Holding productive debates

Oct 26, 2020


Read time: 2 minutes

By Esmée Hardwick-Slack

Research tells us that cognitive diversity makes a group smarter. In other words, two heads are better than one, and many heads are even better, especially when everyone is willing to share their expertise and opinions.

Many businesses don’t fail because of conflict, they fail from the silence that stems from the fear of conflict. While disagreements can be uncomfortable, when handled correctly they can often lead to healthy, open discussions which ultimately lead to a happier work environment.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Remember we’re all on the same team.

Debates will often fall into one of three categories: The kind where your goal is to persuade people you’re right; the kind where the goal is to look better than your opponent; and the kind where the goal is to find better solutions together. The third is best for getting the most out of everyone on your team. To steer the debate in that direction, you should begin your discussion with a shared goal and keep reminding everyone of your shared goal.

Stay on track and don’t make it personal.

One of the most important things when holding a productive debate is to stay on track. Debates can become heated when people feel like their ideas or identities are coming under attack. This can result in more emotional responses and peoples egos begin to play a much bigger role. This can lead to bad facts, question dodging and even personal attacks. It’s important for all involved to ensure the debate stays on track and that everyone sticks to facts and logic.

Be intellectually humble.

For a debate to truly work, everyone needs to be open minded and willing to respect one another’s arguments and able to accept when they’re wrong or have changed their mind. This is often referred to as intellectual humility which means that you don’t take things personally; that you listen to and respect every viewpoint, even if you disagree; and that you admit when you realise you’re wrong. This is an important part of holding a productive debate and great skill to have.

How do you deal with conflict in work? Do you hold productive debates? Let us know in the comments or via our LinkedIn page.

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