Do you ever come across that person who appears intent on having an argument? The one who isn’t happy until you bow to their bullying tactics to announce they are right and you are wrong? The one who isn’t arguing a principle of what is right or wrong rather WHO is right and wrong. In other words they just enjoy a good argument and treat it like sport. They aren’t happy until they have complained to the waitress and got some sort of reduction off the bill, or threatened legal action when a simple accident has occurred.

They are exhausting aren’t they!

Fortunately I don’t come across this sort of person very often but I have met my fair share in the past and have learnt how to deal with them. Everyone has their own take on the best way forward and it depends on your personality and how you perceive the antagonist in front of you, but I find the easiest way is the good old fashioned charm offensive.

If you have a client or customer who is forever trying to find fault and knock down your prices it generally takes the wind out of their sales when you listen to their grievances – no I mean it – really listen! They will be expecting an argument, a disagreement at the very least and this is what makes it a game for them. Without the cut and thrust of possibly a shouting match they have nothing to relay back to their mates down the pub. You are depriving them of the privilege of a show down, and it takes their bluster away.

Once you have heard their issue – and I genuinely mean heard what they have to say, you need to show them you understand. This means relaying back to them in their language what you heard to clarify and illustrate to them you understand their angst. Don’t get me wrong you may not agree with their ranting but they don’t need to know that at this point. The objective is to take the sting out of the tail, to calm them down so that they will be in a position to hear you. Simply saying ‘calm down’ has no effect whatsoever. In fact it usually has the opposite effect.

You then have to find some common ground from which to go forward. There must be something in what they have just said that you can empathise with. If so state that you agree with them – they won’t see that one coming and this has the desired effect of putting them off balance. Sometimes they are so far into their show that they don’t hear you agreeing with them the first time. They will have rehearsed how it will play out in their mind and when it doesn’t go the way they expect they will be confused. You may have to repeat yourself and agree more vehemently.

Once they show that they are ready to listen you can explain that whilst you obviously agree on some areas there are still issues that need addressing in order for you both to come out with a win-win situation. Stephen Covey who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People made ‘finding the win-win’ one of the habits. It is so powerful that once accomplished can change you as a person and enables you to deal with any given situation until it becomes a win-win. Here he states

A person or organization that approaches conflicts with a win-win attitude possesses three vital character traits:

  1. Integrity: sticking with your true feelings, values, and commitments
  2. Maturity: expressing your ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others
  3. Abundance Mentality: believing there is plenty for everyone

If the antagonist you are dealing with cannot show maturity by meeting you half way on your journey to find the win/win situation in the conflict then you may find yourself distancing yourself from this type of person in the future. However if they can see the benefit of moving forwards and developing the relationship, whether it be as friend, or colleague, client or customer, then both sides of the relationship will be enhanced.

I know people who are antagonists because they see it as good sport. I enjoy a heated debate as much as the next person but when it becomes detrimental to the growth of the relationship or the well being of another I would rather walk away. Before you take the bait and bite back ask yourself what could be gained by turning it into a win-win situation.

Next time you find yourself confronted by an angry person – even when it isn’t your fault try this 3 step process to alter the situation for your advantage – and theirs

  1. Listen – really hear what is being said
  2. Understand – show that you see their side
  3. Grow – find that win-win solution. It is always there.

It works for me, try it out and get in touch to share what happened.