A lot of clients I work with avoid confronting people when something is bothering them about what they are doing. The most common reason they avoid doing it, is because they have a fear around confrontation. Unfortunately avoiding confrontation is a confidence drainer. There are many fears people have about confrontation such as; I may explode, I may upset the other person, I am being too sensitive, what if they hate me or stop talking to me. Do any of these sound familiar to you? I too used to fear confrontation.
I used to believe that if I confronted someone it meant there was going to be an argument or I would make the other person angry. So I would avoid confrontations all together. But what usually ended up happening is that I would get more and more resentful of that person and the anger would build up. I would keep looking for that person to make another wrong move. I would collect evidence to build my case and then one day when I had enough I would explode. Needless to say that never worked for me!
I also had another pattern, I would not say anything to the other person and as time went on I would avoid them and eventually remove them from my life. But I realized that I was not dealing with the issue, I was not being responsible. I also did not learn anything from running away. I was cutting people out of my life that I did not always want to cut out. A simple conversation could have changed the whole dynamic of our relationship. I remember I used to get so upset with myself for not speaking up and taking a stand. My self-confidence and self esteem always took a blow, it was a vicious cycle. It does not have to be like this for you. I am going to share with you what I use and teach others to effectively deal with confrontation.
First let’s get to the bottom of some of misconceptions about confronting people. First many believe it will turn into an argument and someone will get angry. Another misconception is that it is a power struggle, someone is going to win and someone is going to surrender. Anger does not have to be an outcome of communicating to someone that something is upsetting or bothering you. No one has to lose you can create a win win situation.
I am going to use an example from a client I was working with recently. My client was having a lot of problems with one of her renters. Her renter was 2 months behind on her rent and was not following-up with my client’s calls or emails until days and weeks later. My client expressed to me that she was upset but that she did not want to confront her renter because she had a fear of confrontation. At first she made up excuses for her renter to avoid having a conversation. “She is really busy, I know she has a lot on her plate right now.” But the longer my client avoided dealing with the issue the more it got out of control and she was not taking responsibility for the situation. What was stopping my client was her fear of making her renter angry by confronting her and dealing with her own anger toward the renter.
My client was taking on the responsibility of how her renter would respond emotionally to their conversation. This is a great demonstration of how invalid your fears are and how they can trick you. You can not control another person’s feelings or reactions to you. People choose how they are going to react and how they feel toward a situation. Also my client feared her own anger and did not want it to come out in her conversation. Her fear had her believe that if she confronted her renter, her anger would definitely come out, which is an invalid.
My client had a belief that the conversation was going to be uncomfortable and like a battle. She even prepared herself by saying “I have to be strong and take a stand for myself and tell her that I am angry.”
During our call I helped her realize that she could communicate with her renter in a way that expressed the problem they are having with out it being confrontational or argumentative. Here is how I coached her, I suggested she just point out the facts of what has happened over the last 3 months to her renter. Acknowledge they had an agreement and that is has not been upheld by her renter and the impact of that her lack of commitment has had. I helped her to recognize the difference between what actually happened and the facts, rather than going into her story about how her renters behavior was making her feel angry, and trying to make her renter wrong. I had her outline why what has been happening does not work and then come up different solutions to the problem.
By the end of our session my client felt empowered and less stressed about going into the conversation with her renter. Before our call she had an expectation that the conversation with her renter would be a difficult and cause unwanted emotions. After our call she got to see how she could communicate what she wanted and need without attacking or judging her renter.
Being assertive and confronting someone can be done with ease and effortlessly if you use the communication tools I demonstrated above. When you simply stick to the facts and address what has happened and why it does not work for you it takes the blame game and pointing the finger out of the conversation. When this approach is taken the person listening will be more open to hear what you have to say and will feel less defensive.
In the past you have attempted to talk with someone about a problem you are having with them and you get caught up in your story, you start talking about how they made you feel and pointing out what they are doing to you. It is all about you and becomes a poor me attitude.
You can express your emotions and what you are feeling as a result of a behavior or situation but just make sure you take responsibility for your emotions. Do not say to the other person “you made me feel this way or when you did this I got angry.” A better way to say this is “when this happened, it occurred to me that you were trying take advantage of me and I got angry.” “I am not saying that is what you intended to upset me, but that is how it occurred to me.” See how you are taking responsibility for your feelings and reactions it is much different than pointing the finger.
See when you say what happened and then take responsibility for how you felt as a response to it, it takes the blame off of the other person. Most times people do not even know what they are doing or how they are being is causing you so much grief and frustration. Also no one likes being blamed by another person for something. Pointing the finger and blaming another person only alienates them and puts them on the defensive. So the fear you have about them getting angry may end up happening, they will get angry and attack back if you point fingers and blame.
If you are willing to take responsibility for the way you communicate about something that is bothering you, you will most likely have a productive conversation with a resolution. No matter how the other person responds to you, if you address your fears and be responsible for your communication, you will feel confident and empowered about how you handled the situation. Acknowledge that you do not need to avoid conversations with people that address uncomfortable issues. That only drains your confidence and builds up resentment toward the other person and yourself.
Copyright (c) 2007 Melisa Milonas LLC