When heated arguments arises in the workplace, relationships, or with strangers on the internet, how often is your objective to be right?
Harsh words are used and people question your judgment. It can be very easy to get on the defensive where you stop responding rationally. You dig yourself into a hole and come across even worse. This happens to everyone including myself. This loss of control intensifies the more emotions are heightened. Have you ever stopped yourself and thought “is me being right more important as making the best decision possible”?
These discussions and debates have happened to me more times than I can count. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this problem and how to make the best decision possible. As a UI/UX designer at a company I frequently need to do research with customers and people with how they use an application. This often means I learn new perspectives, and also to be able to see when people have ulterior motives. With the process I use with user research, I also take a similar approach on how to resolve disputes with normal discussions.
People are complex, but the best approach I have found is to spend more time learning about the other person’s concern instead of focusing on your own perspective. This is the process I use when I get into discussions that seem to hit dead ends, or when there are
Taking a timeout
One thing that I do when I see my emotions start to take over my thought process is to step away. Simply take a break from the discussion and sleep on it. If you don’t have that much time, even stepping outside and going for a short walk can do wonders for your mind. Acknowledging that your emotions are hijacking your brain is an important first step to working a conflict out.
I personally enjoy meditating, which involves clearing my mind and trying to temporarily forget about the entire discussion. This space can help put things in perspective and get everyone to a better resolution faster.
Understand first before being understood
Before people are able to listen to you, it is important that you take time listening to them first. While their emotions are high, they are going to have a hard time understanding what you are saying. While you may be “right”, it doesn’t really matter at this point. The world is in black and white at this point and that needs to be addressed first. There are many benefits of listening to people first before you jump in with responding. There are a variety of reasons and things someone might tell you
- They might bring up an area that wasn’t previously thought about
- They might not understand the product and how it works
Either way, it is important to know this information up front before you even try to respond. If you cannot respond to their concerns, you will do nothing but frustrate people more. It doesn’t matter if you are helping a customer fix an issue, or trying to settle a dispute on where a button needs to be on the user interface. Get to the core of their concern and strong emotions as quickly as possible in a discussion.
Explaining your perspective
Once you understand where the other side is coming from you can begin to formulate a response.
One thing you have to remember is that other people are not in the meetings and discussions you are in. They do not know all the complexities, technical issues, and problems you are solving. They only see a small window into the final result. You need to vocalize these points clearly in your response.
If their concern is something you haven’t thought about, it is important to think about their point and see if it can be revised. If the direction needs to be altered, man up and state you weren’t aware of a certain aspect and change something accordingly.
It is also possible that you are aware of their concern, but had to balance all the variables. If there are technical elements to the solution and they are not technical this can be a tricky to communicate well.
Making the best decision
Discussions and debates should ultimately be done to come to the best decisions. Do not be misguided with Politics that polarize issues with their debates. This is a bad approach and the reason so much anger and frustration comes from politics. It is easy to get in wars of who is right, but this is something that should try to be resolved through shared education and perspective.
Even after using this approach, there is still a chance that some people won’t be happy. They have to to have their button “there”. Or that button has to be blue, not green. You can never make everyone happy and nothing would get done if everyone had to agree. By taking the time, though, and understanding people’s perspective, it can help you make decisions with the best results possible.
I mostly keep this blog to help me remember things. Writing is also a great way to understand things at a deeper level. I would highly recommend it if you don't write at all.