Worried about confronting someone? Here are some tips:
I always used to think I was very confrontational but I am actually a pretty good conflict avoider. I’m less afraid of conflict and more of an “I don’t want to deal with this, I’ll just get over it” type avoider, but an avoider nonetheless. This is mostly because I grew up with a lot of anger issues and suppressing it was my first attempt at learning to ‘control it’. That suppression was a way to cage a part of me that I was afraid or ashamed to let others see. Over time I’ve developed strategies to support myself so that I can suppress when it makes sense to, and also confront things head on when it needs to happen.
There are a lot of conflict avoiders out there and one day I will make a course for you all, but for today a few of my trusted tips will have to suffice!
Worried about confronting someone? Here are some tips:
-Search for confirmation of your worries. Ask yourself: What evidence supports my concerns?
This one is a biggie.
Has this person responded negatively before? Have I had bad outcomes with this person in the past? Am I going by rumours and assumptions or by behaviour I have actually witnessed and/or heard from a reliable source? Am I projecting past negative experiences? Is my usual tendency to avoid conflict or potentially difficult dialogue? There is definitely something to be said for trusting your intuition but make sure it is your intuition talking rather than your fear (fear as a stress response, fear of the unknown or fear of lack of control). Confronting someone is scary because we ultimately cannot control the outcome, which freaks people out, and causes them to avoid doing it. When we’re in a state of fear we are often not rooted in the present so look for clues such as habitual responses, catastrophizing, black and white thinking, anxiety/shutting down, etc.
-If you’re going to confront someone, be intentional about it and set intentional time:
Rather than catching someone off guard or going in from a reactive place (which usually happens if we wait until we explode), it can help to let someone know in advance that you want to set aside time to talk with them about something that has been bothering you. Sometimes it can be reassuring or make sense to let that someone know what the topic of conversation will be about. This gives both parties time to prepare both emotionally, psychologically and physically.
-Get specific on your needs and expectations:
What would you like the outcome of this conversation to be? What topics would you like to cover? Do you have any expectations from the other person? What do you need in order to feel able to move forward (acknowledgement? apology? next steps?). Going in prepared and being able to express your needs directly and clearly will help make the dialogue feel more manageable. You cannot control how the other person(s) will respond but you can feel more in control and present by being more prepared. Forget everything you want to say when it’s your turn to speak? Make some notes. I’ve done it. It’s not a speech so why memorize it?
-Prepare for multiple possible outcomes:
“Expect the worst” or “Think positive”. Well, I vote for neither because I think people should be prepared for multiple possible outcomes in order to not be completely crushed with disappointment or going in with only negative or spiralling thoughts. The reality is it might go well or it might not. You might be surprised if they respond well, you might be disappointed if they don’t. What might you need if things don’t go as you expect them to? Do you need to have someone on call as a support? Will you need time afterwards to process alone? It’s really important to get comfortable with the fact that certain elements will always remain outside your control. We cannot force the outcome we want to see. All you can do is do your best. This mindset can be really freeing from some and incredibly difficult for others.
-Boundaries are great. Set some boundaries:
Before the confrontation: set a time limit if you have trouble getting out of conversations when you want to. Meet in a space that will feel safe. What do you need to make this experience feel more mangeable when it’s happening (breaks? check ins? snacks? fidget toys? a friend nearby you can call?). Do you need to not be in each other’s presence post dialogue (ex, having the dialogue at work but then being stuck in the space together afterwards or having to go to work immediately after the dialogue)? Think about boundaries that will support getting your needs met.
After the confrontation: depending how it went, set more boundaries on how you will communicate going forward. Some times those post confrontation boundaries need to be set or reassessed after a bit of solo/support processing and settling (our feelings often change after the initial rush of adrenaline of those primary feelings). Setting boundaries is often really reassuring in moving forward because it outlines what’s okay and what’s not okay removing that ‘unknown what now’ anxiety.
To me, assertive confrontation is done best when iIm present, aware of my feelings and needs, and also feel safe and prepared enough to actually be able to have a dialogue (remember the other person will also probably have opinions, feelings, needs, boundaries, etc) and if i’m not prepared to accept that, I may need to wait and prepare a little longer. The above tips help me get to that place and I hope it helps you too. You got this and I’m already so proud of you for trying, no matter the outcome!