Being vulnerable, expressing difficult feelings, and gently confronting others is rarely fun, easy, or desirable. Most individuals would rather run in the opposite direction, pretend tensions did not exist, or make excuses to avoid such conversations. The main problem is that confrontation is at times unavoidable and unhealthy. Likewise, it is a disservice for both people in the relationship.
Common reasons for avoiding confrontation relate to fears of failure (e.g., not taken seriously; ideas invalidated), fears of hurting others (e.g., view others as weak or fragile), and fears of loss (e.g., termination of friendship; abandonment). These reasons tend to stem from how confrontation is defined or conceptualized. Rather than viewing it as a way to express care and concern, demonstrate trust, or show honesty, confronting is typically associated with arguing, raised voices, and fighting.
In order to become more comfortable with confronting others, consider implementing the following strategies:
- Ask Permission. Ensure that it is a “good enough” time to talk with the other person involved, and not during a stressful time of the day or when privacy is not adequate. If it isn’t an appropriate time to talk, consider asking the other person for alternative times to discuss.
- Inquire. Invite the other person to share his/her perspective. Likewise, ask if your point or statement makes sense or is clear for their specific understanding.
- Plan. Consider how you want to open and initiate this dialogue. Using a non-threatening tone and calming voice is important, as is including “I” statements, owning your feelings, and taking responsibility for how you will respond/react.
- Maintain Awareness. Monitor your body language, non-verbal cues, and tone. Ask yourself if the other person has had equal opportunities to communicate, or if the conversation is being monopolized—which is often unproductive and does not fully resolve disagreements.
Collaborate. Encourage the other person to identify solutions, brainstorm potential ideas together, and continually check-back to make sure each person is on the same page and fostering cohesiveness.