Afraid of confrontation? Most people are. The thought of face-to-face confrontation is enough to make the heart race and the palms sweat.
Knowing some essential steps to take will help ease the fear and instill courage. Instead of blaming the other person, focus on feelings when confronting them. Making the other person feel bad will backfire. People who feel backed into a corner will only try to protect themselves from all the guilt, shame, and condemnation thrown at them.
To confront courageously, follow these steps.
- Concentrate on feelings, not thoughts.
A person who will confront someone must be clear on how the other person’s behavior makes them feel—not what they think about them. This is an arduous task because blurting out a thought comes easy. For example, don’t say, “When you negate my words, you are being cruel.” Instead, say, “When you negate my words, I feel hurt and disconnected from you.”
- Identify feelings.
For most people to know how they are feeling doesn’t come naturally, and it may take a little work. Know the difference, for example, between being hurt, sad, angry, frustrated, afraid, and anxious. One mistake many people make is identifying angry feelings as hurt feelings. Sometimes they do this to avoid their aggressive parts. Other times they do this because they identify as a victim, fearing that their anger may provoke others to hurt them. Talk to a New Life Counselor or Coach to understand the difference between hurt and anger.
- Stick to experience.
In the same vein, stick to the experience. It is effortless to slip into focusing on the other person, but they will take it as an attack on them. Practice and roleplay with a close friend or mentor to avoid this. For example, don’t say, “When you give me the silent treatment, you are rejecting me.” Say, “When you give me the silent treatment, I feel alone and unloved.”
- Avoid saying, “you make me feel…”
While it is true that one person can influence another emotionally, no one is responsible for another person’s feelings. Avoid statements such as, “you made me frustrated,” because this kind of blaming statement will lead to the other person reacting. They will become defensive and will probably respond by saying something like, “I made you frustrated! How can I do that? Those are your feelings. I can’t control what you feel.” So don’t say, “You make me angry when you’re late.” A better way is to say, “When you’re late, I feel angry.”
- Own your part of the feelings.
Each person’s emotions belong to themselves. Sometimes, one must admit they’re being overly sensitive so that all the responsibility does not fall on the other person’s shoulders. Remember, confronting someone is not about ascribing fault to them as much as it is to open up an authentic conversation with the other person. Perhaps say, “I know sometimes I get hurt too easily, and that’s not you; it’s on me. But last night, when you made fun of my dress at the party, I felt attacked and embarrassed.”
- Be specific, specific, specific!
Identify the behavior or attitude precisely so that the other person understands what they did wrong or needs to change. Give them a description of what they said, did, or what tone of voice they used so that they have a clear picture of the situation. For example, tell them, “When you teased me about my weight at the dinner table last night, I felt hurt.” Saying “When you do…I feel…” is not only a way of confronting, but it is also a way of reaching out to the other person. Letting them see the harmful effects of their behavior, as much as it is safe, will go a long way to improve the situation and relationship.
Although confrontation seems intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. Call us at 800-639-5433 to get connected to a counselor or coach who can help you gain the courage and tools you need to confront.
by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend