Heated Debate Versus Constructive Dialogue

Heated Debate_imageCivil discourse.  Vitriolic language.  We’ve been hearing and reading a lot about the state of American politics and our ability to discuss and debate.  I don’t want to risk a comparison between our work lives and the Arizona tragedy.  Except in cases of violence, a comparison would be silly.  That being said, the concept of how we communicate with each other transfers from politics to our work lives each and every day.  Just how civil are we at work?  What does our organizational culture support?

I have worked in and been witness to work environments that have been quite heated—quite vitriolic.  In recent months, I have had individuals tell me (or have observed):

•    Two senior leaders exchanging obscenities because they didn’t agree with each other
•    A VP flee a Board room in tears
•    A department team exchanging insults because they didn’t like each other
•    Exploratory questioning that borders on rude and intimidating

Words are very powerful.  They can stir or calm emotions.  Word choice is critical in business.  The most successful leaders have a great command over their word choice.  They wisely choose words they want to use (verbally and in writing).  They work to build up…not tear down.

It is important to communicate—to lead—with a starting point of respect.  Assume good intent on the part of the other party; avoid hostility; steer clear of direct antagonism; and appreciate the knowledge, experience and viewpoints of others (even if they differ from our own).

Related Articles: Assessing Organizational Culture

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