The Single Phrase That Stops Stupid Arguments
When I was a little baby office worker in her first agency job, I had the opportunity to witness a lot of conversations that I had never heard before.
There I was, fresh out of college, surrounded by men and women deep into their ad careers. They were regularly debating the pros and cons of different social media strategies, how to make the client happy, and what needed to happen to ship the product on time.
Of course, some debates were more intense than others. And it was during one of the more passionate conversations that I learned a handy little rhetorical device that ended the debate and sent me scrambling to write it own.
This little phrase has the power to change your conversations at work. To shift the odds in your favor. And I’m going to share it with you now.
“And here’s why”
That’s it. Three little innocent words. They sound so innocuous, but I assure you they have the power to break down walls.
Sound like an exaggeration? Allow me to explain.
Everyone is coming from a different frame of reference
Arguments are caused because two people have conflicting beliefs. They may be equally rational and intelligent, but their individual experiences have led them to opposing conclusions.
Unfortunately, these individual experiences are usually left in the background. If I think we should take a left and you think we should take a right, we’re more likely to rely on personal traits instead of getting to the root of the matter. “Trust me, I know where I’m going!” “Please, I have a better sense of direction than you!”
This can just as easily take place in a business setting. Let’s say one leader wants to let go of person A and the other leader doesn’t want to. The conversation can easily center around vague, emotion-based language. “I just don’t think they’re the right fit for the team.” “Well, I really think he brings a lot of value.”
Sure, in time, both conversations may end up talking about the reasons behind their beliefs. But it may take a while. However, when one person inserts “And here’s why,” the whole conversation changes.
“I just don’t think they’re the right fit for the team, and here’s why: He’s been late 3 times in two weeks, and Jenna has told me he’s been disappearing in the middle of the day.”
The other person could still bring up that they think he brings a lot of value, but they now have to reveal their reasoning. Suddenly, both people are having a rational conversation.
Let’s face it: Few people actually listen to each other
In any argument where personal stakes are involved, people are de-incentivized to listen to one another. You know how it goes — you’re in an argument, and it seems like the other person is only listening to your side long enough to build a defense against it.
This makes for some pointless arguments.
Of course, our little phrase can come to rescue here, too. “And here’s why” creates a pause. Instead of continuing the back and forth, it silences the other person. It allows you time to gather your thoughts and put together a calm, cohesive presentation. With three words, you can de-escalate the situation and bring the debate back to a rational discussion.
Ultimately, it shifts the discussion in your favor
The conversation that had me running to my notebook happened on a sunny morning in a quiet conference room. Two men and one woman stood talking. The debate was polite and work-appropriate, but it was obvious that there were stakes (and therefore, emotions) involved with all three of the debaters.
The conversation had gone on for a few minutes and began to loop in circles as each party argued their side. And that’s when it happened.
“I think going that direction would be a bad idea for us,” the woman finally said, “And here’s why.”
Both men fell silent. And then she made her case.
A few minutes later, all three left the conference room with a decision finally made. That hardworking little phrase had broken the loop.
It’s funny — now that you know it, you’ll start hearing smart people using this phrase (and variations of it) everywhere. Not only for debates, but for driving any point home. For example, I just stumbled across this one the other day:
Keep your ears open. Then, go out and try it yourself.
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Originally published at jessierlewis.com on August 15, 2018.