Argue Like You Mean It
- Steve Williamson, VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
- Monday, November 6, 2023
Dale Carnegie taught us how to win friends and influence people. What if your goal is to win every argument and take names along the way? This article will teach you how.
Personal Conflict: Phase I
Growing up in the 80s, my best friend Brian was in a family that loved tennis so much they had a court built in their back yard. Brian was a really good tennis player — much better than me. But I knew how to beat him every time. How?
Brian had a bold personality. He never showed fear and always seemed confident in his actions. If someone made him angry, he would unleash his temper and do everything he could to intimidate the other person. He was also impatient and would get frustrated quite quickly when he didn't get what he wanted.
This was how I found a way to beat him.
Our tennis matches would start by me getting a point or two for every ten or twelve Brian would score. But all I had to do was get him to miss one easy shot and then I'd have him.
My taunting would begin by pointing out how pitiful it was that he couldn't return that buttercup of a shot. I'd tease him about how lame his forehand was or that his backhand was weak and ineffective.
Brian's temper would take over from there. He'd shank his serves into the net or hit the ball so hard it went over the fence and into the neighbor's yard.
Brian's anger and frustration would turn him into an ineffective tennis player and all it took was a little emotional manipulation on my part to make it happen.
The key to my success against my friend on the tennis court had everything to do with personality and nothing to do with my skill with a racket.
I learned Brian's weakness and quickly realized it was the solution to my problem of beating a superior player on the court.
Eventually Brian figured out what was happening and learned to control his temper. He regained his strong sense of faith in his ability to actually play the game and stopped letting his frustration get the better of him. Once my manipulation game was up, I never won again.
Personal Conflict: Phase II
Jump ahead to 2005 or so. I was an independent web developer and was working with a businessman named David who owned a graphic design company. We were considering partnering up and set aside a few hours to discuss our options one-on-one.
To start, David began asking me a series of easy questions about how I managed web development projects. Then his questions turned technical.
David asked me a few questions about the details of web development and the technology I used. "I don't get it," he said. I continued my explanation, slightly dumbing down the jargon a bit, but kept getting, "I don't get it" responses.
"I could feel my frustration rising. I thought David was smarter and more knowledgeable than this."
As I tried new approaches and different ways of explaining things, I kept getting one variation or another of David's "I don't get it."
After nearly an hour of this, I could feel my scalp start to heat up and the sweat form on the back of my neck. I was fighting to avoid asking sarcastic or condescending questions like, "What about this don't you get?"
Despite his inability to understand even the most basic explanations, David remained calm and never seemed frustrated. He'd just say, "I don't get it. Can you find another way to explain it so I can understand?"
I, on the other hand, began to not only feel frustrated but angry. My temper was going into the red and I was losing my ability to hide the anger from my voice.
I don't recall what he said to trigger it, but at some point David's variation of "I still don't get it" was one straw too much for this camel's back to handle. I lost my cool. I raised my voice to a near shout and told him, "If you're so bleeping incapable of understanding this, then why the bleep would I want to work with you?"
"If you're so bleeping incapable of understanding this, then why the bleep would I want to work with you?"
Two things happened next that I'll never forget.
First, I realized I'd gone over the line — way over — and immediately regretted my words and loss of temper. As I was scrambling in my brain for a way to apologize, I noticed the second thing that happened.
David smiled at me. He calmly and assuredly smiled at me.
I became confused. I muttered a weak, "I'm sorry I shouted at you," but David just sat there and smiled. He was not angry or confrontational or challenging in any way. In fact, I'd dare say he was slightly amused.
My confusion grew.
David sensed my swirl of intense and mixed emotions and raised his hands in supplication. "It's okay. Take a deep breath."
His tone was soothing as if he was a battlefield nurse tending to my gunshot wound.
David's smile widened. Then he said something that took my anger to an entirely new level.
"I had to see how much you'd take. I wanted to see your limit."
"What?" I began to see a red mist as that internal heat came over me, renewed and even more powerful than before. "You did this to me intentionally?"
Smugly, and clearly proud of his ability to manipulate me, David said, "Yes. I had to. If I'm going to work with you and let you work with my clients, I had to know how much frustration it would take before you lost your cool."
He paused, then added, "It took quite a lot. I'm impressed."
My emotions were swirling inside me and all were too hot to touch. I'd been manipulated and the fact that it had been deliberate — and that someone had masterfully pushed me into losing my cool (which is putting it mildly) — made me even more angry.
Learning his "I don't get it" routine was all a ruse, part of me relaxed a bit, though. He had gotten under my skin but my ability to explain a technical subject wasn't at fault. In fact, the scenario that had played out really had nothing to do with my competence, at least from my perspective. It was manufactured to be that way.
With a stern but calm voice, I let David know that I would not tolerate him ever manipulating me like that again — or in any other way or for any other reason. He agreed and tried to reassure me that I had "passed his test" with flying colors, but I was still so worked up that I had to leave.
Then Came Understanding with the CVI
Jump forward to the present. I took the Core Values Index™ psychometric assessment in 2016 and have spent the years since then learning more about how the CVI measures and describes the four core value energies (broad personality types) that people can possess in millions of different ratios.
Looking back at my stressful experiences with my business partner and my best friend before that, I now know the "why" they happened the way they did.
In CVI terms, Brian's primary core value energy is likely Builder. He boldly acts with full faith and confidence that he will always know what to do. When he gets angry or confronted, he reverts to his Builder's conflict resolution strategy of intimidation.
What makes a Builder feel the most alive? Being powerful. What's the opposite of power? Powerlessness.
When I'd make an easy shot against Brian on the tennis court and then taunt him, that made him feel powerless, especially considering he and I both knew I was a much weaker player. That would drive him mad with frustration.
When David kept telling me "I don't get it," he was using his primary Merchant's core value super power of manipulation. He intuitively knew that my personality couldn't handle being unable to solve a problem — explaining a simple concept — and he used that intuitive knowledge to push me over my personal limit.
That experience also taught me that my own primary core value energy of Innovator was at play. Those with a lot of Innovator core value energy enjoy more than anything solving problems and being the source of wisdom in every group.
What's the opposite of being wise? Being foolish.
David made me feel foolish and incapable of solving the problem every time he said he didn't understand what I was attempting to explain. He was saying "I don't get it" but I was hearing "You're unwise and foolish and incapable of solving even the most basic problem."
I resorted to the conflict resolution strategy of my Innovator's energy by using interrogation. My frustration boiled over into accusatory questions — I was interrogating him, asking bold questions to get him to realize he was the idiot, not me.
If you find yourself in a state of conflict with another person, one or two things are likely happening.
The Source of Conflict
The source of a person's joy is the manifestation of their primary core value energy. Builders like to feel powerful and in charge, Merchants like to feel connected, loved and worthy of love, Innovators like to feel wise, and Bankers like to feel knowledgeable.
The source of a person's greatest fear is the opposite of the source of their greatest joy.
Make a Builder feel powerless, a Merchant feel unloved or unloveable, an Innovator feel foolish, or a Banker feel ignorant and you've got conflict on deck and ready to come out swinging.
In your state of conflict with another person, one or both of you are likely feeling that your primary core value energy is being challenged or is ineffective.
When you recognize this is happening, immediately alleviate the pressure on the other person. Stop doing or saying things that make the Builder feel powerless. Stop making the Merchant feel unloved. Stop making the Innovator feel foolish. Stop making the Banker feel ignorant.
Learn to recognize your own internal source of conflict. The moment you can name your fear, you begin to move it from the emotional part of your brain to the rational part.
- If you are a primary Builder and find yourself trying to intimidate the other person, you are in your conflict resolution strategy.
- Merchants will manipulate when feeling stressed or challenged.
- Innovators will interrogate and ask leading questions in their strategy to alleviate their conflict.
- Bankers will aloofly judge the other person when they feel challenged — when they feel ignorant.
Identifying your own conflict resolution strategies is the first step to handling interpersonal stress. Learning how to recognize when other people have moved into their conflict resolution strategies and then relieving that pressure is the second step.
If you learn these two techniques using the Core Values Index, you'll give Dale Carnegie a run for his money.
Core Values Index™ and CVI™ are trademarks of Taylor Protocols, Inc.
Go to eRep.com/core-values-index/ to learn more about the CVI or to take the Core Values Index assessment.
Innovator/Banker - VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
Steve has a career in project management, software development and technical team leadership spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (ruckerworks.com), and when he isn't writing, he enjoys cycling, old-school table-top role-playing games, and buzzing around the virtual skies in his home-built flight simulator.
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