It wasn’t a big deal at first. The whole thing began innocently with buying tickets to the movies for a friend and her family. Then it was paying for several meals when they ate out together. Later it was a plea for help in paying their rent. Her friend promised to pay her back soon. After several months, the friend owed her over $1800 in rent payments, to say nothing of the meals and the movie tickets.
Then one day she found out that her friend and family had gone on a cruise. Plus she had bought a new big screen television with an expensive sound system. What!?!
Wait a minute! This is a relationship BREAKDOWN!
A breakdown is an opportunity for BREAKTHROUGH. You can be ticked off about it and avoid the situation altogether or you can confront this problem without fear and break through old barriers.
Why we dread confrontation
The thought of confronting someone brings up all kinds of emotions: fear, anxiety, worry, doubt and, in some cases, a downright sick feeling in your stomach. Why?
–You may have painful memories of past confrontations gone bad.
–Maybe you’re worried that emotions will get out of control.
–Or, could you be concerned about what will they think of you?
–Is there a fear that you will lose a friendship?
Wouldn’t it be nice if this problem “magically” worked itself out?
Avoiding confrontation is like sitting in an ice-cold bath. It will be uncomfortable until you decide to do something about it.
What are your choices?
1. Dive in, guns blazing, and kill the relationship.
2. Complain about it to others, creating a bad rap both of you.
3. Live with it and feel like a victim.
4. Never speak to that person again.
5. Confront the problem fearlessly and calmly.
Let’s go for option #5 and discover healthy boundaries, plus new, innovative approaches to dealing with problems. Taking responsibility for your part of the problem will give you a whole new set of tools, so situations like these are less likely to repeat themselves.
Besides, success and personal power depend on your ability to thrive in difficult situations. Think about it. Not all confrontations need to be negative. Friction builds heat and when aptly used, this heat can forge stronger relationships.
Here is how to address the problem with confidence.
#1 GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME
1. Pinpoint the facts
There are facts and then there are the stories about those facts. We make meaning out of everything, so sometimes it can be a challenge to separate reality from our stories and interpretations about those facts. Identify the facts by imagining yourself as a bystander or news reporter. Fact: She asked to borrow the money and you agreed to lend it to her.
2. Check out your story
“She’s such a loser” or, “I can’t believe I got suckered into this situation.” Both of those statements are your stories or negative judgments, but they are not facts. Take time to notice your feelings and interpretations about what happened.
3. Write or talk
If you need to differentiate between fact and feeling, consider writing about your feelings or expressing them to a committed listener. Warning! Don’t talk with people who will add fuel to the fire. Being self-righteous in order to get agreement 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 you even when you’re having a problem.
4. Put yourself in their shoes
Do you know the facts about where the other person coming from or what is going on with them? Not completely, so don’t try to figure it out for them. As you think about their situation, you will be better prepared to address their concerns. Ask yourself how you would like to be spoken to if you were in their position.
5. Look at how you are being
Think about how you want to be when you confront the other person. How you are “being” is very significant. The same words can be expressed in many different ways. Your job is to get clear of the emotions and into a state of love — for yourself and the other person.
Now your head is in the game. You’re ready!
#2 IDENTIFY YOUR INTENTION
The goal is to leave this confronting conversation with both of you feeling empowered and ready for a fresh new start. Consider what you would like to see happen as a result of this conversation.
In the case of the money owed by a friend, do you want all of the money to be paid back or are you willing to let some of it go? If you going to continue doing things together in the future, how will you handle movie tickets, restaurant meals, or a request for rent being paid? What will you say? How will you say it? Are you willing to accept $25 a month to pay you back? If so, when will the payments be made?
Whatever didn’t work in the past is over. Ask yourself what you would like to happen in the future. Be prepared to share your desires and expectations.
#3 BEGIN WITH A POSITIVE
Confrontation does not mean “fight.” Be fully committed to bringing the situation to a higher level. Rather than defending your position, set the tone for a positive discussion.
Begin by privately asking the person if you can talk to them. Set an appointment, if needed.
“I really value our friendship and I would like to talk to you. When is a good time?”
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.”
#4 START WITH THE FACTS
Remember to be clear and concise, making only a few simple points.
“Work starts at 8:00 a.m. and I notice that you usually arrive at 8:15 a.m.”
“You owe me $1800 and I would like you to pay it back.”
These are facts. Short and sweet.
Be rock-solid on the issues, and kind to the person. With as much care and respect as possible, reassure them of your commitment to the relationship.
#5 STATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
After you’ve identified the problem, clearly state the outcome that you desire. What is it that you would rather see happen?
“I understand that sometimes circumstances make it so that you are late. I’d like you to be working by 8:00 a.m. every day from now on.”
“I expect you to pay me back by September 1st. Let’s discuss ways that this can be done.”
Later, you may need to back it up with some data or supportive evidence. However, as you listen and share thoughts, seek to be open and as flexible as possible. Don’t take anything personally as you explore and express together.
We had a family curfew rule for our teenagers. They must be home by midnight, no matter what. For youth, this begs for a conversation about all the exceptions to the rule. “What about emergencies? What if I’m having fun and not paying attention to the time?”
My response is to first ask them what THEY think should happen in those situations. As I listen to their thoughts and desires, they are much more likely to listen to my own needs and wants (including sleep). Together, we came up with a 15-minute buffer. If they were going to be more than 15 minutes late, they agreed to call me.
In the future, don’t be afraid to restate the facts and your expectations. Work together to solve the problem so that everyone comes out a winner.
#6 DETERMINE THE CONSEQUENCES (and mean what you say)
Once you set up an expectation, it is imperative that you establish a consequence. You may promise yourself to never loan that person money again. 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 decision they make.
With my children, the consequence is that I will get in the car and 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 discover that I WILL come find them.
You are part of every relationship, so be responsible for your part and let others be accountable for their own.
#7 PRACTICE FEARLESS REASSURANCE
You are asking someone to change, so be willing to support them in your request. That doesn’t mean fixing it for them. It simply means being willing to discover new pathways. Change is about exploring new territory and a new way of doing things for at least one of you.
View confrontation as an adventure. Doing so takes courage. You can do this!