When you have a personal problem with someone, it’s incredibly hard to problem-solve with them. It can be difficult to not feel that “the best outcome” is the one that hurts them the most.
Making forward progress can feel incredibly frustrating. You want to get to a solution, but you feel as if you are being attacked or wanting to attack every step along the way.
Here’s the problem: you’re playing different games. You are trying to get something, and they are trying to get something else. If someone is filibustering your progress by hurling insults or naysaying your productivity, you’ve got to find another way to resolution.
You’ve got to play their game, and you’ve got to lose. But if you’re clever in playing their game, and you stay on track to your own objectives, you can get what you set out to do and leave them feeling feel like the winner.
First Step: Disarm them by acknowledging your weakness
They are attacking your personality. Admit to your faults. It may be too small a deal to even feel necessary to address, or it may be so large it’s hard to swallow. The important thing to do here it make sure you reflect a deep understanding of where your antagonist is coming from.
This acknowledgement turns the tables. Once they see that you understand, they will feel validated in their accusations and feel empowered. This will lead to moments of heightened self-awareness in which they your antagonist may be better suited to problem solve, so once you see they are ready, move as quickly as you can onto the next steps.
Step Two: Address the problem objectively
This seems obvious, but laying out the common goal that you are trying to solve is helpful. It repositions the conversation and helps you clear the air. As an added tip, I think it’s best to write this down so you can both visualize it. The more naturally you can pull this off the better.
Step Three: Establish objectives you can agree on
Here’s where you have to set the rules. The rule you need to make is essentially for each party to act selflessly in their evaluation of ideas. You are both after the best solution to the problem, not the best solution for yourself.
Step Four: Brainstorm all solutions
Here’s the fun part. Take turns as best as you can to write down all of the possible solutions. Don’t rule any out. Again, write these down if you can. That makes the next step even easier.
Step Five: Eliminate and highlight
Start crossing things off the list. Take turns again here to cross them off, and listen to each other’s reason why they are to be crossed off. Make sure their objections follow the rules. Circle the good possible solutions and don’t get overexcited about your solutions. Here’s where being a good listener and an objective problem-solver pays off.
Step Six: Let them choose
Alright, so you’ve probably made your case while going through the list a few times, and they understand where you’re coming from and why you believe the circled solution is the best one. Let them choose the solution here. Make them the hero.
It may be nerve-racking. It may be hard to relinquish control, but if your solution was the right one from the start and you’ve done a good job listening and presenting your ideas objectively, you have less to worry about.
Often you may see a new solution through this process that you didn’t even think of in the beginning, and that is a blessing. Be thankful for the exercise and for your argumentative partner.
Step Seven: Make an action plan
Before you both go your own way, for the afternoon or for life, be sure to create an action plan before you leave. Write it down/add it to your calendar/do what you do to not forget. Make sure you both understand when it is this will be solved and who is in charge of which next steps.
I hope this helps you give the skills to resolve your more complex arguments with others. I am no master of this, but with more practice I will certainly improve.