5 Steps to Effective Confrontation
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If you are anything like me, you have had times where you have needed to confront someone about a problem. Whether it is your spouse, your friend, or a coworker, there are times when people who mean well hurt us, take advantage of us, or just don’t realize that they are doing something that affects us in a negative way.
We have two choices in how to handle these situations. We can either cope with it on our own, which may be the right option at times (as long as you are not harboring resentment or bitterness), but there are times that we need to confront someone.
People always deserve to be treated with respect no matter how they have hurt or wronged us. Additionally, approaching someone in a respectful way has a greater likelihood of reaping positive results.
Choosing to confront someone in a demeaning, demanding, or disrespectful way often sets the other person up to be defensive. Whenever anyone feels attacked, their focus will become trying to get out of the corner they feel you have backed them into rather than actually listening and responding to the things you say. As I’m sure you realize, this will accomplish nothing.
So, how do we confront someone correctly – in a way that honors not only the person we are confronting, but our own selves as well.
- Examine your own motivation. Is your motivation to hurt the other person? Is it to attempt to change the other person? Is it to wound this person back for a wound they inflicted upon you? Obviously these would not be valid reasons for confronting another person. Good reasons for confronting someone would be to offer genuine help, to restore a right relationship, or to address a valid concern that needs to be changed to avoid a negative outcome in the future.
- Choose the appropriate time and surroundings to confront someone. It would not be wise to confront someone with others around, at a time they are hungry, tired, or overwhelmed, or during a time in which you are feeling angry, frustrated, or hurt. Picking the correct time and place is as important as choosing the correct words.
- Be aware of what they have going on in their lives. If you know the other person is struggling with their job, having a tough time at home, or feeling down about something else, this would not be the correct time to add more stress in their lives. As unfair as it may seem to procrastinate dealing with an issue that would provide you with closure, relief, or solutions, heaping more onto the plate of someone you know is already carrying a plateful is just not fair, and it is not treating the other person with the respect and care that you would want to be treated with.
- Finally, be sure that you are ready to hear what they have to say. The person you are confronting has every right to respond to what you are saying. Make sure you are ready to really listen to what they have to say with an open heart and with an open mind without getting defensive yourself. Oftentimes you may be surprised to hear “their side” of the story.
- Choose your words wisely. Spend time thinking and planning what you should say and how you are going to say it. Avoid accusing, using “you” statements, or using words like always or never. Choosing to phrase things from your perspective by using “I feel” statements is almost always a good idea, as is giving them some credit for not realizing how their choices and behaviors are affecting you.
Confrontation is needed at times, but it is important to know when it is and is not an appropriate response to a negative emotion that you are feeling. The next time you are wondering how to respond to an issue, work your way through this list. Don’t rush. Be honest. Make sure that you are being fair to all parties involved, yourself included. Then, proceed with caution, with love, and with the goal of resolving an issue to bring forth positive results.
Regardless of how your confrontation is received, remember that you do not know the burden someone else is carrying. Give them the benefit of the doubt and maintain control of yourself and the situation so as not to have things spin out of control.
Confrontation can be an opportunity to bring new depth to a relationship or situation. With the right motive, proper surroundings, respect given and received, correct words, and sensitivity to life circumstances, confrontation can be the first step towards healing and positive change.
Interesting points. With regard to time and location, I also always asked them to meet me in a neutral location specifically to discuss an issue. When you go to someone’s home and they feel criticised it is easy for them to become defensive and try to assert authority (“Get out of my house” etc.) which isn’t doing either one of you any good. For myself, I choose not to ask them into my home becausee that is my haven and, if the conflict isn’t resolved, I don’t want to have negative feelings about it that I think of every time I walk into that room or feel uncomfortable in my own home. Parks, coffee shops, those are great places to meet and have an open, civil discussion.
The only thing I would change is not always couching it as “I feel”, because I’ve had several experiences of people replying “Well that is how you feel, then, and not my problem”. It is sometimes better to say “When you…it makes me…” So that they understand their behavior is causing conflict between you. (example: When you continually interupt me to tell your own story, it makes me angry because I feel like I hardly ever get to tell important things going on in my life. Rather than: You’re always trying to one up me. I can’t tell you anything good.)
These are great ideas, Leanne. I totally agree that a neutral location is a good thing.
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