The Best Way to Argue

A few months back I had an argument with a vendor that continued to escalate as we discussed back and forth until we were both so frustrated, we were literally ready to end our multi-year working relationship on the spot.

Baseball Manager Arguing with UmpireThe problem wasn’t that we were bad people, or just a couple of jerks, or even that we were being totally unreasonable (although we each were sure the other was all of the above at the time).

The problem was our communication medium. We were arguing over email.

We had each produced several pages of email arguments. With each email, the writer became a bit more snarky and the reader looked a little harder for every possible reason to be offended.

Then a strange thing happened…

I picked up the phone.

He answered and seeing it was me forewent the customary “Hello” and instead said tongue-in-cheek, “But wait, we’re supposed to spend the rest of the day arguing over email.”

My call and his wit immediately deescalated the situation and we were able to work it out. There were some intense points of the conversation and an occasional irritated tone during our 30 minute phone call, but we were able to directly discuss our frustrations and end the call amicably with a workable moving forward plan.

Don’t write emails when frustrated. Use your voice. Phone or face-to-face, your choice.

The exception would be if you are super-frustrated and you don’t have the self-control to make it through a conversation without saying or doing something you’ll regret. Take some time to cool off.

The other exception is if you simply don’t trust your counterpart and are afraid your words will be used against you. In that case, using a mediator or communicating in writing might be better. But don’t get in a rush. Check your motive. Write. Sleep on it. Have a trusted friend read it for tone. Read it again before sending. Only then click send. But even then, be careful, once its sent, you can’t get it back!



Photo credit: The_Warfield / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


One thought on “The Best Way to Argue

  1. I am way oversensitive when “hearing” the tone in an email. (James’ can give you the stories on this! :-)

    Even though they may look unprofessional, I have resorted to using some sort of “smiley” in many of my emails when the tone of the sentence could be called into question. What’s worse: Deeper ambiguity, or a slightly less professional, though more personal, communication. Either way…calling ALWAYS trumps.

    Thanks for the encouragement. It’s good to know that everyone has bad communication stories. Makes me glad I don’t text my wife too often! ^.^

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