Sometimes people in our lives do things we don’t like. In many cases, their behavior doesn’t directly impact us, so it’s not appropriate to say anything. At other times, however, people do things that do directly cause us harm, and then we have every right to confront them. Handled well, you don’t have to cause a fight. With some finesse and a little assertiveness, your feedback can be constructive. Here are steps to take during a confrontation:
ASK QUESTIONS. Before expressing your dissatisfaction, find out more about why the person is doing what they’re doing. They may have an explanation you’re not aware of that will change your feelings.
BE ASSERTIVE AND DIRECT, BUT NOT ANGRY. This means you may have to wait until you’re calm and collected. Avoid letting emotion hinder your ability to communicate well.
MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT. This may be uncomfortable during a confrontation, but it tells the person you’re serious. It’s also a good idea to be on the same physical level, so you’re not looking up or down at them.
COMMENT ON THE BEHAVIOR, NOT ON THE PERSON. Our behaviors are not our entire identities, so don’t call names or make any broad, negative comments about their personality. That’ll insult them and make them defensive. You’ll better avoid fighting by commenting solely on what the person has been doing. Let them know how their behavior affects you and how it makes you feel. They may not have realized the impact of their actions. Sharing this impact let’s them know why it’s appropriate for you to say anything. (We all have the right to defend ourselves.)
USE THE “WHEN YOU, I FEEL…” FORMULA. Use this phrase to clearly describe your problem. For example, “When you interrupt me, I feel like my thoughts aren’t important.”
FOCUS JUST ON THE ONE BEHAVIOR. Don’t turn the conversation into a free-for-all critique session. Keep your comments specific to this one item of contention.
STICK TO YOUR GUNS. You can be wrong about the facts, but you can’t be wrong about your feelings. Don’t let the discomfort of the confrontation scare you away.
MAKE A REQUEST. Don’t just criticize what the person is doing. Suggest actions you can take together to resolve the situation.
EXPRESS APPRECIATION FOR THEIR WILLINGNESS TO LISTEN. That’ll soften the moment and make the criticism sting a little less.
Remember that confrontation isn’t always easy, but it’s an important part of any healthy relationship. People who care about you can’t consider your feelings unless you express them.
You may also wish to read the articles How to Avoid Conflict and Resolving Conflict or check out the Jump Start Leadership Workbooks.