12 Dos and Don’ts For Butting Heads Successfully

Everything worth doing encounters friction.

Important issues ignite strong emotion.

a mind with the answer

12 don’ts for butting heads successfully:


  1. Talk over things with affirming friends who take your side rather than exploring issues.
  2. Rush to judgement. A mind that holds the answer is closed.
  3. Assume a battle posture.
  4. Sit at conference tables or in offices. Relaxed atmospheres lower barriers.
  5. Minimize the position or person on the other side of the table.
  6. Forget the big picture. You may become so focused that you forget the impact of your suggestions on others.
  7. Overreact. Choose the emotional middle.
  8. Over-rehearse. Canned sentences feel like manipulation.
  9. Hide real objectives.
  10. Get stuck on small insignificant issues.
  11. Misstate, over-generalize, or exaggerate the other person’s opinions, arguments, or desires.
  12. Use, “You,” aggressively. Ask, don’t tell people what they think.

12 dos for butting heads successfully:


  1. Prepare by exploring issues, not rehearsing sentences.
  2. Strengthen relationship while pushing for results.
  3. Define issues, problems, and challenges. It’s a waste of time to talk around what’s important.
  4. Describe what they want – describe what you want. Define the win.
  5. State and restate the arguments of others. Make people feel understood, even if you disagree.
  6. Know the lenses you use to evaluate people, issues, and problems. You evaluate through the eyes of your strength. What lens are others using?
  7. Walk slowly while you talk, if it’s a one-on-one.
  8. Clarify intentions, both yours and theirs. “I’m not sure what you mean by that?”
  9. Believe things can be better, even if not perfect.
  10. Quiet the tone and volume of your voice.
  11. Take breaks. Marathon conversations wear people down. Tired people do and say dumb things.
  12. Lower personal barriers, as much as possible. Embrace the strength of vulnerability.

What makes tough conversations important?

How might leaders butt head successfully?