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The Independent Online

Q. I get on quite well with the rest of my team but things fall apart at meetings. I suppose healthy discussion is a good thing, but I always end up starting an argument, which can get quite heated. How can I stop discussion turning into conflict?

Q. I get on quite well with the rest of my team but things fall apart at meetings. I suppose healthy discussion is a good thing, but I always end up starting an argument, which can get quite heated. How can I stop discussion turning into conflict?

A. Your problem is that you have never matured beyond the stage psychologists refer to as "difficult child". You have a deep-rooted need to be right and to have everyone compliant to you. I expect winning the argument becomes more important to you than resolving the issue under discussion.

Stop the strops by reverting to adult behaviour. Try a flexible approach to others' viewpoints. Remember no one is completely right in any discussion and no one is totally wrong. Study all views in an open-minded manner and then use negotiation, rather than "push" tactics, to get others around to your way of thinking. Never be judgmental or opinionated. If you need to disagree or be critical, always be honest about what's relevant and specific in your points of discussion. Never use personal insult, and avoid the use of aggressive words. Keep your tone and manner calm. Be prepared to listen and show you are listening.

Q. For the modern, go-ahead company it is supposed to be, my firm uses slow, out-dated equipment. The software programmes are ancient, the stuff is too slow and often crashes and now we are getting the blame for not achieving targets on time.

A. Forget the adage about bad workmen and tools, I heartily sympathise with anyone who has PC traumas. The things nurture our dependency on them to the point where we can no longer spell or write without their help.

Speak to you boss immediately. Be rational in your approach and point out the advantages to the company if he/she acquires the latest hi-tech kit. Ideas sell best if you focus on benefits rather than features. Do a time-and-motion study and account for the money currently being frittered in terms of hours lost. Get literature on the equipment you do want and seduce your boss with the details.

Q. We have been told that the corporate photographer is doing the rounds soon. Last time I ended up with a shot that made me look like a gerbil. Any tips?

A.Never sit straight-on to the camera, always turn your shoulders very slightly and then look into the lens, to avoid that "just arrested for soliciting" look. Practise your smile in a mirror beforehand. Get a sparkle of life in your eyes by imagining you're looking at someone you like, rather than a camera. Refuse to be rushed by the photographer, make him/her wait until you feel relaxed. The shot may only take a few seconds to get on film but the resulting picture may be doing the rounds for years.

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