Confidence: The Cool Head Wins

Nothing quite builds our confidence like winning…especially when that win occurs in a highly-charged, emotional situation.

Typical response

When someone attacks us or our ideas verbally, our natural tendency is to counterattack with more force than the original attack.  This reaction causes an upward spiral in vehemence and volume in which everyone is in attack mode and no one is listening.

Winning response

The cool head wins.  When we respond in a manner that is completely the opposite of what we’re experiencing, we win.  Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point.

High school student

A high school student told me that his mom was always yelling at him (I assumed with some justification) and he wanted to know how to handle the situation.

I explained that the yelling was simply a way to vent her frustration and that he shouldn’t take it personally.  Then I suggested that he allow her to completely vent her frustration, that she’d exhaust herself in the process, then he’d be able to open a dialogue to resolve the issue.

When I saw him the following day he said “Wow, that really works.  I lost my keys and my mom was yelling at me.  I let her vent, then said “Don’t worry mom, I’ll find them.”  He said that was the end of the discussion.

Controllership position

I was in a controllership position for a group of entrepreneurs.  One day two of the principals called me in and vented their frustration for a full 45 minutes.  They complained that they weren’t getting the information they needed to make good decisions.  Somehow I managed to remain quiet while they vented.

Once they’d exhausted themselves I said “I agree.  You should be getting those things.  But, if you recall, I’ve been telling you for months that the computer system isn’t capable of handling the volume you’re throwing at us.  And we’re exceeding our staff’s capacity as well.”

With that the principals looked at each another and asked “What do we need to do Dale?”

Like the high school student I won because I responded with behaviors that were the complete opposite of what I was experiencing.


The discussion above has been all about dealing with highly-charged, emotional situations, but it works equally well in situations devoid of emotion.

Let’s say that the person is completely apathetic about the issue at hand.  In this situation you want to get emotional, you want to spark some emotion…any emotion…in the person so that you can engage them in a useful dialogue.


Regardless of whether you’re facing someone in attack mode or someone who doesn’t care, you need to behave the opposite of how the other person is behaving.  Just do it under control.  You can use high emotion and still be in complete control of your behavior.

For our kids

All of us learn more quickly and effectively when we experience something than when we’re merely told something.  Use that to your advantage.

Use the techniques above when dealing with your kids.  Then, when the dust settles, help them see what just happened.  Do it while what they just felt is fresh in their minds.  From this simple technique your kids will learn that the cool head wins.

Don’t forget to check out the tip and exercise on our home page at

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