Why bother debating?

Isn’t it funny how we are encouraged to debate at school, but it’s not something that is brought into the workforce?

I loved debate, no surprise there. And as it turns out, so did my team, again no surprise for a bunch of negotiators. But what was interesting in a recent chat in the office was about who sat in which chair when debating. Learning about which role everyone preferred made so much sense in reflecting on how that aligns with how we approach what we do today.

The format of debating is fantastic, as it suits a wide variety of personalities and styles.

  • Chair One, leading with a well-crafted message,
  • Chair Two, backing this up by expanding on Chair One’s points, adding bones to the argument, as well as rebutting some points from over the fence. Then,
  • Chair three, rounding things out by taking everything in as it’s happening, live! Then forming an articulate wrap up of our team’s case, while responding to the case from the other side – so many moving parts.

All of this within 3-6 minute windows of time, so no rambling!

I wonder what would happen if we introduced a regular debate event in all offices?

I remember spending hours crafting our case and preparing for what the other team might put forward in opposition. Ensuring that whoever is in each of the Chairs is confident with their role

  • those who like to plan and deliver a crafted message,
  • versus those who like a mix of crafted message and thinking on their feet,
  • versus those that thrive by mostly winging it based on a loose frame drafted during the preparation phase, and being comfortable that that might need to be thrown out as the debate progresses.

Ahhhh, so much tension, pressure, brain strain, and fun, all in the melting pot!

I also remember the times we were given the affirmative side of a topic that personally I was completely opposed to. Those debates were probably the ones I learnt the most from, as I remember going to the library and having to challenge my own thinking in order to put forward a strong case that I’d have much rather been against (but that’s not the game).

The more I write this the bigger my smile becomes as I really think this could have legs. If teams from across the organisation came together at the debate table, around the biggest issues, it would help everyone look at things from different perspectives.

It would provide individuals the chance to observe how healthy debate functions, emphasising the importance of active listening in achieving success, while demonstrating what we can learn by taking an opposing viewpoint than we would normally push for. Another benefit is that it could help individuals clarify the role they enjoy most in these types of situations.

If we foster healthy debate, it will make it more of the ‘norm’ in the way we approach problem solving and resolve conflict, every day.

Creating opportunities to foster healthy debate enables colleagues from different departments, across different generations, with different backgrounds with different perspectives, to work together on creating well considered solutions.

Why not give it a try? Pick a topic based on the challenges your team, department or organisation are facing, set a date, and go for it! You might just find a solution or make some head way on addressing a big challenge.

I believe being able to negotiate real change can only occur when healthy debate is on the table, so please encourage more of it!

Learn more ways to embrace healthy debate – join our Conscious Negotiator Program here. A 5-week live online program empowering senior leaders to step up to the negotiation table to secure better outcomes with confidence.

Good luck! Cheers Sam

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Negotiator Strengths Self-Assessment

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Consider if this sounds: least like you; a bit like you; or like you most of the time – in most situations around and at the deals table.

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