Confrontation can leave you feeling negative and uncomfortable, however, not all disputes need to be negative. Friction builds heat and when aptly used, it warms and soothes. Avoiding confrontation is like sitting in a cold bath of water and never getting out. The steps to facing your offender without breaking your bonds with them don’t guarantee a positive outcome, however, these tools will certainly help you move easier through unpleasant situations.
1. Ask Yourself, “What Is My Intention?”
Most people don’t wake up in the morning thinking that they are going to offend someone today. We all think about ourselves first and may think that others should know our intention. But we don’t know — until we ask. There are a million reasons why a person does what they do. Before you confront someone, ask yourself what you want from this conversation. Now head in that direction and go for a win/win.
2. Speak Directly to the Person
It may seem easier to talk to someone else about how you were offended. That doesn’t change anything. In fact, your innocent listener may wonder what you say about them when you are not in their presence. Others want to trust that you to speak honestly and directly with them.
When you find yourself on the listening to someone who is offended by another person, listen with love and respect AND encourage them to speak directly to the offending person (unless their safety is in question).
3. Begin With Love
Reassure your offender of your commitment to bringing the relationship to a higher level. “I really value our friendship, but there is something missing, and I feel that I need to talk to you about it.” This sets the tone for a positive discussion, rather than a defensive reaction.
When your intention isn’t to hurt the other person, then reassuring them is of prime importance. We all want to know that we are still loved, even when we act disrespectfully.
One man had a habit of being late for work and his boss decided to confront him about it. He began, “You are a very valuable employee, and I know you want the best for the company AND your family.” Now he can move into talking about his bad habit. “I understand that sometimes circumstances make it so that you are late. What will you do to arrive early to work from now on?”
Friction builds heat and when aptly used, it warms and soothes.
4. State the Facts
Once you have their attention, and they realize something is amiss, state only the facts — without any stories about those facts. Be clear and concise, making only one or two points. For example, the fact is that work starts at 8:00 a.m. and this employee habitually arrives at 8:10 a.m. This is a fact.
The stories about those facts sound like, “You stay up too late at night. You should go to bed earlier. You don’t plan enough driving time.” … and so forth. It may be useful to write down your facts before you face the other person.
HINT: Avoid the words always and never. “You’re always late to work” isn’t always true.
5. Be Clear About Your Expectations
Now go for the outcome that you desire. State what you would rather see happening. This gives the other person a choice. They can change or not. It’s up to them.
As a teenager, one of my children didn’t want to follow our family curfew rules. They naturally desired to be independent. However, I don’t want to stay up all night worrying about their safety. So, I clearly let them know that they were to be home by midnight, no matter what. Of course, this opens up the conversation about emergencies and not paying attention to the time when you’re having fun, right? So, I gave them a 15-minute buffer by asking that they call me if they were going to be later than 15 minutes.
6. Establish Consequences
Once you set up an expectation, it is imperative that you establish a consequence. With employees, maybe there is a warning system or another job that would be better suited to their circumstances. Once you have established the expectation, you can explore the options and consequences of their choice so that they know what will happen with whatever choice they make.
With my children, the choice I gave them was that they need be home by midnight, or I would come find them at 12:16 a.m. (Yes, children will test you to see if you are serious.) Being a woman of my word, it only takes once for them to find out that I WILL come find them. The positive consequence is that we all get a good night’s rest.
Although you may not relish confrontation, believing in the goodness of others can make the experience more enjoyable. It makes breathing a lot easier, too.