How do you handle disagreements or conflict with a High D?

DISC Profile - Conflict with High D
Eight Tips to Effectively Handle Conflict/Disagreements with High D’s (Click to Tweet)

I recently got an email from a friend, whom we will call Joe, which read:

I would like your advice.

We had a meeting to make sure everyone was on the same page with our new payroll process. Just my boss, his wife, and me. I had everything prepared for them in such a way they were both really happy. Problem for me: at one point my boss says, “we need to not make careless mistakes. Like putting vacation in sick, that was a careless mistake. We need to not be careless.” I couldn’t really respond because their three kids came in at that moment. I know my mistake was human error. Calling it careless says to me I didn’t care enough. But I did care! My husband thinks I need to send my boss an email. But I want to make sure I’m interpreting things correctly, with the whole D spin 🙂

I have other examples when he indicates something negative about me because of what I’ve done, not done, etc. And the times I’ve tried to explain the “why” behind what I’ve done he either looks at me blankly, gives a half smile, or just reiterates his original opinion. Please help, oh great D!


Eight Tips to Effectively Handle Conflict/Disagreements with High D’s

Here was my advice to Joe.

First, don’t send an email. Odds are you will be too lengthy and you will have no idea how he reacts (it’s all in his face).

You will gain 10 times more respect (and build some confidence) by talking to him face to face.

With that in mind, here is how to approach him.

  1. Approach him on his turf. This means his office. Go to him where he is most comfortable.
  2. Ask permission to speak with him. “Is this a good time to talk?” There are only two answers. Yes and no. If yes, proceed. If no, ask “When is a better time for you?”
  3. Stand if possible. But not if he is sitting. Don’t impose. Stay level with him. I would stand for 10 seconds and if he doesn’t stand, pull up a chair close to his desk. Make sure to show that you are moving close.
  4. Get right to the point. 
  5. Stay future focused. No attacks. This does not mean you cannot reference a past event, but it should be in the context of the future.
  6. Practice ahead of time.
  7. Stay calm. (DO NOT tell yourself not to get emotional…the words in your head are important here). You have practiced, it will go great.
  8. Repeat the outcome you want as though it is happening. As you practice, continually repeat a positive outcome in the present tense.

Remember, you cannot control him. He could thank you, smile, and get back to work. He could cuss you out. He could be blown away and change. It’s not up to you. Only your actions and emotions are up to you.

What tips do you have for Joe or anyone in handling conflict or disagreements with high D’s?

23 thoughts on “Conflict and the High D

  1. Eric Dingler says:

    Great list. If you are raising an issue this leader has with other people as well….don’t bring that up. That would be an attack. Keep it focused on you and the leader. And bring donuts, I always like that.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Donuts….good one.

      The way to a high D’s heart is through his stomach. I should click to tweet that. 🙂

      1. Lily Kreitinger says:

        Not always, I’ve tried.

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        Haha. Well they can’t hurt. 🙂

      3. Kathy Leicester says:

        Bringing donuts will only make a D angry–it’s seen as manipulative. I suggest don’t do it.

      4. Matt McWilliams says:

        I am a high I too though and I love food…so will I might think it’s manipulative, I won’t hold it against you.

        I think a lot of it depends on how well you know the D. I am a D but I prefer to know that the meeting is more casual, not an in-your-face knockdown, drag out fight.

        I worked for a guy a lot like me, a high DI and he loved to be put at ease. While a high D, he was conflict adverse as well. So asking him to lunch or going for a walk to talk worked well. I also made sure to approach it casually, as you say above, without emotion.

      5. Eric Dingler says:

        ummm….I was being facetious about the donuts. Everybody knows that High D’s prefer oatmeal.

  2. Lily Kreitinger says:

    I’m married to a high D, so I’m very familiar with this. I’m a high I-C, so I’ll first try to set up a nice comfortable, friendly atmosphere and give a long, detailed story about the disagreement. Trust me, it does not work. I’ve worked for high Ds too. It does not work.

    They need bullet points, not Harry Potter, Book 7.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      “Can you elaborate on that?”

      Things high D’s rarely say.

      1. Kathy Leicester says:

        “Rarely?” Never! Unless we’ve been trained by Dr. Rohm’s folks.

      2. How does one who elaborates because of the lack of the ability to use bullet point thoughts get the point across? I find it difficult to keep it straight forward and to the point. Can I speak in “short hand” someway? Direct and straight forward is natural to some (High D) but not to others (High I/S). Is it best to approach and just inform them of what you think, without expecting them to fix the problem or is it best to approach them with what I feel or see going on and asking them to rectify and fix it?

      3. Matt McWilliams says:

        Use frames and subheadings. A subheading in speech is just like in this post or in email…it tells the person what is coming up.

        A frame is telling a person up front everything about to come.

        An example…

        “I have three concerns with the new project [frame]. First, the overall cost [subheading]. The overall cost of our last three similar projects…etc. etc.

        Second, the lack of manpower to start with. [frame].”

        And so on….

      4. This is helpful. Thank you for the example. Sounds easy enough. Lets just see. Loved the post, btw.

      5. LOL. So I have used this approach a couple times in the past few days. He sees I am taking a different angle…this, I think he likes. However, he senses I am trying to persuade or change him, so he is guarded. He says he hears a sales pitch when I have come to him with a particular need the past couple of days. He liked my conversation headings (bullet points). He usually does not compliment me with my communication “skills”. HA! My idea….it was shot down. BUT…I don’t think it was because of the approach I took. I just think he wasn’t interested in doing anything that required his help at the time. So, I am encouraged. Just need to be a bit more convincing and creative and need a bit of practice. Just thought I’d update you guys. 🙂

      6. Matt McWilliams says:


        Keep at it. Keep using the subheadings and bullets…it takes a while to get used to them (I even started having to use them myself when I communicate)…but they work!

  3. Kathy Leicester says:

    Just show up, come in, and make your point boldly. Don’t be kind, or conciliatory, or fluffy. Get down to business. Give me two options for what you want, then let me decide. Argue with me. Push back–I’ll love you for it. No need to yell, no need to get emotional, it’s a business decision, we’re not getting married.
    The three things a D loves: challenge, choices, and control. Meet me where I live, and next time, you’ll have earned your credibility.
    Sincerely, the highest of D’s!

    1. oh my gosh, honey is that you over there? I swear you are my husband! Oh how I wish I had a close girl friend that was a high D/C. I can not seem to understand the D perspective and going to the D source (husband) is not the right guy to duke it out when I am not getting my point across. This was very helpful, Kathy! Thank you!!! My next tough sinerio will be knocking at your “door”. Matt, who ever inspired you to go with this blog? Make sure to thank him/her for that. This was pretty cool! k

  4. Keep it on point and brief. You go long and they will circle it back to whats wrong with you. Keep bring it back to the issue. I love the idea of standing, because as soon as you sit your in for long ride.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good point…it will come back to what is wrong with you.

  5. Tom Dixon says:

    I think your tips are right on – especially to handle this sort of thing face to face. Honest and open communication IN PERSON goes a long way.

  6. Wade_Thorson says:

    I work daily with a High D, and I can say your suggestion list is perfect. Some of the key items I do like you stated are keep it short and too the point.

  7. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    We’ve been having some D conflicts recently. This is a useful post which I will share. Thanks.

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