Different Conversations

Photo by Jonathan Sharp on Unsplash

Many years ago during a one-on-one with my manager, she remarked, “You approach everything as if you were a lawyer.”

I was delighted, and replied, “Thank you!”

She chuckled softly and said, “It wasn’t meant as a compliment.”

She meant to say she felt I treated most conversations as arguments to be won, relentlessly presenting my point of view and citing facts to support it until the other side conceded. I thought that was always a good thing (hence the “thank you”), but she helped me realize this led people to see me as argumentative at best, and difficult to work with at worst.

That was eye-opening for me.

Over the years, I came to understand how you “win” a conversation depends on why you’re having the conversation in the first place.

When the goal is to share ideas, listening to others and building upon their suggestions is the only way you “win”.

When an important decision needs to be made, “winning” means arriving at the best outcome, regardless of who proposes the solution.

And sometimes your role in a conversation is just to listen, and not say anything at all, so someone else can share his/her feelings. You “win” when they feel they have been heard.

I still like to win debates and arguments. (Who doesn’t?)

But now I understand not every conversation is a debate or argument.

David Pullara is a Chief Marketing Officer, writer, speaker, consultant, and course facilitator for the Schulich Executive Education Center. His career has included roles at Starbucks, Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut), Coca-Cola, and Google. You can read his thoughts by following him on Medium, LinkedIn, and Twitter.