Most people hate confrontation. Most people who don’t hate confrontations go into them with the worst of motives. They want to “win” the confrontation at all costs.
When someone needs to be confronted Authentic Leaders confront them. But they do it with empathy and compassion. Their goal isn’t to “win” a confrontation. Their goals are for both sides to maintain their self esteem, better understand their situation and to build a stronger relationship.
Those goals are achievable but only if the confrontation actually takes place.
Avoiding a confrontation comes with great costs, to both sides. The person not being confronted may have no idea what they are doing or saying is an issue for anyone. The cost for them of not being confronted is they lose the opportunity to improve. They lose the opportunity for a closer relationship. They may lose an opportunity for promotion at work or potentially, even their job.
The cost for the individual who refuses to confront them can be even greater. Their lack of courage to confront someone can result in never ending frustration, poor mental health, damaged relationships and if they are in a leadership position, poor performance on the part of the people they lead.
All confrontations can be avoided by simply not confronting anyone. It’s easy, just do nothing. You do need to realize however that the consequences of avoiding confrontations cannot be avoided. You may think you’re better off not confronting someone but you would be wrong.
There are ways to make the confrontation beneficial to both parties, but it takes a bit of effort. To confront in the right way pay attention to these key points:
Stick to the facts. Do you understand the facts? How you asked enough questions to understand the situation from all sides? Are you confronting in anger with raw emotion or are you prepared to confront with compassion built on a desire to help? Is there an upside to the confrontation that is measurable? Keep in mind if nothing can change then nothing will change. If you’re confronting someone over a situation that cannot change then you’re actually just “venting.” Venting is very one sided because while you may feel better for a short time it doesn’t help anyone else.
Know the person you’re confronting. How much do you know about the person you’re about to confront? Unless you know the person well it’s best to begin your conversation with questions. If you begin with a tone of confrontation you risk shutting the other person down. That stalls most progress that may have been possible. If you want the other person to change something about their behavior then don’t start with criticism. Keep in mind, it will be very difficult for you to help someone see a benefit to changing their behavior if you don’t understand why they behave the way they do.
Make the fault seem easy to correct. Never make a situation worse than it is. Do not exaggerate. Your confrontation must be based on documented facts, not opinions. You MUST approach a confrontation with an open mind and be willing to admit that you may be a part of the reason for the confrontation. No matter your title, your role or your level of success, always consider the possibility that the real source of the problem stares back at you from the mirror every morning.
Move forward towards improvement. Once you laid out your “case” then allow some time for the message to sink in. Ask the other person if they can restate what you’ve said to make certain what you said was understood. Then move forward. An effective confrontation need not be a lengthy conversation. You don’t need to bury the other person with examples, especially old examples from years past. Finish with a compliment. If you can’t think of a compliment then you’re not yet ready for a confrontation. Refer to the second thing to keep in mind. Get to know and understand the person before you confront them.
Above all, don’t think of confrontation in terms of winning and losing. It’s about caring enough to confront with compassion and helping another human being become the best possible version of themselves.
7 thoughts on “How to Avoid Every Confrontation”
Great post as usual Steve. I was confused by one of the last lines. “If you can think of a compliment then you’re not yet ready for a confrontation.” I am thinking this should be “If you can’t think of a compliment…” Regardless, the post has helped me to see where I might need to confront, but more importantly, how I’ve been confronting poorly. Thank you for the guidance.
Thanks for the catch Gregg, it was definitely supposed to say “can’t.” Sorry for the confusion, I’m glad you found the post useful.
Some of the best and most beneficial business relationships I’ve had started with a professional confrontation. That confrontation tested each of our boundaries. So thereafter, we knew each other’s limits and established positions on certain topics, and could build from there.
Great point! A professional confrontation can actually build trust because both parties know exactly where they stand with the other.