6 Communication Steps for Dealing with a Hothead

Communcating with a Hothead

Have you ever experienced a hothead? Someone that responds or communicates in an impulsive or aggressive manner?  Or they react before thinking?

Hot heads can put us in an immediate, unprovoked conflict situation. Not a fun place to be.

Here are 6 steps that will help you deal with the hothead in your life.

Step 1

Stop, breathe, and think.

When you keep your cool and talk in a mild tone, you will help keep the situation from escalating. Don’t get drawn in to their energy, or join in a battle.

Decide: do you want to let it go, or do you need to deal with it?

Step 2

Acknowledge the conflict; name the issue.

Say something like: “I’m sensing a lot of emotion and frustration. I think the two of us need to talk about this (name the issue),” or, “I’m feeling that what I said upset you. Can we talk about it?”

Try to put a name on the issue and stick with that.

Step 3

Use your active listening skills.

Even if they are angry or say something hurtful, don’t interrupt. Don’t get defensive. Calmly listen to what they have to say, from their perspective, first. Many times, by listening first, you’ll learn that you have misunderstood the real issue that needs to be addressed. Or, you’ll get clarity on what the real problem is.

This is hard, but will make the difference between whether you diffuse or escalate a situation.

Say, “help me understand.”

Usually, you need to let them blow off some steam before you can have a reasonable discussion. Don’t get sucked into getting defensive when they say something you don’t like, agree with, or that isn’t even true. Let them vent, without judgement.

And, no matter how tempting it is to join in their bad behavior, do your absolute best to conduct yourself in a calm and respectful manner.

You can’t control what others do, but you certainly can (and do) control your own behavior.

Step 4

Focus on the issue and not the person.

Don’t make it personal. Keep it about the actions and behaviors, not the person:

Tell them what you feel and want to have happen. Example “I don’t feel like we are communicating well.” “ I thought we were talking about the dishes , can we focus on that?”  or “I sense this is important to you. Help me understand how we can solve this problem.” Say, “Do you understand what I mean?”

Step 5

Pause and check for understanding.

Rephrase what you heard and say,  “Did I understand you correctly?”

If they try to make it personal, back up and revisit the issue.  Be a broken record if you have to.

For example, “I think we are getting off topic, what we were talking about is this…”

Step 6

Make a plan.

Agree on a specific action to have happen by a specific date to help work towards resolving the issue/conflict, then follow-up.

Try these 6 steps, (and repeat as necessary) and you’ll see a huge improvement with each time. Start small and if you want, practice what you will say first.  As you have successes, it will become easier and easier to do. The trick is to deal with the conflict sooner rather than later — conflict tends to grow over time.



For more information on conflict strategies, interpersonal communication and communication skills that will help you transform a relationship or two, please visit my web site:


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home and 52 Communication Tips. Both are available on

To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:




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This post currently has 2 comments.

  1. Betty Lochner
    February 18, 2011

    Excellent post. Hotheads are spotted a mile away from their energy, intimidation practices and language.
    Posted by Kathleen Gage (Linked In)

  2. Sethbebad
    February 17, 2011

    Excellent Post. And good advice. I had a similiar situation just last night. Wish I would have read it before now, might have saved me from a major fight.

    Thank you for your Blog