I am an intermediate level professional and I just joined a company and started coworking with a guy who is one level senior to me. He has been very generous in giving me suggestions, trainings and work guidance. However, he is very smart and he almost argues with every single point I make and I never get a kudos on whatever I contribute. Ironically, sometimes, he denied my ideas in the beginning, and then we ended up with using my ideas because he realized later on that what he thought was not right.

Maybe he is just that kind of person who is always argumentative, but sometimes I just feel uncomfortable talking to him because I know he will deny whatever I say. How can I keep things smooth with him?

  • How would you like your situation to be "smoothed"? There are many possible situations here, please clarify.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 21:43
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    Do you try to have a discussion (e.g. you ask him why he says what he says or justify your idea) or does the conversation just stop after he denies your idea? Does he actually deny your ideas (e.g. "that won't work") or does he question them (e.g. "why do you think that would work"). Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 21:54
  • @DarkCygnus What I mean by saying smooth is to build a smoothier conversation enviroment between me and him, without having so many bumps which make me feel so frustrated whenever I try to talk to him.
    – Hao Xu
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 21:57
  • @Dukeling I have not yet because I am not sure if it is a problem or not. And he also talks to others in quite similar way but no body seems to care too much because he is one of gurus in our office. Our conversations did not stop after he denies as I always ask why and listen. He actually just say 'no' right after I say something, and he does have that habit of saying 'no...' a lot even to our clients.
    – Hao Xu
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 22:02
  • Some people like confrontations and debate. Maybe his ego is a bit high, even though he probably knows what he is saying. Have you tried not to keep arguing with him? Seems like he is unreceptive to your (or anyone's) comments. It is good you listen what he has to say, so you may eventually learn new things and really know when to push a discussion.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 22:52

3 Answers 3


Grab a [insert beverage/meal of your choice] and ask if he/she is free to chat over food.

Although the topic of discussion may vary, offering to eat with the coworker allows you the opportunity to discuss any rough spots in your working relationship.

If his/her behavior is affecting the company in a specific way,

He actually just say 'no' right after I say something, and he does have that habit of saying 'no...' a lot even to our clients.

then this is something that needs to be addressed as it would be unbecoming if there is dissentation in front of clients. As for everything else, keep the dialogue open even if he shuts it down initially, say how you would love to hear his/her counterpoints and see how your ideas can be incorporated with the final product.

  • Lunch with him is a great idea which I have not tried yet before. And so far I havn't seen any negative effects from the way he talks. Yeah, to express my own feeling and what I expect is something definitely worth trying. I should remind him to be more of a thinking listener.
    – Hao Xu
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 23:06
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    Always listen first, let him finish what he has to say, then address your points.
    – Bluebird
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 23:17
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    At this luncheon meeting, suggest to him that he try to say "Sell me on that" instead of starting with "No...". I'm sure that's what he really means anyway. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 0:08
  • @A.I.Breveleri I hope he means so but sounds like most of time he does not mean to ask me why...that is what really frustrates me, as he objects me without asking me the reasons...
    – Hao Xu
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 4:36

I'm somewhat similar to your argumentative colleague. I have strong opinions and I love to argue because I believe that through a good argument, both sides can come out with more wisdom than they went into the argument with.

Some people are hard for me to work with because they don't respond when I start a discussion, or they just drop a statement without any arguments to back it up. To me, this feels like they're saying "This is the objective truth but I won't bother to explain why" which clashes directly with my need to know why I am wrong if that happens to be the case. This seems applicable to your situation: perhaps if you had provided a deeper explanation of your ideas from the beginning, you could have convinced your colleague and saved the both of you the time it took to work on the 'wrong' solution?

One of the most productive coworker relationships I ever had was with a coworker whom I had a very difficult start with, until he realised that I am not just arguing for arguments sake but am inviting him to explain his ideas to me so that I can understand it and we can consider the pro's and con's of the idea together by discussing it.

On the other hand, some people are worse than me and will say 'no' to any idea that isn't theirs, just because it didn't come from them. Those people are a lot harder to deal with because they're not actually interested in what you have to say. In this case, you probably want to talk to your manager and explain that you're having difficulties working with this colleague because you feel that they don't value your knowledge and experience.

In the end, you'll have to try to figure out which of these two cases applies. I would advocate trying the approach of explaining your ideas further first, since this gives you a strong argument if it turns out to be the second case: you'll be able to say to your manager something like "no matter how well I explain my ideas and back them up with arguments, [coworker] just doesn't seem to listen to me and just shots me down at every turn".

  • I am also the other person in the original question... +1 on this, we may be argumentative but it is for the purpose of either learning something or teaching something. You don't know which it is going to be at the onset. We could perhaps be nicer about it, I admit. But I have no patience for all the nicieties in the world, so it would have to be a carefully measured quantity of small-talk and reassurance....
    – Stian
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 8:26

Let him win. It's only an argument if there's a disagreement.

Like this:

YOU: I've learned that a burning candle uses up oxygen in the surrounding air and produces carbon dioxide.

HIM: You're wrong. Burning candles produce phlogiston which fills the air immediately surrounding the candle.

YOU: Interesting. I hadn't thought of it that way before.

You'll find that other people either already know this person argues all the time or they will quickly figure out that he does, and they will give you the benefit of the doubt.

Often with someone like this, they will just argue no matter what, even if you ask them not to argue. They will simply argue with you about how much they argue.

Note that if he ever says something insulting when he disagrees with you, it's appropriate to tell him you feel insulted and you would like him to not speak like that in the future. If that happens, try to say nothing about the actual disagreement and focus on the insult. He will probably argue about whether it was actually insulting but if you mention the actual point of disagreement he is likely to focus on that and not on your feelings.

  • I will try this strategy for coming weeks and see what happens.
    – Hao Xu
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 4:38

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