How to Defuse Confrontational Energy

Here’s a magical method for getting through to anyone in your personal or business life.


A few days ago, I was cycling through Boulder.

I caught up with a group of fifteen cyclists who were all wearing matching jerseys and joined them.

For the uninitiated, when fifteen cyclists are wearing matching jerseys, they’re usually experienced riders.

At a red light, one of the cyclists said this to me in a rather stern voice:

“Hey man, drop back. We’re all together.”

I join groups all the time, so I was rather taken back by his tone.

If I said, “Lighten up, dude. I’m an experienced rider,” things would have escalated.

Arguing with people is a net negative every time. That’s because when you argue with people, you’re subconsciously saying, “I’m right, and you’re wrong.” Egos don’t like being told they’re wrong.

Fortunately, I downloaded the Chris Voss 2.0 EQ update.

I paused for two beats and said:

“Sounds like you don’t want some inexperienced rider from Florida hitting your rear tire“

“You probably deal with wheel suckers like me all the time.”

Voss calls this an accusation audit. By bringing up the negative emotions the other person is probably feeling, you defuse them. I find that bringing a little self-deprecating humor into the accusation audit goes a long way.

Here’s how the cyclist responded:

“That’s right. There’s a lot of people here from out of town this week who don’t know how to ride.”

Here’s me:


“Seem like you know how to keep things safe out here.”

Labeling refers to spotting the other person’s feels and calling them out. You’re demonstrating that you understand how the other person is feeling.

Here’s the cyclist:

“You seem like you know what you’re doing. Feel free to join us. If you can keep up -:).”

Look how fast the cyclist changed his mind.

The takeaway?

Knowing what to say to make people feel heard is a superpower for getting through to anyone in your personal and professional life.

Rewire your brain to listen.