Don’t Try To Prove Others Wrong

A disagreement doesn't have to be a raging fire of conflict.

A disagreement doesn’t have to be a raging fire of conflict.

A few weeks ago, I was talking baseball with someone I’d recently met. Over the course of the conversation, he noted that a particular event had happened in 1993. I said no, it was 1994. He was adamant that I was wrong. I knew with absolute certainty that I was correct.

I could have easily proven him wrong by pulling my phone out of my pocket and typing some characters into Google. I didn’t do it, because I don’t need to always be right. I decided that it was more important to have an evening of pleasant conversation than one of confrontation.

This is a skill that’s saved me more than once when dealing with clients. I can tell when their need to be right is going to supersede reason or fact. And that leaves me with two choices: I can stand my ground and battle them, or I can calmly defuse the situation.

Take, for example, the client who was irate because he said that I didn’t tell him that I needed their feedback returned within a week. A one-week deadline seemed impossible to him when he considered the internal politics associated with reviews. Had I wanted a confrontation, I could have pulled out the project schedule that clearly showed that he had agreed to a specified deadline structure. Instead, I began by identifying and trying to solve his problem by asking questions.

In the future, how can we structure the review process and timelines in a way that best works with your organizational constraints? Do we need to involve others in the first draft process? How can we work around your busy manager’s travel schedule to ensure that we get a timely review?

By not shouting “I’m right and you’re wrong!” and instead addressing the pain caused by internal politics, the situation was defused. The client shifted gears from angry and confrontational to open and flexible. And several weeks later, he came back and apologized. “I just looked at the proposal,” he said. “It was right there in the timeline. I appreciate that you tried to work with me rather than just calling me out as the asshole that I was.” He’s been a loyal client for several years since.

How do you defuse confrontation?

previous article | back to blog index | next article