Friday, 3 May 2013

Never Argue, Never Agree

Years ago when I was teaching salespeople, I used to talk about "objections". In sales an objection is a roadblock customers throw up in the process. Often it's not really an objection at all, but a lack of understanding about the product or process in question. My guiding rule was "never argue, never agree".

Never argue is simple to understand. When someone raises an objection they are telling you what they think. If you argue you are minimizing their point of view. How can you gain a commitment from someone when at the same time you are diminishing their thoughts and ideas? How can you build agreement while denying validity? Rather than argue, seek to understand.

Never agree is more complex. Basically it comes down to this. In as much as you must learn to respect that other persons point of view, they must also see that you respect your own point of view and will not abandon it at the first push back. The person on the other end of the conversation needs to know that you are willing to stand behind your opinions and ideas and will not attempt to succor favour by easy acquiescence. It's mostly about building confidence and trust.

So how do you find the bridge through this conundrum? How do you build commitment without arguing or agreeing? First of all, you listen. You discover what the other person wants or needs and you find ways to help them get it, preferably with what you have to offer. Then you seek common ground, a compromise way where both parties get what they need.

Life is like that too, all about finding common ground, places to agree. It took me a long time to learn that judging another person, or judging their position, is a poor way to build relationships. It took me a long time to learn that you simply have to accept people where they are and how they are, then build from there. It took me a long time to learn that there is always common ground.

The problem is that both people have to see that common ground and work towards building the bridge where you can meet, respecting both people and allowing both parties feel successful. Both have to want a win/win outcome. If one person wins all the time then eventually both people will find themselves losing. When there is imbalance, neither wins.

Most often this happens when one or both parties in the deal see winning as more important than finding common ground. I see this in business and in life, where one or both persons see their side as having more value, being "better", or "right". Except in rare cases, there is no "better" or "right", there is only "different". You have to work to find the bridge between different and common ground.

Never argue, never agree. Listen, learn, build. Look for common ground. Win/win; it all seems so simple, doesn't it?


  1. Here is an interesting question. In a relationship, do you prefer a win-win in all situations, or a bunch of win-loses and lose-wins that average out to win-win over time? I don't mean winning so someone else has to lose; but chosing to lose so someone else can win. I think the first requires mutual-respect, and the later requires mutual-love. Maybe a healthy balance of both.

  2. Hi Anonymous

    Interesting point and question. It almost sounds like a "how many angels can dance of the head of a pin" kind of thing as you ask it. Perhaps it depends on the relationship; each is different and each requires negotiation. You sound like you are looking for specific advice. Tell me about yourself, where are you coming from on this?

  3. Hey Anon. Who the hell are you, why are you hiding your identity and agenda, and why are your obvious questions so annoying? Also, you need to work on your quantitative methods. Rick is right on the statistics of lottery tickets; you are wrong.

  4. It is interesting that one would ask "who the hell are you?" and not "who in heaven are you?" The blog is open for anonymous commenting, so there will bound to be anonymous comments. I have no ill intent with my comments.

    Regarding quantitative methods, you can do a simple experiment, create 10 raffle tickets, and pretend to buy 1. Then on the average, within 10 draws, you should draw your ticket. Now, pretend to buy 2 raffle tickets, then on the average, within 5 draws you will draw one of the 2 you bought. Now, pretend to buy 5 tickets, then on the average within 2 draws you will pick one of the 5 tickets purchased. Now, pretent to buy all 10 tickets, than on the average, every time you make a draw you will pick one of the tickets you bought. Again, I am not promoting the purchase of lotto tickets.

    Let's use a different example. If you simply make bi-weekly mortgage payments instead of monthly mortgage payments, even if the total for the whole year is the same, you would save tens of thousands of dollars on interest costs over the life of your mortgage.

    The point is, a simple change can make dramatic improvements in the quality of ones life. More hope.

    I have no agenda except to encourage and perhaps to provoke deeper thought and discussion. Take care.