5 Guiding Principles To Avoid Arguments

As the US political system begins to gather steam heading toward the next primary election, your attitude will determine whether you are simply discussing the issues of the day or are locked in epic battle with others. Presuming your attitude is one of discussion instead of battle, here are a few guiding principles that can help you have a more civil discussion.     


1.    1.    Beginning statements and comments with accusations and generalizations will put the other person on defense immediately and then they are looking for an opportunity to switch to offense.  For example, statements like, “The <insert political party here> are just out to destroy the country.” Will always start the discussion on the wrong foot.

2.    2.   Listing 100 reasons why you won’t vote for a particular politician is always less effective than stating 10 reason why you would vote for a particular politician.  Rather than have a negative attitude where you are “against” many things, choose to have a positive attitude where you are “for” many things.  You can change the whole course of a conversation by building up rather than tearing down.

3.    3.   Please remember that we all see the world through our own filters of experience and thought.  People will see and interpret the same event with completely different outcomes based on their own past experience and based on how they think.  The way you think is most likely the way you believe others think.  For example, if you believe that there is a lot of opportunity still available and you believe hard work and determination are the key to success, then you are going to assign that belief to others as well.  Therefore, if someone is unsuccessful, it is because they are not hardworking or determined.  Others may believe that the deck is stacked against them, and that they are not playing in a fair game.  They will then believe that someone who is unsuccessful is the victim of injustice.  Both perceptions are just as real and just as common.  The more you understand that we all have different experiences the more you will set yourself up for success on the next guideline.

4.   4.  Ask questions and listen.  Too many times we miss outstanding opportunities to not just engage in discussion with wonderful people, but we also miss out on the opportunity to learn from others with a different background and way of thinking.  Please note that this does not mean ask questions to try to make the person seem extreme.  For example, if someone says, “I support the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.” asking the question, “so does that mean you think people should own tanks and nuclear weapons?”  is taking the discussion to the extreme.  Not only do you not make any progress, but you actually lose ground because you lose all credibility with that person.  Try instead asking, “so what would reasonable gun control legislation look like to you?”.  You might just find by listening to their answers that you have more points of agreement than you have points of disagreement.

5.   5.  The best way to win an argument is to avoid the argument.  Once the argument begins no one wins.  Surely you have had an argument with someone before who just kept making ridiculous and random points until you walked away frustrated and furious.  Did they win the argument?  They think they did because you gave up, but you know they didn’t win the argument because you didn’t change any of your beliefs or views.  So in reality, no one won and you both lost.  Instead try to use the other guiding principles above to listen, be positive, and look for common ground.  You may not always agree with the other person, but at least you will be able to agree to disagree on only a few points while still having respect for each other.

Not everyone thinks the same way, or will agree on all topics.  There are no “obvious answers”, especially when dealing in politics.  If you would like to get through this next political election cycle without blocking or unfriending half of your social media contacts, then do what you can to use these 5 guiding principles.  This is not a guarantee that you won’t still block or unfriend a few folks, because you can only control yourself.  You cannot control how others act, though you can share these guiding principles with them.  At the very least, by using these techniques you will come out with a greater understanding of the issues and you will have people who enjoy political discussions with you. 


Your attitude is the most important tool in your toolbox.  You already have it.  If you use it well, it can gain you everything.  If you use it poorly, it can cost you everything.  How you use it is entirely up to you.

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The Cost of Bad Management
A study published in the Harvard Business Review in December 2012 revealed that most people get promoted into supervisory roles, on average, at the age of 33. The same study revealed that, on average, people received leadership training at the age of 42, almost a decade later. I believe that every bad manager is a result of this gap in resources. I believe that every bad manager has the ability to become a great leader, with the right attitudes and the right resources to help them change those attitudes.

While the article pointed out a key issue of ingraining bad habits, I want to focus on the increased and continued cost of delaying this training. To do this, we must first understand that all leaders are made. It is our experiences and our attitudes that shape us and make us who we are. Our attitudes can be controlled and changed, as they are usually reactionary to the external influences around us.

The first cost to the organization is turnover in staff. It has been said often that people join companies and leave managers. This is true in every respect. Bad managers will drive the best employees away, while only those employees who have fewer marketable skills will remain. Not only does the company lose money on the on-boarding / termination processes, but the company continues to lose money on lower productivity. This lower productivity often causes the bad manager to become even more demanding, thus driving the turnover up and profits down.

The second cost to the organization is in the proliferation of tribal knowledge. In the absence of an established training program, people will adopt the attitudes and behavior of those in authoritative positions. It's the old adage "monkey see, monkey do". Those employees who did remain and eventually get promoted into supervisory roles themselves will naturally emulate those supervisors they worked for previously. This is especially true is the previous supervisors were rewarded for their bad management. These rewards do not always mean bonuses, though that does happen. The rewards can also be continued employment and perhaps promotions. As these managers are promoted, and cloned, more and more positions become subject to the same poor techniques that drive away good employees.

The third cost to the organization is in low productivity and increased HR involvement. Eventually even those employees who did not leave on their own will begin to show signs of wear. It may simply be low productivity, but it can show up in other behavioral issues requiring counseling with the HR department. Absenteeism, presenteeism, reluctance to engage in tasks, all cost the company money.

The fourth cost to the organization is in lost reputation. Perform poorly with this customer and you are likely to lose future business with them. Perform poorly with too many customers and word gets around that your teams do not deliver. Now it's hard to get new work and new clients. Why? Because the only people left in your organization are the ones who didn't have enough marketable skills to leave and get away from the bad managers. They simply can't perform to the level your customers need.

The fifth and most avoidable cost to the organization is in "Gold Teams", "Red Teams" and "A Teams" and any other name given to a team of senior managers who are there to determine why things are going poorly and recommend solutions. These teams are called in when a project or department is already losing money. Now, the company is going to pay the high salaries, and perhaps travel costs, of several managers, to come "fix" the problem. Many of these managers may themselves be the very bad managers who demonstrated the attitudes and behaviors that led to the creation of the team. There may be so many managers that they have conflicting opinions and therefore conflicting recommendations. These teams end up costing a lot more money on an already unprofitable portion of the business, driving the project or department deeper into the red.

The sad truth is that many companies and other organizations would rather pay the high costs of bad management than invest in the leadership training early on. Even though they may agree that money spent on training would save money on performance issues down the road, they still focus on the cash on hand today and declare there is not enough money in the budget for training.

The secret to investing is that you put in money now, and it pays dividends later. You spend money in strategic ways now so that you maximize your returns later on.

Imagine expecting to drive your car with absolutely no fuel so that you can get to the service station to fill it up. You can't. You must put the fuel in first. The same holds true with your employees. Each new employee is like a new car with a full tank of fuel. You can drive them until they run out of fuel. Then they will leave. If they don't leave, and are out of fuel, they simply won't perform. The other option is to look for ways to refuel them often. This is done through effective leadership. Every time you engage your staff with great leadership, you refuel their tanks and make them happy to work for you. The better the fuel, the higher the performance.

Often, the cost to conduct some initial leadership training is equal to or less than the cost of one "Gold Team". Once the initial training is conducted, the costs to maintain a solid leadership development program can be very low. The savings can be quite high. In the long run, an effective leadership development program will not only pay for itself, it will also pay dividends on that investment many times over. Best of all, the tribal knowledge in the organization perpetuates the positive leadership models so that each new leader has great role models to follow.

Can your company afford to waste more money on low production and high turnover? If you are ready to invest in your organization's future, please feel free to contact me to schedule your attitude check.

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