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Years ago during my policing career, two colleagues arrested a criminal who had a reputation for violence. On arrival at the Custody Unit car park, and just outside the Unit entrance doors, the officers alighted and invited the detainee to get out of the car. (It was before the use of vans was routine.) He declined their invitation.

Using ‘minimum force’ I used a technique I had learned in training, I put the blunt end of a pen against his earlobe and putting the two between my fingers, squeezed. He got out, at which point my two colleagues pinned him against the wall and tried to cover all his limbs and torso at the same time. I observed two things – one, he was trapped, and two, he wasn’t actually resisting any more.

“Flipping heck Dave, help us!” yelled one of my mates.

“He’s not resisting anymore.” I calmly responded. And he wasn’t. he meekly accepted his fate once the two sweating coppers eased off and the rest of the process went easily.

For 24 hours the two colleagues thought ill of me. The following day, they apologised. The emotion of the moment had taken over.

Another day, same unit. A well known and truly violent prisoner, with a history for acting up in the Unit, was asked to remove his clothes for forensic examination. Predictably, off he went. Yelling, demanding, threatening. It was going to take the world to get his kit off.

“Oy, ******,” I shouted. “WHAT?” he replied.

“Has behaving like that ever actually worked for you?” I asked.

A moment passed and he started undressing.

I’m no saint. I lost my temper now and then. Which doesn’t make today’s lesson less impactive, it merely reinforces it.

When emotions are high, when stresses are present, when losing your temper and abandoning all emotional control is ooohhhh so easy,


There are two reasons for this. First of all, it makes you feel good afterwards. Your keeping control is emotionally satisfying.

But second, it means you keep control and are able to deal with the event better. While I’m not proposing you will ever need this advice, my experience has always been than in a fight it’s the one who loses control that loses. I was attacked many times during my career but I always (somehow!) managed to keep my cool – even when a criminal bit into my leg and I let him stay there because it meant he wasn’t running off – and I literally tied them up in an effective controlling hold because they had lost control and I hadn’t.

You may not be involved in fisticuffs, but the same advice applies to those verbal confrontations we all, occasionally, find ourselves starting or trying to finish. Maintaining emotional control is key to resolution, and it is a truly empowering characteristic that those who wish to be principled leaders should seek to adopt.

All it takes is a moment to decide – who’s in charge here? Me or my emotions.

Choose ‘me’.