Let me begin by giving a snippet of background behind my confrontation transformation:
How can I put this? I used to be such a scardy cat. It’s shameful, honestly. I used to be afraid of confrontation with my own family and friends, let alone anyone else in the universe. The pure thought of conflict made me tear up. Until I got roommate. Actually, that’s not true. I was the bestest quietest roommate for two years. Then, junior year of college I moved into a 3 bedroom townhouse with 4 other girls. Since I have always been the “mothering” type, I instantly filled the role of house mom. With handing all the bills, rent, landlord communications, etc, etc, also came conflict. One roommate in particular was a girl who I had just recently become friends with. Despite my future husband’s intuitive warnings, I invited her to live with us. She ended up being worse than the roommate we found online. The roommate we found online ended up suffering from bipolar disorder and also “suffered” from being “hangry” (when you get angry because you’re hungry) All. the. time. When, “Sorry I was so hangry earlier…” starts being your go-to excuse, it’s no longer a thing anymore.
Anyway. Between these two jokers and the fact that when you have 5 college girls in a 1200 sq. ft. townhouse, drama is going to go down sooner or later (or before you even move in). The very first time my confrontation skills were put to the test was when Miss Hangry napped and insulted my very sweet, very non-confrontational, great friend, Ash, and made her cry. Not. Cool. So, mama bear mode kicked in and I went downstairs, held back the tears, and told her to go up and apologize to Ashley for what she said and told her that if she wanted to be a part of our home she needed to be kind and treat the others girls with respect. I kept my cool until I returned to my room, cried a little from the stress, and then basked in my first little confrontational victory.
It was then that I realized I could change this HUGE fear that had been controlling my life for so long. Life is FULL of conflict and confrontation and uncomfortable circumstances and we NEED to learn how to work through those things to get the best possible outcome. Since then, my mama bear super power has only gotten stronger. Here’s what I’ve learned to deal with confrontation and conflict to get the best possible outcome:
The first thing you will ALWAYS need to do is understand the whole story. We’ve all seen people on YouTube or real life ranting about an issue they only know one part of, and end up making themselves look silly because their rant is for nothing or no one takes them seriously because we all know that they don’t know what they’re talking about, right? My point is, you can’t make an argument or point without knowing the facts. Save your pride and reputation and make knowing the facts a priority.
Give the benefit of the doubt
This is also so important if you’re going to be addressing an issue with an individual. In my confrontation story above, before I told Miss Hangry that she had been rude, I also said, “I’m not sure what kind of day you’ve had, but even if you’ve had a bad day, it’s not ok to talk to people like that.” Just that little phrase made it so that she was waaay less defensive than she normally would have been. We, as human beings, almost always will judge and give excuses for ourselves based on our intentions and our own circumstances but will judge others based on their actions and hold them to higher standards than we hold ourselves. If you let a person know that you understand their intentions and their circumstances, they will feel much safer to be vulnerable and honest, rather than defensive.
This is a great way to learn the circumstances! Try not to interrogate and be mindful of privacy and boundaries, but trying to get a bigger picture will help the other person feel less judged and more understood if they’re allowed to get their side of the story out.
I know that sometimes when someone does something wrong, we tend to think, “How could they have done that?” or “Why are they acting that way, doing that thing?” and have the mindset that we would never do something like that. Instead, if you want to make a connection and avoid backlash from the person you’re confronting, verbally admit to them that you’re not perfect! Maybe even give an example of something you’ve done in the past that was similar and why you had to change your actions. Nothing makes me more defensive than when my husband, a family member, whoever confronts me from what at the time seems like a pretty high horse. Level with them, be real, be nice, and then say what you gotta say.
Since confrontation is still not my favorite thing (I admit it- sometimes I still have to hold back the tears) and I also can come to it with an angry attitude, I like to spend time in prayer before the difficult conversation. I ask God to guide my words, keep me humble, bring the love, humble the person I’m talking to and help them to hear me out, and of course, bring resolution and restoration!
First, be mindful of your goal
I know first hand that many times with confrontation comes anger and hurt feelings. But if we enter the confrontation conversation with the thought, “She/he needs to know that what she/he did was wrong!” and nothing more than that, we’re just paving the way to severed relationships, hurt feelings, drama, and a bunch of crap that isn’t very nice. Instead, let your goal be to restore a hurt relationship, improve a person’s habits, resolve a conflict, or whatever the issue is. Go into it to fix something, not prove something.
Sometimes this is needed to let a person know that you don’t think they’re completely awful. Because people, girls and guys, can be sensitive. Sometimes they just need to be reminded that they’re not a complete failure, we do like them, they just need to change one little thing. That’s it.
Example: “Hey Roommate #2! So I was told you weren’t very kind to my pal Ashley a little while ago and I just felt like I should come down here and let you know that that’s really not ok. We really gotta stick together and be nice to each other, ok? Anyway, I still think you’re a great roommate and you’re a beast at making cookies. We cool?”
See how a little compliment and a reminder that we don’t think they’re the worst can totally smooth things over? Give it a try. It works like magic.
Be honest about how it made you feel
I’ve read this from so many marriage books but it works in any kind of relationship! Some people are just oblivious that their words or actions can hurt the people around them and a little wakeup call reminder that people have feelings is sometimes just what people need to hear.
(Read: The Huge Problem in Every Marriage that No One Talks About!)
Again, do this in kindness, but be really honest!
Example: “Hey Jenny, I know you meant that as a joke but it actually ended up hurting my feelings a bit. Would you mind laying off the blonde jokes for a while?”
Tell them you care (and why you care)
Another way to connect with the person you’re having that tough conversation with is to help them understand that you care about them and let them know why it’s important to you that they change their actions. This could sound something like, “I really feel like when you act this way, you’re hurting our relationship and I care so much about you and I want things to be the best they can be.” Telling the person that you care and why you care will allow them to realize that the issue doesn’t just stop at them, it may very well be affecting others. Even if they are only affecting themselves, simply knowing that you’re confronting them because you care will motivate them to change much more than if they feel like they’re being judged.
If it’s not a big deal, don’t make it a big deal.
If it is a big deal, let them know how you feel.
Sometimes we can tend to go off the deep end with confrontation. From time to time, it’s ok to let things go. Not every issue needs to be brought up or even changed. Sometimes the other person may just be stepping on your personal preferences and it’s really not as issue with them as much as it’s just differing preferences. Try to look at the situation objectively and decide if it’s really something that has to change or if it’s something that can be lived with.
However, if you decide that the issue does need to be brought up, let them know why you decided to bring it up, what needs to change, and suggest how they can go about changing the behavior. Have clear and reasonable expectations and always try to be forgivable and rational. Try to see the situation from the subject’s point of view and, as always, act in love and kindness.
Got any good conflict resolution stories? How’d you handle the conflict? Let me know what’s worked for you in the comments below!
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Great and informative post! I think listening is definitely something people need to do more when facing a conflict…I know it’s something I could work on as well 🙂
Clothes & Quotes
It’s so important to look inward while dealing with a confrontation. I was just in a meeting today where a coworker could not accept the fact that he had done something wrong. It’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you learn and grow from them!
Angela Tolsma says
Oh gosh, I tend to blow up when I need to confront but it happens to rarely. Great ideas, being honest is so important.
Sandy Mangis says
These are great tips, and it fits well. My Wednesday is tip day. I know confrontation is so hard and I know how it is when you have a lot of college women under one roof. I lived in a Sorority House. Try that with 50+. Good points to share with all.
I know confrontation is hard but so essential for a healthy relationship. The thing I have noticed about people who do not confront is that bottle up emotions and eventually blow up, your tips are really on point!!
xx, Kusum | http://www.sveeteskapes.com
Rachel G says
Really good advice! Conflict is unavoidable, so it’s worth doing well!
Jill @ RunEatSnap says
I am TERRIBLE at confrontation. My entire family is very passive so we all avoid confrontation like the plague. Luckily there is very little drama in the family but when it comes to friends, boyfriends, co-workers, classmates, etc. I am just terrible at telling people when I’m upset, saying no to anything, and basically I keep it all bottled up inside until I just explode on someone. Confrontation usually leads to a lot of anxiety and a lot of tears. I need to learn how to control the emotions because it always comes out in a teary, gasping for air between each sentence, awkward situation 🙁
Great advise…conflict is something you cannot avoid but by following these advises, it may avoid a lot of ill-feeling against each other.
This is great! I didn’t transition from scaredy cat to one of the more aggressive cats in the animal kingdom (lion, maybe?) until I was in my late 20s. I was never afraid of confrontation with a stranger or even a casual friend, but the thought of conflict/confrontation with someone I love, whether dear friend or family, is something I just never wanted to deal with. But after I got through my very first confrontation with my best friend—and survived with my friendship still in tact—I realized it’s actually not that scary. 🙂
It is a good idea to be as thought-out and deliberate about it as you’ve outlined. Gotta get those ducks in a row to execute it in a way that’s productive.
dixya @ food, pleasure, and health says
omg..today i had to deal with a confrontational stuff at work due to some misunderstanding..so reading all the tips, i am mentally asking myself if i applied of those. im also not the most confrontational person but today, it had to go down to clear out confusion..and i am soo glad/relieved that it went better than i had expected. i think telling that person that you care and explaining why you did what you did..and being honest about it helps so much..
Thank you for this! I hate confrontation and have been working to get better at it. It’s scary! I recently got engaged and I recognize that confrontation is normal and will happen, especially in marriage relationships. Often times I feel inadequate at it, so thank you for some tools to help me improve! So glad I stumbled upon your blogs. I have a feeling they’re going to be helpful for me as I step into this newly-wed role.