Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Steps to Constructive Confrontation

For most of us, confrontation is not our favorite thing to do. But often we avoid it to our harm and to the destruction of relationships.

How would you describe yourself when it comes to confrontation?
  • I rarely confront anyone about anything because it is very uncomfortable and I try to avoid anything unpleasant.
  • I fear the reaction from the person I need to confront and I don’t want to hurt his or her feelings, so I’m very reluctant to confront.
  • I feel so guilty about myself for so many reasons that I feel as though I don’t have a right to confront anybody about anything.
  • I only confront when I’m really angry, and then it comes out all wrong and causes greater problems.
  • I confront all the time, but I don’t stop to think about how I do it, so it often backfires on me.
Please note that we are talking about constructive confrontation, which obviously infers that not all confrontation is constructive. And it is true that much confrontation ends up making matters worse because it was not done for the right motivation and in the right way.

Have you ever confronted for one of these reasons?
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Selfishness
  • Watching out for “number one”
  • Lack of patience
Even if the confrontation was needed, the wrong motivation and approach would cause it to be a harmful confrontation rather than a constructive one.

Tips for Confronting
Once you’ve come to the conclusion that you truly need to confront a person about some situation, then you need to consider several important elements of a confrontation. Remember that confronting is by nature sensitive and delicate, and therefore needs to be thoughtfully approached. A reckless, speedy, unplanned confrontation can lead to disaster.

Choose the right time.
The timing of your confrontation is a critical point to consider. For example, none of these would be good times for confrontation:
  • You are upset and at the point of tears.
  • The “confrontee” is extremely busy this week.  
  • You spent a sleepless night worrying about it.
  • The “confrontee” just lost his/her job.
  • You are angry.
  • The “confrontee” has had a recent health problem.

Choose the right place.
Not only is the right time important, but the right place is as well. Which of these locations would seem conducive to a constructive confrontation?
  • The cafeteria at work
  • Your cubicle in the office
  • A conference room
  • A restaurant                                
  • In a meeting                                       
  • A private office
  • Over the phone      
  • The lobby at work or church                
  • In a home setting
Here are the basic things to remember in choosing the right place:
  • Choose a private place where you can have a one-on-one discussion without being overheard by others. In a work situation, you may want to consider the implication of calling someone into your office and shutting your door for a confrontation. That could be a signal to others that a confrontation is occurring, so even though it is in a private place, it may still need to be more discreet.
  • On the job, consider an off-site location. That is a good idea, especially in what you would consider “high profile” situations.
  • Consider confronting over a meal. It seems to break down some barriers when we share a meal with someone.
Avoid finger-pointing.
Avoid “finger-pointing” phrases, such as these:
  • You are never on time. . .                        
  • You’ve made the same mistake three times. . .
  • You don’t know how to do this. . .                       
  • You have difficulty getting along with your sister. . .
  • Your attitude is causing problems. . .       
  • You never listen to me. . .
  • You have had your way for too long. . .
Those are all finger-pointing phrases, and notice that they all begin with “You.”  Think of some words/phrases that don’t tend to have that “finger-pointing” flavor, such as:
  • "Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding. . ."
  • "I'm hoping you can help me understand. . ."
  • "If my information is correct. . .
Plan your words.
Proverbs 21:23 reminds us that: “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”

Guarding your words carefully is always important, but never more so than when you are confronting someone. How you say what you have to say will make a big difference in whether the confrontation is a success or a failure.

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