“I have lots of stuff to say about how to make improvements in our workplace and I work at a job where we have regular meetings where employees are encouraged to share this kind of feedback. But there’s one problem. I’m not an aggressive personality type and I don’t like to argue and I feel like my opinions quickly get dismissed because of minor objections that I’m not aggressive enough to respond to. This is mostly because other people are louder than me. What can I do?”
Regardless of whether you are a good arguer or not, this question from an Office Hours listener is relatable for many young people in the workplace. What’s the solution?
Speak to your audience
First, you have to know your audience. Whenever you are giving a message, offering feedback, or making any kind of statement, there are people in the room that are part of the audience you want to reach. There are also people that aren’t a part of the audience you want to reach.
Sometimes the loudest, most difficult people to deal with are the people that you aren’t interested in reaching anyway. But those people have the alluring ability to drag you into distracting sideshow discussions that have nothing to do with you moving your agenda forward. The solution? Don’t pay attention to them. Talk to the people who you are trying to reach.
Tap into the power of questions
Secondly, ask questions. People who are disagreeable and aggressive can be very easy to deal with once you tap into the power of questions.
Say you have an idea that you put out there and someone jumps all over it. You feel like you can’t be as loud as that person and you can’t make any objections to them. Step back and do to them what you would love for them to do to you. Ask them questions. Why do you think this? What would you say to this objection? Take everything you already believe and put it to them in the form of a question. Since everyone loves to talk about their ideas and defend them against objections, they will go on and on about the subject. But your idea is on the table and got a lot of discussion, just by using the power of questions.
Improve your ideas and how you present them
Another way to deal with this situation is to never give yourself an out. Don’t automatically assume that your idea is good and that people just don’t want to understand because someone jumps all over it and disagrees with it in a way that might strike you as rude. No matter how mean or selfish people are, if your idea can make their lives better, they don’t hate you enough to dismiss that idea. When people reject you and your ideas, take it as a personal challenge to improve your ability to sell your ideas in a way that makes people want to listen.
Show, don’t tell
Finally, anytime you can, change a ‘we should’ into a ‘I did’ or an ‘I will’. If you have a suggestion for something that could be done differently, do it and present that. Have a better way to make a landing page? Do it and show people the result. If you aren’t a naturally good arguer, show them your ideas whenever possible, don’t tell them.
This post is based on the October 24 episode of the Office Hours podcast. Want to get more actionable insights on how to take charge of your life and career? Subscribe now.