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Which one is better a discussion or an argument?

Let’s compare both and find out for ourselves.

discussion at work-openanswer

A discussion is a communication style of which the outcome is not predefined, while having “mutual understanding” as a pre-determined final goal before entering into it. A discussion is supposed to lead to the best solution of a given problem, a clarification of a misunderstanding or the best valuation of an idea, to mention some random examples.

Such “understanding” is to be reached & accepted by all engaged parties at the end of a discussion, based on healthy communication, proper exchange of ideas, information or opinions and genuine agreement (as opposed to artificial one for the sake of muting “high volumes”). It’s a collective, non-selfish & constructive process by nature (even if no outcome is reached yet).

Quote Michael P. Watson

An argument, on the other hand, is characterised by the “will to win” clearly visible through the show of interruptive emotions. An argument is less effective than a discussion in most cases but can be necessary depending on the counterpart’s openness to having a calm discussion. Having an argument is mostly the result of us being unable to suppress whatever emotion that we have at a given moment of discussing a topic, whether anger, impatience, anxiety, disappointment or sadness etc.

Paradoxically enough, having an argument at such times can be a healthy release of pent-up negativity; one that needs to be out of the way, first, for a calm discussion to take place.

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I find arguments to be generally ineffective & counter-productive than discussions because their goal is either:

  1. Predefined: when we argue for the sake of arguing (releasing negative energy because we WANT to), OR
  2. Non-defined at all, when we argue because that’s all we can do now (releasing negative energy because we CAN’T discuss calmly)

Quote by Joseph Joubert

Therefore, enforcing an arguing style of communication is a counter-productive, selfish & unfair form of communication aimed at convincing the other party of one’s points of views, legitimizing the use of irrational communication (shouts, fictitious outrage, refusal of agreement, interruptions, unmeant disagreements, lack of self-reflection, manipulation of facts etc.).

An argument is at its best when it means “a reason given in proof or rebuttal”, only as part of a debate or a discussion and not as a way of communication.

speak-up

Hush! SHUT UP & let your deeds speak of your success at work!

Do I agree? No, I don’t agree (yet), because this really and strongly depends on three things:

  1. You.
  2. Your company culture.
  3. The dominant culture of  the society you are in.

You are the best judge of the first item, “you”, so I won’t be covering that. I will concentrate more on the other two.


How can culture be so determinant? Well, it may not. You may actually be blessed by working at a company with a thriving, transparent and fair participatory work culture that holds organization of work and a fair reward-system high, in which your work will never go unnoticed or unrewarded. Add to that a dominant and tolerant culture of people, peers, customers and stake-holders that makes the best match to your character, behaviour and expectations! Voila! You’re free to “be you” and say it too!

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But you could also be operating in a hard/harsh corporate culture in which everybody is either “barking” at each other or boasting about their achievements to each other. You may have to adapt to this and make your voice heard more often (and leave the barking for dogs, will ya).

I am a geniusDIsgruntled-employee

Also, depending on the dominant culture of your country of work, whether it is a heterogeneous (multicultural) one or a homogeneous one, a high power distance culture or a low power distance one, an individualistic society or more collectivist in nature, talking about what you grandiosely accomplished at your job or putting your “demands” on table may be viewed in different ways from “wonderful”, “normal”, “unnecessary” and “boastful but acceptable” to “arrogant and repulsive”.

In Western European cultures (German, Dutch, English, Scandanavian, for instance), it is not exactly valued that you go around boasting about what you can or what you did using “I” too often, but it is tolerated with distastefulness. And I believe that China, Korea and Japan have a comparable culture of putting team achievements above individual achievements. In other cultures like the US or Italy, for instance, it may be slightly deviant or exactly the opposite, assuming you are just telling the truth and you’re entitled to self-promotion and well-deserved ego-boost. No harm there!

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In the US or Europe, this scene may actually end with a hand shake and a smile (or not), without jeopardizing the professional work relationship or taking the fight outside!

In Japan and Korea, CEO's can be extremely apologetic, also in public.

In Japan, CEO’s can be extremely humble and apologetic, also in public.

Off course , there are also other extreme illustrations of how culture can be “shockingly different”. People in Italy, for instance, believe it or not, have always liked Silvio Berlusconi, the famous business man, media tycoon and former prime minister despite his widely covered long litanies of scandals and stubborn non-aging aura of vanity and arrogance for a reason, they only know, and the rest of the world (especially Northern Europeans) has to respect.

In the US, they have a common saying “if you have got it, flaunt it”, meaning “forget about false modesty, if you have it, just show it and enjoy showing it off”.

While it all seems too tedious and tiring to make up the balance whether it is better to speak up or shut up at work, you and I can make it much simpler by doing one thing in any event and in the right order, and that is: knowing the culture FIRST!