Staying On Track

In this section we’re going to talk about how to stay on track. Staying on track means you’re getting closer to your goal whatever that is. We’re going to see sometimes you can switch tracks but you need to be aware when it happens so you can chart a new course.

Before continuing, remember to do this exercise.

Exercise-Staying on Track

The Problem: Arguing About Irrelevant Things

Have you ever argued until you couldn’t remember what you were arguing about, or even worse, why you were arguing? You go around in circles until time runs out and you have to part ways.

This is a recipe for leaving an argument feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing.


The Solution: Staying on Track

Here are some practical tips to keep arguments focused on your shared goal.

  1. Know your destination: Like I’ve said from the beginning, winning an argument means working towards a common goal. Keeping that goal front of mind and reminding everyone throughout the argument is key.
  2. Understand that different arguments call for different outcomes: In exercise you did above, you separated arguments into three kinds. Here are some tips on how to reach your goal with each kind of argument:
    • Immediate Decision
      • Avoid making arguments that depend on having unavailable information
      • Resist criticisms from “the ideal situation”
      • Emphasize the need to be willing to settle
    • Medium-Term complexity
      • Focus on the part that can be settled
      • End with next steps
      • Take time to identify what will be needed to settle unanswered questions in the future
    • Eternal Questions
      • Focus on what new and interesting ideas came out of the investigation
  1. Acknowledge when you’re getting off track. Conversations move on and that might be a sign the first argument wasn’t so important anyway, or there wasn’t any goal and it was just for fun.
    • Remember though, as you enter a new argument, don’t forget to get clear on what the question is.
    • Sometimes people start off arguing about one thing when they really want to argue about another thing. Maybe they’re upset at you because you are ignoring them but they argue about a silly little thing instead.
  2. When you make a point say why it is relevant. Don’t just say, “I think we should put on Hamlet because it’s a great play.” “I think we should put on Hamlet because it’s a great play and we said we are trying to decide on a great play to put on.”

Questions to think about

  • What are some practical ways you could say to point out things are getting off track without being rude?

Go to Recap.