Do You Hate Confrontation?

Man and woman arm wrestlingOk, so you hate confrontation.

The word confrontation has its origins from the Latin words for “together” and “forehead”. Originally, it meant simply “to come face-to-face”. Over time, it has come to have the meaning of “an open conflict of opposing ideas, forces, etc.,” or even, “the act of hostile groups opposing each other”.

Most people will say that they hate confronting another person so badly that they’d rather give a speech in front of a hostile audience.

Are you one of them?

I know I am. But, as the manager of teams in corporate America, I had to learn how to cope with it. I’ve had people threaten to jump out of windows, go after co-workers with knives and come into the office high on drugs and threatening their co-workers with bodily harm. I had to cope.

If you are, here is a simple approach to conflict resolution that will enable you to approach any problem with minimum discomfort. There will be none of the big blow ups that get you nowhere.

Confrontation is about looking at issues and solving problems rather than about telling someone off or setting them straight.

It directly affects the outcome of a situation. After all, no one can read your mind or understand how you feel unless you speak up. And, it is a way to help the parties feel better about themselves.

There are three steps in the process:

Step 1: Prepare with care

Define the problem by stating the facts in an un-emotional fashion. That can be hard at times, but try to do so as well as you are capable.

For example, you are working with someone who didn’t complete an assignment and you had to do so for her. The facts are: you had to work 5 hours extra in order to complete the assignment. As a result, you missed your son’s game. You are furious at this person because you got stuck with the extra work.

Do some self-examination. Ask yourself a series of helpful questions. Did your own behavior contribute to the unpleasantness of the situation? Questions like the ones below can be helpful:

  1. What does this situation remind me of?
  2. How have I handled similar issues in past?
  3. What is my pattern when situations like this happen?

Express the problem in a clear, calm way. Do not blame and don’t include everything that you’ve been holding back in the last year.

Step 2: Offer an invitation to talk

Make the offer to the other person to discuss the issues.

Again, leave the emotions behind and, if necessary, wait for the time when you are past the storm of emotion and can ask calmly.

Step 3: Practice no-blame listening and talking

Present thoughts prepared in the first step. Stay calm and do not blame or accuse. Say, for instance, “I may not have all the information, but here is what I think is happening.” Ask about their point of view. Ask them what they think is happening.

Listen. Really listen to what they say. If you are mentally reloading to let them have it, you are not really listening. Reflect back what you have heard. It’s one of the best techniques to ensure you are really listening.

Ensure that your emotions are out of the picture. Whatever the resolution, it needs to focus on tasks and goals. Focusing on who is guilty or did what to whom defeats the purpose. You need to get to, Who does What by When Communication.

If the confrontation is personal, you need to express your emotions, that’s for sure. Do so as calmly and clearly as you can. Express them in terms what emotions their actions evoked.

Do not leave problems to fester. Discuss any issue that comes as soon as it does.

How do you deal with confrontations? Let me know by leaving a comment.


Lilia Lee is the owner and founder of Simplify and Manage. She is an expert on business process development and process improvement with 20 years experience in the field, working at major corporations. Prior to this experience, she was the Controller & CIO of a marine insurance company. She has a B.Sc. in Accounting from Hunter College of CUNY and a J.D. from NY Law School. She is a certified coach from Coach Training Alliance.

Simplify and Manage is a company dedicated to helping business owners simplify, to get things done. We use our system to plan, implement, take appropriate action, evaluate any process, project or money-making idea. And then, we manage the ongoing operations of the business.


1 Comment

  1. Lana on August 29, 2012 at 1:47 am

    Confrontations can be difficult, especially for someone who used to be a people pleaser. I like your advice, very simple and pacifical. This information will certainly help people speak up for themselves. Thank you Lilia.

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