How to calm down, cut the drama – and still get what you want and need at work
Want to win your next argument? Of course you do. So read on
I’m about to introduce you to Jefferson Fisher, an American trial lawyer who, when he isn’t practising law, runs a very interesting Instagram account with the profile description: “I help you argue less so you can talk more. Advocating kindness and grace.”
When you scroll down his page and read the headings for his short videos like, ‘How to be the bigger person,’ ‘How to remove drama from a conflict’ or ‘How to calm down’, it becomes clear how he has amassed more than a million followers.
I had the opportunity to interview him over Zoom from his home in Texas recently and the first thing I noticed was his voice.
Unlike many other attorneys I have met, Fisher’s volume was soft, his tone was warm, and the pace of his delivery was slow, but not too slow, like the loping Texas-style drawl you may have in your head.
Instead, I think it has more to do with his purposeful approach to meaningful communications.
An approach he discusses in another of his Instagram posts is, ‘How to stop raising your voice.’
I asked Fisher where he developed his communication style. Turns out it’s mostly in his DNA.
“I’m a fifth-generation trial attorney. I think a lot of what I’ve learned was from osmosis. Watching and being around other members of my family. I picked up on their behaviour. How they would go slower on some parts and go more fast-paced when they were coming to a punch line.”
But before we explore a few of Jefferson’s specific tips and techniques for arguing, I asked him to first define what he means by the word itself.
“To me,” he replied, “arguments are just a part of life.
"They’re not bad. People have disagreements. If they’re not, they’re not talking to anybody.
"My message is how to navigate them in ways that lead, not to a ‘win or lose’, but to an understanding between two people of what the true issue is.”
OK, so forget my opening question, folks.
Let’s focus on how to create better understandings. Onward.
Don’t be somebody you’re not
Fisher’s fundamental principle for communications and arguing is to “communicate within the parameters of your authentic personality”.
“When there’s a witness on the stand and they, in any way, behave in a way that is not themselves, a jury of 12 can immediately pick up on it. It’s a sense.”
Layer strategies to assist your baseline communications style
At the same time, Fisher encourages people to also develop themselves.
“Layer on certain techniques. For instance, you can adopt phrases that dovetail into a point you are trying to make.”
He illustrates this in one of his posts on Instagram on how to channel love and respect into a conversation by saying something like this: “Before we get started, I want you to know I’m going to be totally open-minded and I want you to give me everything that’s on your mind.
"I just want us to walk away with finding ways to be kinder to one another.”
Fisher summarises: “You see how we put that frame around it? You’re speaking over the conversation to envision what the picture at the end is going to look like and to help you both get there.”
Adopt an observer mentality
When in the middle of an argument, Fisher encourages us to visualise ourselves “outside of the conversation”.
“Work on the argument, not in the argument,” he said.
“What I mean by that is you almost have to step outside yourself to create this third-person observer mentality to really try to hear what you and the other person are saying. Don’t just say things in the moment.”
Work on your breathing
Fisher encourages you to let your breath be the first word.
“That means pause for five to 10 seconds. Not a sigh, but simply a breath. This does two things: It resets your mind to make sure that you are focusing on what you need to say. It also sends a message to the other person that you’re acknowledging and taking in what they said [or will say].”
Make thoughtful choices
How many of us have blurted out something during an argument and immediately wished we could take it back? Fisher urges us to keep control of ourselves and the situation in a variety of ways.
"When I say you take this third-person, observer mentality, you are listening to how you talk, what you say, how you say it.
"That's what’s going to get you from A to B in a straight line because there will be times when people want to derail you and splinter the argument.
“The way to stick on that straight line is to continue to think of what they’re going to say in your mind, but also listen completely to their finished sentence.
"So that means not thinking about what you’re going to say at the same time.
"These are just some tidbits of what I would keep in the forefront of my mind," he adds.
Stay tuned, I think Fisher’s tips are worth another column.
Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie
With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon 885