Someone recently asked me how I argue. He wanted to know how I handle disagreements. It was a good question that I had never thought about before. How do I argue?

He pointed out that for some, arguing is a means to prove they are right. That “being right” becomes far more important than having or at least trying to find common ground.

The Fight to “Be Right”

As I gave thought to the question, it occurred to me, that finding common ground has often taken a back seat to me being right or getting the last word. For the sake of principle, of course. Because it’s all about principle, right? How many arguments could I have avoided if I just stepped back, assessed what the other person may have been thinking — or better yet feeling — and let that guide my argument?

Finding Common Ground Can be Difficult

It’s admittedly difficult to seek common ground when you have already decided that the other person is on another side, putting you in the literal position to face them and automatically making them opposite of you. After revisiting my personal relationships, my mind made way for me to give some thought to how I handle disagreements in the workplace.

Have I always looked for common ground? Hell no. I’ll be the first to admit it. Differing work styles, learning curves, and skill-sets make working with others sometimes challenging, to say the very least. Have I always been patient? Not at all. Evaluating myself honestly, I am tough, thorough and unforgiving at times at work. I don’t seek common ground, nor do I believe it exists in most cases. So here I go down the rabbit hole which is my mind. From where does this uncompromising toughness in the workplace come?

I am a young(ish), educated, independent woman in the workforce. Studies, not opinion, studies have shown that I am less likely to be promoted, more likely to be paid substantially less than white and black men, and white women. My straight-forward talk, my passion, or my quiet demeanor is often mistakenly perceived as anger or “attitude.” These are facts that you don’t have to study. If you are a black woman in the workplace, you know this, and you feel this. Although you cannot always easily pinpoint how illegal or unfair it may be, examples can seem nuanced based on who in management you talk to about the daily micro-aggressions or slights you contend with or feel.

How We Argue Can be Affected by the Position We Argue From

Which brings me back to my original question. How do I argue?

My answer, I think, like most people, I argue from a perspective of how threatened, or better yet, how safe I feel. I may not take the time to find common ground, if I immediately feel defensive or as if I am being attacked.

Finding common ground is much easier from a position of power. So what’s a woman to do?

Finding common ground is much easier from a position of power.


My solution to finding the most common ground in the workplace is to seek it in the work itself. There are things that I cannot control; people’s attitudes and ignorance I cannot even begin to change. Hoping that they will see my full potential and capabilities, is tiring, to be honest.

But the work, the work in most cases is constant. That’s what I lean on, that remains my focus. I will start observing my argument style and try to curb my need to be right. I will try to be more understanding, but the likelihood of me looking for common ground, that may take some time and lot of effort.

Become a Common Grounder