How to argue better

Posted : January 21, 2019 - / /


If you enjoyed listening to Damien Hughes, LiquidThinker, at the Annual Conference last year and haven’t done so already, you can subscribe to his newsletter via his website.

Below is the email I received this morning.



I hope that this mail finds you well and enjoying a great start to 2019.

Every team wants to be the kind of place where the best idea wins.  The reality is, most fall short of that goal.

The problem is, it’s often really hard to argue well. Like any collision, every argument brings risk — will it damage our relationships?  As a result, many of us tend to avoid arguments, or surrender at the first sign of resistance.

Which raises a question: is there a better way?

The key, I think, is the way you think about the argument. We instinctively see arguing as a negative — a tension that needs to be resolved. Strong cultures, however, flip that on its head. They view arguments as part of the never-ending process of getting feedback and therefore getting better. An argument isn’t isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s a craft that you practice together.

In my latest book, The Barcelona Way, I share the story which Txiki Begiristain, the former director of football at FC Barcelona, recounts of Johan Cruyff’s strident criticism of his performance. “He was demanding a lot and knew when you needed to be pushed or protected,” Begiristain laughs. “Minutes later, he asked me to organise a meal for all of us and our wives the following night.”

So here are a few tips borrowed from high performing cultures for the art of arguing better:

1. Be open about it. Don’t hide behind closed doors; instead seek to hold arguments in public places, where it becomes normalised.

2. Keep personal attacks off limits. “You can behave like a dickhead without being one,” was how one coach succinctly described this.

3. End by affirming your connection. A lot of the arguments I witnessed ended with some version of, “I’m glad we can talk like this.”

I hope that you found this NewSplash useful, if so please forward it on to others and if you have any questions or feedback please feel free to drop me a line.