How to Win an Argument

Dale Carnegie said that the only way to get the best of an argument was to avoid it. He was a very smart man. I suppose the title of this post is a little misleading because the fact is you really can’t win an argument. 

 

You may be able to use your words to beat someone into submission, you may be able to force someone to comply with your wishes and you may be able to make someone feel stupid and defeated. But you didn’t actually “win” anything. 

 

Arguing with someone to prove your point simply proves you lacked the communication skills to help someone else see things your way…willingly.

 

There will always be disagreements in relationships, whether business or personal, because when more one than one person is involved you’ll at least occasionally have two opinions. Most disagreements are easily resolved. But occasionally relationships can be “fixed” only through serious and conscientious effort to find some kind of agreement.

     

These kinds of discussions are more likely to be successful if conducted in a non-adversarial environment. It’s more productive to think of the disagreements as a difference that can be balanced or accommodated. It should never be seen as a battle you have to win. 

 

A mindset of “must win” does nothing but ensure that someone most likely loses. If you care about the other person even a little then you should realize that when they lose, you lose too. 


Even people with differing viewpoints should be able to find solutions that work for everyone…providing that you truly want to try.

 

Here’s a few ideas for lessening the chance that a disagreement turns argumentative:

       

Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. When I say listen I mean really really listen. If the first word out of your mouth when the other person stops talking is “but” then I just just about guarantee that you were listening to respond instead of listening to understand. If you don’t understand what they said or meant then ask… nicely. “What the hell is that supposed to mean” is an escalation phrase and I’m hoping escalation isn’t your goal.

 

Explain your views clearly, you don’t like guessing what the other person is thinking so don’t make them guess either. Finding common ground isn’t a race so slow down, choose your words carefully, once said they can be forgiven but it’s really really hard for someone to forget them.

 

Stay on topic. Don’t introduce new differences and most certainly don’t try to rehash old ones. When you’re tempted to fight fire with fire it would serve you well to remember that firefighters most often don’t use fire to put out another fire.

 

Cheap shots are just that, cheap. If you value the relationship then perhaps you should not use something cheap when trying to save something valuable from permanent damage.

 

Don’t embarrass yourself by suggesting that the other person is unable to see the big picture or incapable of thinking through the situation. If you think you’re talking to an idiot then perhaps you should just stop talking because the other person may feel the same way and if the discussion gets too far off track it’s possible you could both be right.

 

If your differences just seem impossible to reconcile (I’m nearly certain they are not) consider seeking help from an impartial person. A coach, mentor, valued friend, Pastor or a trusted family member are the most likely possibilities.

 

When a discussion escalates into an argument then everybody loses something. Don’t lose by arguing and never fool yourself into thinking that you’ve won. 


The next time you’re tempted to argue consider giving the other person a piece of your heart instead of a piece of your mind. You will both be better off in the end, that much I can assure you.

Are You Born to Win?

Whenever I hear someone described as a born winner I always wonder what the person described as “the born winner” thinks. They very well may have been born with some advantages, a “leg up” if you will. Wealthy parents, a good environment, good role models in their life are some that come to mind but I believe this much is certain; they were not born winners. They worked, probably very hard, to become a winner. Even people born with advantages can “lazy” the advantages away if they refuse to work to maximize them.

     

People who win have invariably formed the habits of doing the things that people who don’t win simply don’t like to do. Winners don’t necessary like to do them either but they do them anyway. They do them to win!

     

Winners make better choices; sometimes the choices are hard to make but they make them anyway. People who don’t win often make only the easy choices or worse yet they make no choice at all, simply allowing the winds of chance to determine the outcome of their lives.

     

Winners know that every choice and decision produces some kind of result so they seek the guidance of a coach or a mentor when making big decisions. They don’t make decisions when there is a chance that their emotions may affect the quality of the decision. People who can’t seem to win are almost unaware of the significance of their choices and too often believe that “their station in life” affords them no real choices. It’s what a lot of people would call a losing mentality.

     

People who win take risks. Not crazy risks, but well thought-out calculated risks. People who seldom win believe they can play it safe and still win. That may have been true at one time but it’s absolutely not true in today’s world. The truth today is that never taking a risk is about the riskiest thing you can do. 

     

Winners have goals. Real goals, the kind that are written down with a detailed plan on how to achieve them. They do not think in terms of “if I can” they think in terms of “how will I.” People who seldom win have dreams, wonderful dreams that way too often begin with the phrase “if only”.

     

Winners work to make a difference in the world around them. They care about much more than themselves. They think long term and plan ahead, they know that a set-back is not the end of the world, it is just the beginning of the next success. People who seldom win work simply to pay the bills.

     

Winners live today while preparing for tomorrow, they learn from yesterday but refuse to live there. People who don’t win too often seem to be talking about the good old days. Winners know the best days haven’t happened yet.

     

Winners always do everything they can to control their attitude. They shun people who might bring their attitude down. (Yes, they will try to positively impact other people’s attitude but not at the risk of their own.) They don’t let other people and things set the altitude at which they operate, they maintain control of the precious resource of a positive attitude no matter what. The decision to maintain a positive attitude is the first decision winners make each day and it’s often their most important decision of the day.

     

People who struggle to win also struggle to control their attitude and there is no coincidence there – it is nearly impossible to win once you tell yourself you can’t.

     

Winners don’t worry about “having” luck because they’re too busy “making” their luck. The make their luck while developing their plan for success, they make their luck in the course of doing the “little extra” stuff that they do on a very consistent basis.  The people who don’t often win do what their job description says to do and little more.

     

Winners know that doing a “little extra” than required puts them way ahead of the group who only does “little more” than required.

     

Now here is the best part… everything that winners do can be done by anyone. These are simply (yes, I know, simple to say, hard to do) choices available to anyone willing to make a commitment to win.


So the question isn’t whether or not you’re a born winner. The question is will you decide to be a winner today?


The Flames of Discontent

The most successful people know that good enough really isn’t. In fact, they know that good enough is just a mirage and accepting anything as “good enough” merely puts you on the path to mediocrity. 

 

Tony Gwynn, the San Diego Padres Baseball great said that the minute you’re satisfied with where you’re at you’re not there anymore. In that same vein, the second you believe what you’ve done is good enough it isn’t. 

 

Authentic Leaders do not accept good enough from themselves or their people. They fan the flames of constructive discontent until the desire for improvement burns hotter than the comfort of the current.

 

Those leaders take a humble pride in their accomplishments but ensure their future success by realizing that they can do better. They drive towards continual continuous improvement and bring their people and organization along for the ride. 

 

Introspection is a key for constructively discontented leaders. They evaluate their performance and then reevaluate. You’ll never hear them explaining that the reason they do something is simply because they always have. They know exactly why they do what they do and they know that one day they will do it differently…. and better. 

 

Leaders who long for improvement learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. They realize that if they aren’t trying something new from time to time then they simply aren’t trying at all. They accept the risk of failure as the price for continual success and are not afraid to take a path that others didn’t even see. 

 

They are careful not to “read their own press.” They accept the recognition that comes with success but have pretty short memories and they use their past success only to guide themselves even higher. 

 

The most Authentic Leaders use their own success to help their people achieve uncommon results. Sometimes they push their people towards success, sometimes they pull them and oftentimes they come along side of them to bring them on a common journey. 

 

They fall at times but that only slows their climb, it does not stop them. 

 

The most successful leaders, and the most successful people, know that continued success lies in finding contentment in constructive discontent. They are never fully satisfied but that in its own way is uniquely satisfying to highly successful people. 


If you’re satisfied with where you’re at or with what you’ve accomplished then get yourself unsatisfied as soon as possible anyway you can. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and your success will know no limits.

What I Learned from a Millennial

I am often, some would say too often, surprised at how much I have to learn. I’m also often surprised at who I learn it from. 

 

Such was the case a couple of weeks ago when I was doing a presentation I called “Selling Through the Generations.” The focus was on the differences of selling to the various generations with a particular focus on selling to millennials. 

 

Usually when I’m presenting to a group I try to know more about my subject than my audience. If that’s not possible I at least try to help the group use what they know if a more effective way. This group was unique in that there were 7 or 8 millennials mixed in and I had no doubt that they knew more, way more in fact, about being millennials than I ever could. 

 

But I was really just presenting information that came from the ton of research done on generational differences so I was comfortable with my material. 

 

Despite everything you may have read and heard there are really more similarities between the generations than there are differences. There are however some things that make millennials different from their parent’s and grandparent’s generations. But those differences are not what I’m writing about today. I’m writing about what I learned. 

 

There are lots of names for the generation born roughly between 1978 and 2000. Most of us know that generation as the millennials, some people call them Gen Y and some people call them somewhat divisively “the trophy generation.” 

 

This term comes from the “fact” that millennials need a constant stream of recognition…or a trophy for coming in 9th place in a 10 person race. (Don’t worry, in today’s world 10th place gets a trophy too)

 

I don’t remember exactly how we began the discussion on millennial’s “need” for recognition but somewhere in that conversation one of the millennials in the room said, “we never asked for a trophy, you just gave it to us.” 

 

He went on to say that IF millennials are indeed the trophy generation then it was the generations that came before them who made them that way. 

 

I have done a lot of research on the differences between the generations and written and spoken on the topic somewhat often and I had NEVER considered that thought for a second. But a second is about all it took to know that this millennial was exactly right!

 

Think about it, a little kid competing in soccer or a baseball game had no idea that everyone was supposed to be a winner. They didn’t know that they “needed” or “deserved” recognition for every little thing….until some well-meaning adult told them. 

 

Boomers and maybe some early Gen Xers made millennials whatever they are and now it’s boomers who complain about the “trophy needing” “over-pampered” “brats.” 

 

Millennials are really more like other generations than many people think. The big thing I learned that day is that they have figured out some things that the older generations seem to have missed. 


I don’t think I’ll ever look at millennials quite the same again. 


One Way to Grow a Leader

It sounds odd but one of the best methods a leader has for growing future leaders is to not lead. Well at least not lead the way most people think of leading which is to be out front showing the way. 

 

What I really mean is to lead from the rear. Push your future leaders out front and see what they can do. 

 

If your goal as a leader is to grow more leaders (that should most certainly be one of your goals as a leader) then you must first understand that leadership can’t really be taught, it must be experienced. You can tell your followers what leadership characteristics are important, you can talk about making good decisions and the sacrifices that Authentic Leaders make but you can’t build a leader with words alone. 

 

So from time to time you must allow your future leaders to lead today. Right now, ready or not here they come! They may make mistakes along the way but you’ll be there to help them fix it. Notice, and this is key, I didn’t say you’ll be there to fix it for them, I said you’ll be there to help them fix it. 

 

Sometimes you may even see the mistake coming but you’ll let it happen anyway, just so your future leader can learn from it. I wouldn’t suggest sitting back and watching a serious mistake just happen but if the mistake involves only minor consequences then use it as a teaching opportunity. 

 

Your future leaders are far more likely to learn from a mistake they had to fix than they are to learn from a mistake you didn’t let happen. 

 

Not allowing your future leaders to take the helm from time to time is like planting grass seed with no intention of ever watering it. It may always have potential but everyone knows it will never be a yard the kids can play in.


Sometimes, maybe even often, the best thing a leader can do to grow future leaders is to simply get the heck out of their way. Give ‘em a push and stand back, lead from the rear and watch your leaders of tomorrow grow.

 

The Challenge of Frustration

Recently I had the opportunity to discuss leadership with a group of mid-level managers. At the end of my presentation I was approached by a significant number of the attendees who all had the same question.

 

The questions, while asked differently all had the same theme: what do I do when my “leader” isn’t a real leader at all?

 

The answer to that question is simple and complicated all at once. I’m assuming (I know that’s dangerous) that the people asking the question are truly leaders. That means they care about the people they lead, they understand that their own success is completely dependent upon the success of the people they lead and that they get as much pleasure from their people’s success as they do their own. 

 

If that is the case then the answer to the question is this: Lead Up.

 

Lead your leader the same way you lead your followers. Realize that your leader is a person too, realize that they, like every other human being on the planet, have their faults and limitations. 

 

The most Authentic Leaders lead in every direction, down, across and up. That means that instead of criticizing the person above you, which accomplishes nothing, you should be trying to help them overcome their faults and limitations. You can coach them the same way you coach others, you can demonstrate that you care about them the same way you demonstrate that you care about others. You can invest yourself in their success as if their success was your own…because for an Authentic Leader it is.

 

But…and this is what makes it complicated, before you can do any of that you must earn the right to lead up. 

 

Earning the right to lead up requires that you lead yourself exceptionally well. You must have the trust of the person above you to lead up. You earn that trust by being completely transparent with your leader. You don’t say one thing to them and then something else to your followers. You do what you say you will do 100% of the time. You display the same integrity upwards as you do across and down. (just an aside here, you either have integrity all the time or you don’t have integrity any time)

 

You must lead yourself in such a way that the person above you does not feel as if you require much help from them. You control your own attitude and keep it positive as much as humanly possible. You choose your words well and seldom just spout off the first thing that comes to mind. 

 

And then there’s this…you let them devour your ego food!

 

You allow them to sometimes, often, or even frequently take your success as their own. (I told you this was complicated) You take on assignments that your leader may receive credit for doing, you do more than you are required to do knowing full well that “others” may never know it was you who accomplished so much. 

 

I know from personal experience how truly challenging and frustrating that can be but here’s a question for you: are you leading to lead or are you leading for some type of personal glory?

 

If you’re leading to lead that means you lead because you want to make a difference; your motives are not selfish they are selfless. That’s a huge difference that allows you to feed your own ego even after giving much of your ego food to someone else. 

 

YOU know what you did and if you’re truly leading to lead, if you’re truly leading for the benefit of others and not yourself, then that is enough. More than enough actually. 


Leadership comes from many levels within an organization, it also goes in many directions. If you’re experiencing the frustration that comes with following a leader who doesn’t lead then do what real leaders do, stop complaining and start leading…today.


The One True Prerequisite of Leading

You must have a follower!

 

No matter what your title happens to be, no matter how lofty your position may be within your organization if no one is following you then you are not leading. Period!

 

It’s probably the number one leadership mistake I see and I see it often, very very often. People believe that it’s their title or position that makes them a leader. This misnomer is especially common with people new to a position of leadership. 

 

But here is the absolute fact: titles and positions on an organizational chart do not make you a leader. The people following you make you a leader. 

 

You can be promoted to a position with a fancy title that makes it sound like you are a leader but you must earn the right to truly lead. No one, absolutely no one can promote you to the position of Leader, that can only come from the people you would lead and you must constantly demonstrate that you’re worthy of it.

 

The fastest way to demonstrate that is by showing your people that you care about them. Bringing donuts to the meeting is nice but a drone could do that. 

 

Showing you care requires that you connect with your people in a meaningful way. If you’re in a leadership position then I have some questions for you… How much do you REALLY know about the people you claim to lead? Do you know their goals, their needs, their hopes and desires for their future?

 

Do you know what their life struggles are outside of work? Did you ever consider those struggles may affect their work performance? Did you ever consider that maybe, just maybe you could help them, coach them or perhaps just offer them someone to talk to?

 

Leadership is about people and to earn the right to lead you’re going to have to be willing to SHOW you care. You must be willing to invest a piece of yourself in someone else’s life. You see, when you make a difference in your business you’re a manager and that’s great but when you make a difference in the life of someone else you’re a leader and that’s better, much much better.


If you’re in a leadership position it’s a good idea to turn around once in a while to see if anyone is really following. If they are not then it’s possible, actually likely that the people who could be following you have decided that you simply don’t care enough to truly lead.