Keeping business conversations on track and productive can be difficult, especially when we view our conversational partners as opponents. We end up wasting our time and effort while producing nothing but frustration and resentment.

In a new Harvard Business Review article, executive coach Monique Valcour suggests adding these strategies to your conversational toolkit:

  • Shift the relationship from opposition to partnership. “Winning” the argument though logic, force or stamina isn’t enough. Try repositioning yourself—both mentally and physically—to be side by side with the other person, so that you’re focused on the same problem.
  • Reframe your purpose from convincing to learning. Conversations often go off track when we try to get someone to adopt our view or approach. No matter how well-spoken and logical we may be, we can’t understand and solve the problem without exploring how the other person sees it.
  • Verbalize your intention. Be transparent. Share your purpose and what you hope to achieve. Ask what the other person would like to get out of the conversation. Be explicit, not just about the topic and desired outcome of the conversation but also about the process.
  • Acknowledge your part. It’s very easy to identify what the other person has done wrong, and much harder to identify our own contribution to the problem. But acknowledging your part demonstrates how to take responsibility and encourages others to do the same.
  • Seek input to problem solving. Rather than asking for feedback, which is concerned with what happened in the past, try “feedforward.” Tell the other person what you hope to learn or achieve, and then ask them for suggestions.

See the full HBR article: “8 Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track.”