How to Win a Conference-Room Wrestling Match

There you are in the conference room, discussing an important issue with your team. Eventually you make a recommendation, one that everyone knows that you are extremely well-qualified to offer.

Just when you expect the applause to break out, you instead begin to sense a palpable whoosh of negative energy blowing in from one corner of the room.

“Forget it,” says one unenthusiastic team member. “Bad idea. It won’t work.”

But you, being the hard-charging and persistent manager that you are, won’t take this without a fight.

“Oh yes it will work,” you retort. “It will work very well because of X,Y, and Z. I’ve done my homework and I know what I’m talking about.”

Your adversary, however, is also a very competent and tenacious manager who has shown you again and again that he is intent on making his opinion known, and will see it through to the death.

“Well, have you thought of A, B, and C? Last year we were stuck with six weeks of inventory because of some other clown’s similar lame-ass idea.”

You bristle at the opponent’s liberal use of foul language in mixed professional company, because that is not how you roll.

“You can’t be serious,” you say, “Comparing this proposal to last year’s debacle? It’s an entirely different situation!”

Voices rise, blood vessels bulge, and the innocent onlookers shrink back in awkward embarrassment. A conflict ensues, right there in the middle of the conference room, and everyone around the table knows that at least one, and possibly both parties will come out looking like an ass.

When facing a situation in the office where we disagree with a colleague over a project, course of action or decision, oftentimes we find ourselves fighting to win.

Rather than digging in the heels and insisting on our own way, an alternative is to stop for a moment and view the potential outcome in terms of what is God’s way, what is best for the organization. That is who you are working for, after all, being God’s good and faithful servant, right?

The Lord?

The shareholders?

The greater good of the organization?

Here are some tips to help get you there.

1. Stop being so defensive.

Being overly defensive does not score points. Instead, it makes you look desperate and immature. Usually what is perceived as a personal attack is nothing more than an attempt to make an improvement, or it may possibly even be a legitimate point of view. Remove your ego from the situation, and see if it looks any different when you start to view the facts.

Okay, sometimes it really is a personal attack. But the rest of these tips will still work.

2. Maintain a calm tone of voice.

It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of an emotional whirlpool, especially when the person on the other side begins to raise their voice, use aggressive hand gestures or hostile body language. You will do much better if you can maintain a calm, confident approach, even when you are in the epicenter of a volcanic-size outburst. Take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, count to five, and keep your cool. Controlling your voice is the key to controlling the situation. You might be surprised at the respect that this alone will win from the other observers in the room.

3. Don’t retaliate with criticism or personal attack.

In your mind, view the experience on a higher, spiritual plane instead of a simple conflict between two alpha-managers. Instead of retaliating, begin to ask probing questions, and get at the heart of the opposing point of view. Turn the conversation towards what is best for the organization, not about who will win.

4. Acknowledge the other person’s idea as legitimate

One of the most counter-intuitive things you can do in the heat of an intimidating argument is to build up the other person by giving them credit for their opinion, even if you vehemently disagree. Usually that is what they are after anyway, to soothe their own ego. Try complimenting the other person on the validity of their idea, and it may very well diffuse the negativity and lead to a more productive discussion.

5. Look to God’s outcome for the situation.

If God is truly present in your life and in your organization (which He is), then you must trust that he has a purpose and an outcome that is bigger than you or your opponent. Picture yourself as the conduit for God’s grace and purpose to pour into the situation at hand, and see how that changes your attitude. And the outcome.

Now get back in the ring and work it out!

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