Turn Setbacks into Setups

How To Confront Without Being Confrontational

June 4, 2019

That word, confrontation, can feel overly aggressive, like something we want to avoid. Done incorrectly, confrontations make you look aggressive, defensive, or even petty. We avoid them because we’re always trying to moderate our emotions to seem calm, and to maintain the status quo.

If you’re currently in or aiming for a leadership role, confrontation is inevitable.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Confrontation isn’t about fighting; it’s about being assertive. It’s not about creating drama; it’s about standing up for yourself. And sometimes, confrontation is a necessary tool to help you live fully, asserting yourself without being overly aggressive. If used well, confrontation helps you and your opponent get what you want—provided you can step up to the challenge.

Come up with a plan.

Ideally, confronting someone should never be spur-of-the-moment. When you’re acting on impulse, or out of defensiveness, discussions can quickly become arguments. Instead, plan out and even rehearse what you want to say to ensure the conversation doesn’t get derailed. What issues are you trying to address? What should the outcome look like for both parties?

Choose your words carefully.

“You’ll catch more flies with honey” has never been more true. Assertiveness doesn’t need to be negative, and ideally the conversation should remain positive and even friendly. Be sure to note any aspects of your mutual situation that currently work well, and choose neutral rather than negative words. Follow up with your rehearsed ideas and potential solutions, and try to end things on a positive note.

Don’t apologize for your point of view.

In life in general, you should never apologize for feeling the way you do. Your thoughts, opinions, and emotions are perfectly valid—and you shouldn’t feel lesser for having them. More importantly in terms of confrontation, showing using apologetic language can make you look weak. So while it is important to stay positive, make sure you aren’t doing so at the expense of undermining your efforts.

Reflect the other party’s opinion back at them.

You may have heard of this basic communicative technique before. It’s simple: once the other party has finished explaining their side, reflect their point of view back at them. Your goal isn’t to mirror word for word; it’s to ensure that you understand them properly. You don’t have to agree, but you do want to make sure that they feel heard.

More importantly, it’s crucial to have a complete understanding of the situation. Jumping to false conclusions only makes a confrontation escalate, so start things off on the right foot before you get into the thick of it.

Sell your solution to them.

When we go into an argument, we often become confrontational because we’re in it for ourselves. We’re worried that things won’t go our way. But to dial back the aggression, and to make the outcome a “win-win” for both parties, keep in mind the goals of the other party. What do they want? Once you understand where they’re coming from (see why the step above is so crucial?), you can decide how to resolve the issue in a way that works for you and your opponent, letting them “win” as well. This may mean compromising a little—but solving a problem while maintaining your relationship can often be worth the slight change in plans.
The goal of any confrontation, ideally, is that both parties walk away feeling as though they’ve taken a step forward. These techniques can take practice, and they can be difficult in more intense situations—especially when you’re confronting someone at work, or if you’re the one who messed up. If you need extra support before a big confrontation, reach out to one of our life coaches for more specific advice!

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