Biz tip of the week: How to deal with a heated argument
Biz tip of the week

Biz tip of the week: How to deal with a heated argument

How do you win a heated argument?

Sometimes we find ourselves in emotionally charged, heated conversations. These could be personal or professional in nature. When emotions run high, voices get loud. In that scenario, our actions are dictated by our emotions rather than rational thinking.

I volunteer as an Arizona ranger with the Tucson Company. All Arizona rangers volunteer their time assisting various law enforcement agencies with a variety of tasks. Occasionally we find ourselves in emotionally charged situations. The more training we have, the better we are able to de-escalate that situation.

Much of the training we have is publicly available online. These are lessons shared by law enforcement agencies that are involved with hostage negotiations or crisis interventions. The lessons they have learned can be useful anytime we are involved in a heated discussion.

The primary goal is to reduce the level of emotion and introduce rational thinking. Always keep this goal in mind and make sure your actions and your words are helping you achieve this goal.

Start by reducing the volume of your voice. Speak at a volume much lower than the person you are talking to. In emotionally charged conversations, often the loudest person feels they are winning the argument. You do not have to be the loudest one to get your desired outcome.

It is important to remember that people in crisis want to be heard. They do not want to listen. Focus on being an active listener. Do not interrupt them, disagree or judge them. Nod your head and use short statements like “yes”, “OK” or “I see”. Occasionally mirror their statements back to them.

Your brief comments should let the other person know you are listening. When you ask questions, be sure to ask open ended questions that show empathy and support. Spend much more time listening than you do talking.

Time is your friend. Do not be in a hurry to resolve the situation. As time goes on, people naturally tend to calm down.

Bill Nordbrock is vice president of community relations for SCORE Southern Arizona, a nonprofit that offers free small-business counseling and mentoring by appointment. For information, go to, send an email to or call 505-3636.

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