There's a huge difference between negotiating and arguing. One involves calm tones and equal consideration of both sides' point of view; the other often includes yelling, selfish motives and a few accidental four-letter words. If your workplace negotiations have developed into a full-blown argument, take a break and cool down. It's better to walk away without a clear solution than to force the issue and tarnish your professional reputation.
I Win vs. Win-Win
The end goal of negotiation should be a compromise that benefits all parties involved. When your thought process is, “I want us each to get what we want, even if we want different things,” you and your co-workers will brainstorm creative solutions because each wants the other to leave the table satisfied. Arguments, on the other hand, make compromise impossible because each person is invested solely in their own personal gain. If your team dynamic is such at work that winning (while your co-workers lose) is the most important goal then really, nobody wins.
Listening vs. Waiting to Talk
Negotiation on the job requires listening, since otherwise you wouldn’t have a clue about the other person’s perspective or how to reach a common goal. Arguments tend to shut out any voice except your own, since everything that comes out of the other person’s mouth is a threat to your position. Arguments make you forget to actually solve the problem at hand because you get so caught up in being right. When you negotiate, everyone involved becomes more willing to let go a little and move toward middle ground.
Being Assertive vs. Being Aggressive
People involved in negotiations are assertive -- meaning they know what they want and they know how to ask for it. Arguments however, tend to stem from aggression, which happens when employees not only know what they want, but will try to intimidate anyone in their way. Negotiations rarely get ugly but arguments almost always do, because “I” wants to win at all costs.
The Art of the Deal
If you want to get a point across at work or make things happen a certain way, arguing is not the way to go. Arguing places the focus on your emotions rather than your logic, which forces co-workers to decide between making you feel better or doing what makes the most sense. If you really care about your cause, don’t sabotage your defense by losing your cool. When you feel strongly enough about something that you can't compromise, don't argue -- instead say, "On that issue, I will not negotiate." A calm, yet firm approach may make your co-workers reconsider your point.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.