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How to Manage Conflict; Win the Argument While Managing Your Emotions
By Dalonika McDonald, Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Parole Division
Published: 03/10/2014

Arguing "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand."--Colin Powell

Why This Article is Imperative to Your Success

Early on in my career I received specialized training in Dialogue. This training in communication equipped me for my up-and-coming leadership role AND marriage. There were other training courses which I received on proper forms of communication skill sets where I learned how to turn every dispute, fall out, war and sometimes what felt like an all out verbal assault into a opportunity for advancement. This article is imperative for your success, due to the tools it will teach you to apply in any situation with anyone.

"You Must Learn How to Disagree the RIGHT Way"

"You must learn how to disagree the right way", one of most elite and unforgettable Majors in corrections told me. There were issues brewing at the time between myself and another supervisor. The words my Major spoke to me that day resonated on me and has sprouted up at the most meaningful times in my life. "Dee, the reason why most people lose arguments is due to a lack of strategy. When you begin to fight with your mind, you will win every time." After this last sentence, I really could end the article right here.

This topic on how to win an argument is an important one. Many people have lost jobs, families, friends, and colleagues due to unsettled disagreements. I am using my bumps in the road, collaborated with the wisdom of 'The Greats' in my life to assist you in maintaining a healthy environment for you and those around you.

How To Get The Best From This Article

The methods which are being shared are all effective. Facilitating courses on anger management for formerly incarcerated persons help my staff and I remain on top of our own hot buttons. The instructor is always being taught to apply what you are teaching. If the techniques I am getting ready to disclose help ex-offenders, just know - when applied they can transform what could be a potentially bad situation for you. As you continue reading, you will be able to utilize effective techniques which will work for various circumstances. Once implemented on a consistent bases, you will find yourself set apart while looking brilliant and admired among your peers.

Anytime you feel something is brewing, print this article out and carry it as your pocket guide of how to dispose of ANY attacks. Here is rule #1:

The Number One Way to Win an Argument is-to Not Argue

Dale Carnegie was right. The number one way to win an argument is-TO NOT ARGUE. Yes, that is correct. Fall back, fall off, disengage-just walk away. Many times this is the best posture you can take. You do not have to get in the ring on every battle. Champion boxer's do not fight every boxer. They strategically challenge the matches which move them forward in rank. From what my husband explains the higher you move up, you are placed in fights with more skilled matches. This is a strong indication you are better-yes, you are on another level NOW. Have you noticed people around the work world who are known to shut people down- nobody dares to have a verbal entanglement with them. They make others think about entering into a argument, knowing their words will fuel a fire no one can put out. "Is it even worth it-they make others ask? This is the type of reputation I would like for you to establish.

I have learned through the years-ONLY engage when you absolutely have to. Access the situation and the person. Ask yourself a few questions to determine if a response from you is even warranted; if I do not resolve this, will it become a re-occurring disaster? Does this conflict step on my boundaries? Is this someone else's battle that I have inherited? Will this conflict effect me, if not resolved?

Don't Take Conflicts Personal: See it As A Opportunity

Each time I have had a disagreement with a colleague or a subordinate, I used it as an opportunity to educate myself on dealing with difficult personalities/situations. Learning new methods to implement has allowed me to triumph establishing a win-win situation for both parties.

It is imperative to be aware of your own trigger patterns and try to handle them professionally on all occasions. Early in my career I would alert others right away by saying- "today is NOT a good day", meaning you may not want to push any of my buttons. Now, I do not place my desired outcome in other people's hands. I will start my morning off doing a few practices which guarantees me a great day, week, month, and career. I will share a little about that later.

Avoid Allowing Yourself To Be Pulled Out of Your Element

This does not mean suppress your feelings, but rather improve your outlook on yourself and life, so there are fewer situations in which you would become infuriated which lead to a verbal altercation. Think about your anger and determine if it really makes sense given the situation. Step back and ask yourself: Is having a verbal combat the best course of action or am I just perturbed at the moment and I need to leave it alone? What will be the outcome of this quarrel? How will I benefit? Is this a distraction? All of these factors has to be settled in to point you into the right direction.

Accumulate Facts:

If you are working on an assignment, which someone attacks, keep manuals and policies right at your fingertips. Educate yourself quickly, making your debate factual instead of from the emotional side of you. Always know what you are talking about. Stay on point in your heated discussions.

Know WHO you are engaging in a battle with. You never want to find yourself in a stand off with the boss's best friend.

Stay Focused - Don't Be Carried Out Into the Middle of the Sea

This is a statement which I coined after working with my foster care daughters. The oldest of my two girls, would try to pull you off track by pulling you into the most utter parts of the sea. You would be speaking about her cleaning up an area of the house and she would start talking about, why you do not really love her. An hour later, you are wondering how you came from a conversation on cleaning up, one particular area of the house to trying to prove you love her. That is being pulled out into the utter-most parts of the sea. Do not allow anyone to take you there.

If you deal effectively with disagreements, you will increase your chances of being promoted at some point -- and of being an effective leader who is known as solution orientated minded.

Focus on Self

Various interactions, circumstances and situations at work are beyond our control. What we can control is our reaction. Fits of rage and silent stewing have no place in a business environment. Now, I'm not oblivious to the fact that you can not control other's reactions to you. The key is having laser focus on self. As a habit I try not to entertain simple people. If I know a person has a reputation for being a trouble maker, keeping my distance is imperative for both of us. You maybe thinking, so how do I respond when my co-worker is right in my face?!

The Confrontational Co-Worker/Boss

A client of mine has a supervisor who was difficult to talk to. Amber would come see me appearing defeated from another beat down. He was prone to yell, throw items and get in her face. To say the least, he is aggressive, confrontational and demeaning. Stay ahead of personalities like Amber's supervisor by staying aware of their trigger buttons. Do not intentionally set them off. If you can not avoid a confrontation with such a person, get ready to place on your attorney hat to begin representing yourself. At moments like this, it is good if you can equip yourself by taking a deep breath and coming up with a quick strategy. Stick to your main point. Resist the urge to get emotionally attached to the argument. Do not attack. Do the teacher method. Keep repeating your fact. Stay on course of your main point

Think Resolution. Say to yourself, I am capable of winning and overcoming every situation and every circumstances.

Sometimes while in a disagreement, Silence is the best answer

Get comfortable with awkward silence. When it comes to the art of negotiation, I’ve learned a simple truth: Never speak first. After I explicitly state what it is I want, I clam up. When we’re uncomfortable with an awkward silence, it’s tempting to fill it quickly, but if you do, you might end up saying something without thinking it through. I have discovered, that the first person to speak usually loses the argument by truly not understanding the entire point of the other individual. Listening to the person truly, you may find you both are heading to the same destination. Make your point, be confident and force yourself to wait for a response.

Self Evaluation is the KEY

Be healed, in order for you to move successfully in life you have to be healed from emotional trauma which can cause you set-backs in your career. Woo is me syndromes have to be discarded (Thinking everyone is after you.) I know, I know what you're thinking, “Oh, but it's true everyone is trying to sabotage and hate on me!" Is it really everyone? Or is it just a few people? It behooves me to tell you some of the most astounding people in the world have had people literally try to kill them, and in the midst of it all, they push forward towards success using every adversity as a step closer to the top.

”Do not bite the apple," As my husband always says. Which means, just because someone throws a comment out does not mean you have to respond. When the people in the office try to have you in an all out war. You go to a plan:

Your supervisor has stated he does not like your solution and slammed your idea down in front of everyone. You feel crushed, argumentative and angry. When these mixtures of emotions strike take several deep breaths, repeat a calming word or phrase in your mind, and/ or slowly count to 10. Give yourself the time you need to get centered again to take the higher road.

Plan Your Way To Success:

Get a notepad out and follow these instructions: Figure out a way to rise above the tidal wave of conflict at work. Be determined to walk on water, others drawn in. It could be the most difficult person at work. Master how to deal with their personality. I always say, if you can learn to deal with a difficult person you can work with anyone!

Exercise Self-Discipline

Achieve balance in your life and let go of negativity. You work too hard to let verbal altercations hinder you from getting results and advancing in your career. If you find yourself clashing with everyone, know that this is the time to conduct a self evaluation and place handcuffs on your emotional chords. Learn to rule your emotions instead of allowing them to take ruler- ship over you.

It will set you above the rest to balance out our emotions and begin the day from a place of happiness by regularly:
  • exercising
  • meditating
  • writing in a journal
  • finding a time everyday to disconnect from work
  • creating a joyful workspace with personal pictures and mementos.

In conclusion, Keep a cool head. When arguing, keep calm, and present your side of the argument in an organized manner. When the opposite side brings up a point, always counter this point with something relevant supporting you.

Remember, you can walk on top of any situation. No argument is too much for you!

~Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.--Aristotle

Other articles by McDonald

Corrections.com author Dalonika McDonald is a former Lieutenant for the Nebraska Penal System. She was promoted by The Texas Department of Criminal Justice to supervise staff to promote security first, and then provide resource services and programs to ex-offenders and their families. 
The scope of McDonald's professional experience encompasses more than inmate relations, she is a highly accomplished criminal justice and public relations specialist poised for her role as a community liaison, instrumentally contributed to recruitment initiatives, training and development and strategic building of relationships with corporate leaders, as an active member of many local and national organizations including: National Association of Women Business Owners, American Correctional Association, Executive Women in Texas Government.


  1. hamiltonlindley on 03/10/2020:

    Hamilton is a sports lover, a demon at croquet, where his favorite team was the Dallas Fancypants. He worked as a general haberdasher for 30 years, but was forced to give up the career he loved due to his keen attention to detail. He spent his free time watching golf on TV; and he played uno, badmitton and basketball almost every weekend. He also enjoyed movies and reading during off-season. Hamilton Lindley was always there to help relatives and friends with household projects, coached different sports or whatever else people needed him for.

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