Confronting is not my favorite pastime. In fact, I am notorious for complaining about situations to the wrong people. As a child, instead of confronting my friends, I would complain to my mother about them. One day, she jolted me back into reality when she said, “Heather, do you like any of your friends?” Of course I liked them… I loved them! Unfortunately, my fear of conflict and my accommodator and abdicator tendencies prevented me from addressing the right people.
Have you ever practiced confrontation (or perhaps telling someone off) in the bathroom mirror only to lose your nerve and back down in the moment? Yeah, that was me. “You talkin’ to me? Well, I’m the only one here. Go ahead… make my day.”
Strategies for an Effective Confrontation
The six concepts below are chapter titles from the Strategies for an Effective Confrontation section of Deborah Smith Pegues’ book, Confronting Without Offending. Consider each important step before confronting someone.
1. Preparing for the Encounter
“Confront yourself first.” I like this advice. Before the face-to-face talk, ask yourself the purpose of the confrontation. Do you want to improve your relationship? Do you want him or her to stop a behavior which is bothering you? Do you want him or her to stop behavior which is harming himself/herself? If your motive is to stick it to someone, you should probably prayerfully reconsider the confrontation until you have established a positive, healthy reason to move forward with it.
Deborah also recommends selecting the right time and place. A shouting match in Olive Garden is not an appropriate approach, time, or place. Consider where you can both be open, where distractions will be at a minimum, and at a time which is stress free for both of you.
Lastly, be sure to deal with your anger first. If you approach someone and you are still so mad you can barely speak, your conversation will go nowhere fast. We humans have a knack for getting defensive when we see that someone is angry with us. Surely we cannot be the problem. ~smile~
2. Owning the Problem
Don’t use phrases like “Those of us at the office all feel….” When you are confronting someone, speak for yourself. “I feel manipulated when you…” or “I feel insulted when you...” Be confident and sure of your decision to confront and once you are confronting, do not allow other factors (people, cold feet, etc.) to talk you out of it. Again, be cognizant of when to confront. Timing is important!
3. Speaking the Right Words
Time for a brilliant quote by Deborah! “Tone is the external manifestation of your current state of mind.” Love it! I cannot count the number of times I have said and heard “It isn’t what you said, it’s how you said it!” Suppose your sweetheart walked up to you with clenched teeth and said, “I love you.” Would you believe him? I probably would not!
In addition to tone, it is important to be specific about your concerns when you confront others. It is also important to use constructive criticism instead of harsh, contemptuous criticism and to use “the sandwich approach.” In the sandwich approach, you open with a positive, end with a positive, and address the situation in between.
For example: “Cindy, I really want you to know how much I appreciate all of your effort on this ministry project. I’m concerned that the other volunteers do not know who to report to because you have begun to take a leadership approach. To eliminate confusion, I believe it is best if decisions go through me on this particular project. Your help has been invaluable and I hope we can work together on future ministerial endeavors.”
Ask anyone who has ever been on the Adkins’ Diet and they will tell you that meat goes down so much better with bread. ~smile~
Most of us could use additional training in listening. We are so busy trying to get our points across that we do not shut up and listen.
Wife: “Honey, I really think that side job is hurting our family time.”
Husband: “I agree… that’s why I quit today.”
Wife: “After all, you are gone at dinner time, on weekends, and we had to cancel our vacation… all for what, an extra $600 a month?”
Husband: “Exactly, so I gave my notice today.”
Wife: “What possessed you to take this job in the first place? We aren’t rich, but we’re doing fine!”
Husband: “I said, I QUIT!”
Wife: “Why are you yelling at me? It is bad enough that you are never here – and when you are here, you have the nerve to yell at me?”
Obviously this frazzled wife is not listening. If she had hushed for five seconds, she would have heard him and she would have been elated! But she was so intent on making her point that she completely missed what he had to say – which was just exactly what she wanted him to say!
In confrontation, we need to be sure to listen and hear the other person. Often, there are other pieces of the puzzle we need to understand. Sometimes, those pieces change the picture completely! We should not assume the worst of the person we are confronting. Even if we have suspicions that he or she purposely set out to hurt us, we should not jump to conclusions. First, we need to get the whole story. On the other hand, when we are confronted by others, we need to be ready to explain… and humbly.
5. Negotiating Future Behavior
This book is packed with awesome quotes. Here is another quote I love: “Emotions and rational thinking work very much like a seesaw; when one side is high, the other is low.” It is important to keep emotions in check so that discussions can be fruitful. Once the tears start flowing and voices raise, rationality and communication skills often go missing.
When discussing how to change behavior for the future, it is important to look for a solution that suits everyone. “Cindy, you have such a heart for children. Why don’t you take charge of the next few children’s events and I will stick to running the women’s ministry?” If a solution is not forthcoming, it is wise to ask another person (someone who understands the situation and who can be impartial) to mediate. If no resolution can be found, some time away from each other may help. Sometimes we cannot see the forest for the trees.
Even though pride is a bear, it is important to admit our faults. Others respect us more when we are open and honest about our shortcomings instead of constantly trying to prove our innocence. Do not exhaust yourself trying to be right all the time. Face up to your mistakes and restore your relationships. Always being right is choosing to be lonely.
6. Releasing the Offender
Forgiveness is not something we simply wish into existence. God gives us the power to forgive. Sometimes God uses adversity and pain from others to help us grow and advance. Consider Joseph: had his brothers loved and accepted him, would they have sold him as a slave? Had he not been sold and taken to Egypt, would he have later become second in command to Pharaoh and saved Israel throughout the seven-year famine?
Something I have struggled to balance is the line between forgiveness and allowing myself to be hurt twice. Yes, with God’s grace I can forgive someone for stealing from me, but I do not need to feel obligated to let her stay in my home when I am not around.
Even if the offender does not believe he or she needs forgiveness, God wants us to forgive anyway. Even though we have been hurt, the perpetrator cannot keep God from finishing the good work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).
We can smooth problems over for a while without forgiveness, but unless we release the person and let go of the anger, new issues (or the same issue) will keep springing up. Unless the thorn is removed and the wound healed, it will continue to irritate you… and it will probably become infected. Infections are serious and can be fatal if left untreated.
Will Reading Confronting Without Offending Help Me?
If you are in a relationship of any kind, romantic or otherwise (which should be all of us), I urge you to pick up Confronting Without Offending today! If you have are skilled at conflict resolution, you are likely to have better success in your interpersonal relationships.
Thanks again, Deborah, for making this information available to us! I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about myself, how I relate to Eric, and how to resolve conflicts more effectively!
Are you currently employing the strategies Deborah listed in your confrontations?