How to successfully make difficult decisions?

How to successfully make difficult decisions?

How often have you been in a situation faced with angry people and you are forced to make difficult decisions? I'd like to share a story about me and my fiance. Laura and I were recently pulled over by a police officer while out riding our motorcycle. It was a beautiful Sunday and we had a great day. On our way home, about a block from home, there is a four way stop. I came to a complete stop but did not put my feet down and proceeded to make a right turn.

Now admittedly, I ran the stop sign because I did not put my feet down even though the Harley came to a complete stop. The officer was absolutely THE most verbally abusive, hostile and belligerent person I have ever encountered in public.

I have no room here for the details but trust me when I tell you that this was a scary and intimidating experience.

Ironically, neither of us said more than a sentence in the entire 10 minute rant and verbal berating. At the end of the experience, I didn’t get a ticket nor did he ever look at my driver’s license or registration.

It REALLY made me think about how many people this officer deals with in a day; how many other people there are in all walks of life who are aggressive and that full of rage with or without provocation.

I wonder how many people there are that would have reacted differently than we did.

My point here is: you may have encountered or will encounter a person like this at some point in your life.

How would you respond?

This is NOT about the officer or the fact that he had all the power. So please do not be distracted by his occupation. Stay focused on his behavior.

  • What is your response when faced with defensiveness, anger or even rage?
  • How equipped are you to handle others’ lack of self control? Do you ignore it? Do you sit quietly and take the verbal beating?
  • Do you confront it? Do you politely asked them to stop?

Most of my early work was writing about and studying anger and all of its manifestations. I have taught many, many people how to deal with it, but not until this Sunday afternoon did I actually get a sense of what it’s like when rage meets power. Daunting, to say the least.

So I'd like to share with you:

The 7 best things you can do when faced with hostility and rage.

1. Stay calm. Focus on your breathing, make it slow and steady. Sitting on that motorcycle my primary thought was, “breathe slowly and stay focused and calm”. Say as little as possible, being polite and respectful. Focus on details so if a report is necessary you will remember the details – it’s very important. In my case, I said “yes sir” and “no sir” and focused on my breathing and emotional state. I noticed time of day, location of my bike, his height, weight, type of car, etc.

3. Make as little eye contact as possible. I looked down at my gas tank or straight ahead except for the occasional turn in his direction to answer a question.

4. DO NOT TAKE THE BAIT. Often angry people will ask you questions, make accusations or otherwise attempt to escalate you. In my case he yelled, “I don’t know how old you are but I would bet 22 years of paychecks that you have been a law breaker your entire life.”

5. Accept responsibility for what is yours but NOTHING else. Do accept all the blame if it’s not all yours. You need not argue just simply accept what is yours and be silent.

6. Get out of the physical space you are in and away from the situation as quickly and as safely as possible.

7. As soon as you are able, write down EVERY detail of what happened. It will serve two purposes.

  1. It will help you purge the toxicity of the encounter.
  2. If you need to report it to HR or the police or your boss or any higher authority, your report will be facts-based not emotionally charged.

When we called the police department to share our experience we were given huge respect and earnest listening because we were calm and detailed about what happened.

How would you deal with angry and hostile people?

All of us have times when we are faced with difficult decisions. The reasons for the difficulty are as varied as the decisions each of us faces. Perhaps the difficulty is because it might have financial consequences or maybe someone’s feelings are going to get hurt. Maybe the difficulty is because, regardless of the choice you make, only good can happen so it’s hard to decide.

Regardless of the difficulty, the fact is we cannot avoid difficult decisions.

We will make them or they will be made for us either by circumstances or others. In most cases difficult decisions can be made with some relief when there is some type of process in place to guide us through the challenging choices.

Difficult Decisions Step 1: The first step in making the decision is to accept that it’s difficult.

As obvious as that sounds, there are times when the difficulty is more difficult because we somehow feel like it shouldn’t be. The beginning of good decision making comes with the acceptance. So often, people bemoan the fact that it’s difficult and challenging. Start with the full and complete acceptance of the difficulty and cease any comment or conversation about the difficulty.

Do not intensify it by emphasizing it.

At the core of most challenging decisions is risk. That risk is largely evaluated on the criteria of what there is to lose. Our brains are built to protect us and thus will cause us to see saber tooth tigers where there are none.

Difficult Decisions Step 2: The second step is to evaluate the REAL risk.

I would love to tell you that a simple exercise in weighing the pros and cons will help but I think that over simplifies many of the tough choices people face.

How Do You Make Difficult Decisions?

The best way to evaluate risk is by asking 3 questions:

  1. What’s the best thing?
  2. What’s the worst thing? and,
  3. 3hat's the most likely thing that could happen?

Difficult Decisions Step 3: What is the choice that most closely aligns with your core values?

That assumes you know what yours are.

Those three steps will help you navigate more effectively.

Difficult Decisions Step 4: Finally, surround yourself with objective advisors.

Stay away from anyone that has an agenda or has something to gain by whatever decision your make. Once the decision is made don’t look back. Move forward with resolve and confidence knowing you can and will deal with whatever is next.

Now that you have the most effective steps to help you make those difficult decisions. I recognize that sometimes those difficult decisions also include having conversations with angry and hostile people. SO i thought it might aslo be helpful to provide you the 7 best things you can do when you are faced with hostility and rage.

When you are faced with difficult decisions you must determine the appropriate way to deal with those decisions and then react accordingly.  In my coaching sessions training is done to sharpen our skills so we can make the right decisions and learn how to react to the emotions of the people we affect with our decisions.

Leaderships isn't for cowards. It takes courage to challenge people, confront problems and make difficult decisions.


Be courageous,

Mike Staver


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About Mike Staver

An internationally respected coach and professional speaker who has been labeled the “rebel with a cause.”  With a master’s degree in counseling psychology and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Mike has found a way to make complex ideas simple, memorable and immediately applicable.

The Staver Group and StaverOnDemand works with leaders at all levels within businesses or corporations to challenge them in driving performance, confronting problems and making a difference in the culture of those they influence.  Mike is a member of the Faculty at XTRAcredits to help professionals across the country hone their leadership and earn continuing education credits at as they advance in their career and lead their business.


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