How To Debate Effectively and Productively at Work

How To Debate Effectively and Productively at Work

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The struggles of work collaborations is the occasional disagreements that will occur between you and your colleagues. It’s inevitable that everyone will have to face ideals clashing with each other. After all, everyone has their own personal and professional backgrounds, favoured practices and experiences. But how do you manage the discussions once it’s getting more heated? If you are facing this situation in your next meeting with a colleague, follow these tips on how to debate effectively and productively to ensure it’s a winning situation for both sides.


1. Never ignore the conflict

The first step is to recognise the need for a debate. When your colleague questions your ideas by dropping some of their own, it’s time to discuss it. You don’t have to fully defend your idea until the very end. Ignoring the conflict is not the greatest approach for everyone and even for you. If you will let other people undermine you, your ideas will never truly be acknowledged by those who you want it to be heard.


2. Listening to feedback and stay honest with yourself

Learn to pick up feedback and criticism from your colleagues even if the truth hurts. Don’t think too much about saving your reputation when you’re receiving a valid criticism and need to fix what you have proposed. Just respond by validating their point and that you will think about what to do next. If you believe that your colleague’s arguments are flawed, then you need to be doing the right thing by addressing it to ensure a better outcome. Take as much time you need to internalise all the thoughts and feedback. Consider the merits before you take the next action step to push on with the discussion.


3. Don’t take things personally and emotionally

We all can be passionate about certain ideas or ideals. Do your best to put yourself in a calm state and try not to take the criticism as a personal attack, but if you think that your colleague is crossing the line don’t be afraid to voice out. Just remind the person that was abrasive while ensuring the discussion remain civil. If the person persists on being abrasive, stood your ground and made your point further to ensure the situation does not escalate from bad to worse. Besides that, it’s important to ensure that the debate does not sidetrack by ensuring the following:

  • No name calling or personal attacks.
  • Refrain from asking questions that cast judgement on other people.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt if you think that their attentions are for the good.
  • There is nothing wrong if anyone changes their mind for a good reason.
  • Giving compliments to those who carry the group and discussion forward.


4. Recognising when you need to compromise for the better outcome

Sometimes in a debate, you might come into making a decision, and all your options will require you to compromise for the best tradeoff. Try not to make a compromising solution just for the sake of placating a colleague who is making a fuss about the debate. When there is no middle ground, with the choice you have in hand, perhaps it would be better to look for a mediator to deescalate the situation instead of doing a half-assed compromise that might not produce the best outcome.


5. Respect the final decision being made

Once the decision has been finalised, everyone involved must support and give their best to ensure that everything will succeed. If the final decision rests upon you to make, you must be decisive when the time comes. This is the very least you can do for everyone to show some support, especially if your decision does not bode well with them. You can brief about your plan in terms of how and when you will re-evaluate. Most importantly, you will need to ensure everyone is on the same page before moving on.


How do you manage a heated debate while at work? Leave us your thoughts on the comment sections below. Head over to and unveil your next job opportunity.

You Jing is a content writer who writes career and lifestyle contents to inspire job seekers and employers alike on their journey to work-life balance, empowerment and transformation in their career path.

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