Hate confrontation? Think of it as a skill you can learn. Help is here!
We need to talk… Hate
confrontation? Think of it as a skill
you can learn. Help is here
At work, 53% of us waste time stressing about clashing with a colleague – but whether it’s your career or personal life, you need to master the C-word.
“Being comfortable with a degree of confrontation is key to being assertive and ensuring that you’re not taken advantage of,” says psychologist Honey Langcaster-james.
So, let’s get started.
1If you’re an ostrich
“Avoiding confrontation altogether damages your self-esteem,” warns confidence coach Jo Painter. “Confronting someone sends a positive message to yourself: my wants and needs are valid. It’s self-respect.”
“Work at the edge of your comfort zone,’’ advises Honey. It might be sending a dish back in a restaurant, or saying no to a cold caller. “It’s about making gradual shifts in asserting yourself,” Honey explains.
Flip your thinking
Confronting someone = upsetting them? Wrong. “Most people don’t realise that their behaviour is affecting you,’’ reveals Jo. “If you don’t give someone an opportunity to adjust their actions, you’re actually being unfair to them.”
prepare your opening Statement
“Confrontation isn’t about winning or losing; it’s about saying how you feel,” says Jo. “And for ostriches, that can be the hardest part.”
Keep it clear and concise – write it down beforehand if you need to. “Begin with the facts; this is the situation or problem, and this is how I feel about it.” Three or four short sentences are enough.
2If you’re a folder
You start well, but at the first hint of awkwardness, you crumble. “We panic that we’re appearing aggressive, and become too conciliatory to compensate,” says Jo. In one study, volunteers were put in a confrontational situation, and people who considered themselves too assertive were described as not assertive enough by others.
“Starting sentences with, ‘I’m sorry, I just…’ undermines your message,” explains Honey. Ditch the qualifiers, too. You’re not “a little bit concerned”, but just “concerned”.
own your Feelings
Don’t bring other people into it. Eg: “It’s not just me – I know Di feels the same.”
“If you want respect, take responsibility,” advises psychologist Emma Kenny. “Remember that your feelings alone should be enough to provoke change.”
reiterate your Solution
“Have a clear idea of your ideal outcome,” says Emma. “If you’re vague, you’re easy to ignore.” Keep bringing the conversation back to your solution. Say, “I want to focus on what we do next” or “As I said, there’s a way for us both to be happy.”
3If you’re an exploder
For you, confrontation quickly turns into full-blown conflict. “If you get angry, you alienate the other person,” says Emma. “You discredit yourself and your message. It might feel cathartic, but it won’t get the result you want.”
use ‘i’ Statements
“‘I believe’ or ‘I want’ is more effective than ‘You do this’ or ‘You never do that’. If you blame somebody, they immediately become defensive and, in turn, aggressive,” says Jo.
Stick to your point
“It’s tempting to fall into the ‘chronological arguing’ trap – where you start bringing up past grievances to bolster your case,” explains Emma. “But it always backfires and you lose sight of your goal.”
Slow it Down
Riddled with regret after a blow-up? “That’s because the logical part at the front of your brain has caught up with the emotional part,” says Jo. “Create pauses in the conversation – listen until someone finishes speaking and repeat what they’ve said back to them. Or say, ‘Give me a second to think.’” They feel heard, and you have time to let reason take over from emotion.