The Six Skills of Confronting People

It is not easy to confront people. There are risks involved. We can lose favor with that person. Our reputation can be damaged. In some cases, there are can negative consequences such as losing our job, position or role. This is why we always settle and choose “the path of least resistance.” We would rather have a superficial peace and harmony because we don’t want to “rock the boat” or face negative push back, than to face the pain and confront the problem. Therefore, it is easy to ignore the problem or to live in an unhappy situation.

Sadly, sometimes the consequences for not confronting someone might be worse. It will affect our relationships. It builds up angst, frustration, and anger in our hearts because of the bitterness. The unresolved issues begin to manifest in undesirable ways, which make the situation worse. There can be signs of the passive-aggressiveness, awkwardness, and even hostility, which make the relationship unsafe, unstable, and unproductive.

Often times, we struggle with confrontation because there is some kind of fear – a fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of judgment, fear of pain, etc. Therefore, before any confrontation, we might have to remind ourselves that some of those fears can be overcome, if we believe that the relationship is important enough to deal with the conflict. Also, if you determine that your mental and emotional health are a priority, then you can muster up the courage to do it. It is too important for you and for your relationships not to address the issue. We must tackle it head-on and believe that it will strengthen your relationship. You can do it!

Here are 6 skills (TACKLE) to develop in order to confront people in a loving way:

  1. TAKE time to prepare. Confrontation is hard since it deals with bringing up something that the other person might take in a negative way and even become defensive. Since there is a possibility of things not turning out the way you expect, it is critical that you prepare mentally and emotionally. Also, you need to check your heart and make sure that you are bringing things up because you care and genuinely want the best for them and the organization. You might even have to remind yourself that if you don’t bring up the issue, then there will be harmful consequences to them and to others.

Next Steps: Write down what you want to say in a form of a letter. This helps to give clarity, calmness, and even anticipate some possible negative responses.

  1. ACQUIRE the necessary information. Nothing is worst than bringing up an issue with a lack of information. Usually, this leads to misunderstanding and confirmation bias, which will hinder you from being objective and understanding. Therefore, it helps to know what was the situation and find out if there were things that that you weren’t able to see clearly. It helps to ask some people (without gossiping or complaining) about things that you might have missed. Sometimes conflicts come about when we don’t know the other person’s situation or intentions. Once that is garnered from a third-party perspective, then it is easier to see things with some insight. It will help with empathy, as well as, our emotions.

Next Steps: If there were other people present in the situation, then ask them how they perceived or interpreted how things transpired. If it just involved you, then ask a few people if they know anything that the person is going through.

  1. COMMUNICATE honestly and clearly. The reason why our confrontations usually don’t go well is that we are not honest and direct about what needs to be said. Once again, this goes back to our fears. One of the best ways to start off is to give an encouragement or an affirmation to the person. This reiterates the importance of the relationship. Then from there, share about the purpose of the meeting and the need to bring some things up. Then, just be honest; but it is important that you share about what you experienced so that it is something that they cannot argue with because you experienced it. Make sure you are specific about what you felt and what caused the feeling. Just be careful that you do not accuse the person or they will start to get defensive. Focus on sharing honestly and clearly what you felt.

Next Steps: One practical way to share about what you felt in the situation is by using this phrase: I felt ________ when I experienced________.

  1. KNOW who the person is. As we think about confronting a person, we must think about how that person will take it and process it. The more you know about the person’s background, personality, and issues, it helps to adjust your approach. There are some people who grew up with a lot of criticism, therefore, if you bring things up in a particular way, it will trigger a lot of negative feelings. Some people have been brought up without any constructive feedback, therefore, they might be dismissive of the issue that you are bringing up. Therefore, the more you understand how they are wired up, along with their experiences, the easier it will be to present things in a positive way.

Next Steps: Before you bring up issues, think through how a person with that particular personality and background would take what you are able to share.

  1. LISTEN to their response. Once you bring up the issue, it is vital that you give them some time to process and respond. They might ask for clarification or flat out disagree with you. Stay calm and just listen. This is when you have to be mindful of your body language and tone, as well as, carefully reading their body language and tone. As you listen to their response, try to clarify if things are unclear. But the goal in this skill is to allow them to “express” themselves and give their perspective. This will help you to understand where they are coming from and try to see if they are processing what you have specifically mentioned to them.

Next Steps: A good listening skill is to repeat and re-phrase what they just shared. For example, if they say, “Yeah, I was tired and got angry at what you said” then, you would say, “So since you were tired, the things that I said got you angry.” This is known as “active listening” and this help the person feel as if they are being understood.

  1. END with an encouragement and a resolution. It is always a win when you are able to end the conversation with a clear resolution. Sometimes this can come in the form of an apology or some next steps that you both want to take to help each other. But it will be important not to “burn the bridge” if things don’t turn out the way you want it to. There are times when things might end without a clear resolution or agreement. Regardless, always keep an open line of communication so that both of you can talk later if other things come up. It helps to try to give a word of encouragement so that relationally, things end on a good note.

Next Steps: Share one thing that you appreciate about that person. It also helps to express that you will be committed to trying to communicate and strengthen the relationship.

Even though confronting people might be difficult, it is important to do for your sake, as well as for those involved. Therefore, remember to TACKLE:

  1. TAKE time to prepare.
  2. ACQUIRE the necessary information.
  3. COMMUNICATE honestly and clearly.
  4. KNOW who the person is.
  5. LISTEN to their response.
  6. END with an encouragement and a resolution.

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