

7Study the other person 

Notice your opponent’s strengths and shortcomings. Don’t point out their weaknesses during the discussion. Instead, you can respectfully turn their argument back on them if it contradicts their own outlined set of values or beliefs. You should always act in good faith, but there is nothing wrong with studying your opponent if it will help you win a debate. 

8Watch your tone 

Don’t let your attitude overshadow your ideas during an argument at work. Take a deep breath and aim to maintain a clear, non-argumentative tone throughout the conversation. The delivery of your message will improve your case if done correctly. Additionally, you should watch how you speak about the other party and the argument after it ends. Don’t gossip with your teammates or act in a way that will perpetuate hurt feelings.

Things to avoid when trying to win an argument at work

1Being arrogant 

Albert Einstein once said that the only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance. If you act like you’re more capable of making a decision than your colleague during a conflict, you’ll only tarnish your reputation in the long term. Never bring up your workplace rank even if you are their manager. Always enter an argument assuming that you and the other party are on equal footing. 

2Getting emotional 

It can be a challenge to avoid strong emotions when you feel overwhelmed during a conflict. This is because your body produces more adrenaline when you’re upset, and you may even experience a fight or flight response due to the stress. If you sense you may burst into tears or an angry outburst, let the other party know that you need to step away. Conduct a breathing exercise and schedule some time to chat about the issue at a later date, if necessary. If you do begin to cry during the chat, honour your sensitive nature and don’t apologize. 

3Letting the problem simmer 

Choose confrontation over passive-aggressive behaviour every time. If the conflict is small, moving on without having an in-depth conversation about the issue may be the best solution. If you’re truly upset or the matter feels like a big deal, letting the conflict simmer will only make you feel resentful. Ask the other party if you can have a private conversation and be straightforward with them. You may be surprised by their willingness to have a respectful, solution-oriented discussion. 

4Taking things personally 

If you lose an argument, it only means that your opponent made a stronger case than you. Don’t assume that the outcome was your fault or that you’re a bad teammate because things didn’t go your way. If you’re upset because you received negative feedback, question your own perfectionism. Give yourself grace, accept the outcome, and try not to further dissect the conversation.

Free decision-making meeting agenda template

Sometimes two or more colleagues have different ideas regarding a decision that involves the rest of the team. Using Fellow’s decision-making meeting agenda template, you can review your teammates’ proposed decisions and foster a collaborative discussion. Begin by discussing what it means to make a decision by consensus, then review the suggested ideas and gather reactions from each meeting participant. Next, have a meaningful discussion about each point you agree and disagree upon with your colleagues. Conduct a final check to confirm agreements and disagreements among the team. Lastly, document any final decisions and next steps.

Use this template the next time multiple teammates are wanting to propose a solution to a task or team-related issue. 

Together against the problem

You’ve likely heard the saying, “it’s not me versus you, it’s us versus the problem.” As cheesy as the saying sounds, it can be helpful to have this perspective when aiming to resolve conflict in the workplace. When the going gets tough, you should aim to find common ground and reach an agreement rather than let the tension simmer. If you feel wronged, it’s always best to take the high road and remain professional. When the conflict has reached a conclusion and you’ve explained your own point of view, move on. Winning an argument isn’t worth it if it’s at the expense of your reputation or your emotional health. If all else fails, remember that oftentimes, letting something go is an act that requires far greater power than defending your perspective.