Nedlands mayor Max Hipkins took to the media last year to denounce Battaglia's website ParkingMadeEasy.com.au as illegal because he said it turned residences into businesses by renting out their driveways and garages for parking.
The dispute played out in a debate on breakfast TV when Battaglia's view that his business was no different to home owners taking in a flatmate eventually prevailed and he was allowed to continue his business.
“My tactics were to stand up for myself, respect him, reach out to him, share my views and provide my evidence in terms of other websites doing similar things,” Battaglia says.
In business, arguments and disputes are unavoidable, be they with staff, suppliers, clients or authorities. They can be costly, time consuming and distracting. But using a few key tactics can help businesses get a better outcome.
Here are five tips:
1. Listen to the other side
Chyonne Kreltszheim spent 12 years as a lawyer, trying to win arguments by mustering all the facts and arguing her side of the debate to the other person.
But she's learnt that a more effective technique is instead of forcing your opinion on the other person, to ask lots of questions to understand what they believe and why.
“If you find out that they have got incomplete information or they've got incorrect information, you can correct that information and provide them with some of your own facts or observations,” says Kreltszheim, principal consultant at CMA Learning Group, which teaches negotiation, influence and conflict management.
“Then ask them about their assumptions. Maybe they're interpreting the facts in a way that leads to their conclusions and that's why they're not accepting your conclusion.”
2. Explain your logic
“We always recommend a balance of what we call advocacy and inquiry,” says Kreltszheim. “The more you can understand of another person's perspective, the more scope you have to change that perspective rather than simply pushing your conclusion onto the other person.”
Get the other side to go through the same thorough process that you've gone through to reach your conclusions – otherwise you're doing nothing more than substituting your opinion for their opinion.
“Connect the dots for them, then explain your facts and conclusions are based on the assumptions you've made," says Kreltszheim.
After that, you try to get "alignment" – or agreement – on the stages of the argument. First you get alignment on the facts and then on the interpretation.
3. Think about what 'winning' means
Step back from the argument and ask yourself: is winning about getting a good outcome, or is it about proving the other person wrong?
Getting too caught up in “right versus wrong” can get in the way of achieving a good outcome, which of course is what the business will benefit from. “It's something to check in with yourself about,” says Kreltszheim.
If you focus on proving your opponent wrong above all else, you tend to lose sight of the bigger picture and can damage the longer-term business relationship.
4. Adapt your strategy
Many people rely only on one negotiation strategy. But Andrew Heys, who teaches negotiation skills at the graduate school of management at Macquarie University in Sydney says there are five negotiation strategies – altruism; promising something; ingratiation; the direct request and explanation. You need to pick the most appropriate.
If you're arguing with a person who seems kind hearted, you can employ altruism and ask that they agree as a favour or because it's the right thing to do.
But if you have a transactional relationship, you'd probably do better to get agreement by promising something. It doesn't have to be exactly related to the argument – “you might give them the best ham at Christmas if you're a butcher,” says Heys.
5. Change your communication style
Another technique Heys advocates is to adapt your communication style to the other person, because it helps build rapport. “If they're a very formal person, you might want to present your information or yourself in a more formal manner,” he says.
Also, use the same words that the other person uses and adapt to their pace of communication. “It's about saying 'how do I present this information in a way that's going to be digestible for the other side so they can see where I'm coming from',” says Heys.