How to Handle the Argumentative Person
by Kevin Hogan
The Argumentative Communicator
Do you enjoy playing the devil's advocate? Are you constantly offering your opposing opinion when it is not asked for? Do you find yourself saying the word "but" often in your conversation with others?
You may be an argumentative "talker." There is an effective way to take an opposing view of others opinions, beliefs and values, but it may destroy rapport. There is a way to give your opinion, but it may be received as unwanted advice. When you continue to oppose the comments of your listener, you run the risk of making them feel wrong, stupid, or uninformed.
Men and women seem to view communication differences in different ways. I often notice that men will say, "we had a debate" or "an intense conversation" and women will indicate that they had "a fight" or an "argument."
The argumentative communicator, whether a man or a woman, should be aware that their communication efforts may immediately be perceived as a "fight" (the worst of the four above labels) regardless of the intent of the communicator.
I have a confession to make. I was in debate in high school and like a lot of sharp minds, I find a good debate stimulating and enlightening. Debate generally can be described as a structured discussion where individuals cite evidence about an issue in an attempt to persuade another person. Debate is an intellectual process where it is OK and preferable to be "right." While I do enjoy debating very much, I do not enjoy arguing, which is emotionally based.
Arguing is where two or more people disagree about some subject, they raise their voices and make the discussion personal by bringing in the other person's intentions.
What's the difference then between debate and an argument?
In debate, we cite evidence with the intent to persuasively validate our point of view. It is very much like
a chess game.
In arguments, things are different.
Here you cite evidence. You make claims about the negative intention of the other person's behavior.
You become very emotional to the point where apologies will be in order. In an argument, the individual feels attacked.
When the attack is perceived as hostile, with intention to harm, I call this a "fight."
Perceptions are tricky things.
One person may be simply debating or discussing a subject intellectually with no intent to harm.
The other person may perceive such communication as intending to harm them and they feel as if they are in a fight with a need to defend themselves instead of their point of view!
Sometimes it takes quite a long time for the person who is debating to finally figure out that the other person is upset and fighting.
There are no easy and clearly defined answers to rapidly determine whether someone thinks YOU are arguing, fighting, debating or discussing. Therefore it is vital to ask if it's "OK to have this conversation" or at least smile. It's also important to keep sarcasm out of discussions and debates if it isn't obvious to the other person that you are having fun with them...instead of poking fun at them.
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