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How to Exploit Disagreements and Debates


How to Exploit Disagreements and Debates

Xavier Lederer shares a company post that explains how to be more persuasive when leading a team through misunderstanding or disagreements.

It felt like the only thing we could agree on, is that we couldn’t agree on anything. Have you been there before?

We had been discussing our 10-year vision for 45 minutes with the board of directors, and the conversation was going in circles between two opposing views. I felt stuck. I was championing one of these views, I knew that my point of view was right, and I also knew that my emotions were clouding my judgment – I couldn’t see a way out of this deadlock. Why was the other side so stubborn? As the leader of the organization should I simply impose my point of view and be done with this?

Arguing is not persuading

As this experience illustrates, arguing to prove a point is not the best way to change the minds of other team members. “If anything, arguing makes people more intransigent,” explains this Harvard Business Review article on persuasion. “The consequence of you arguing for your point of view is the exact opposite of what you want: people shut down and stop listening,” says BCG partner Julia Dahr, who won the World Schools Debate Championships three times and delivered this and this TED talks on the topic of productive disagreements.

Counterintuitively, listening is more persuasive than speaking. The issue is: when we are blinded by our own emotions in the heat of a debate, listening becomes very challenging – and when we listen, we often do so with the intent to prove our point and to reply; we are not listening to learn. As a result we make sub-optimal strategic decisions – which is frustrating for our leadership team, but which also prevents our business from growing to its full potential.

How can you intently listen when disagreeing with your senior leaders, so that as the CEO you can make better decisions that will help you grow faster and with less pain? This is the topic of this article.


Key points include:

  • Start by asking questions
  • Listen and ask clarifying questions
  • Focus on intent more than content


Read the full article, How Can You Persuade Your Leadership Team, Who Stubbornly Doesn’t Get Your Point?, on