The Art of Confrontation

This sent from my friend, Chuck Keortge, adapted from the works of John Maxwell.  

It is certainly true that there are not many people who enjoy the action of confrontation.  And, if there are some, probably when they do it is without much grace or humility.

Remember, whenever there is a confrontation it ought to be for a justified reason and never for something insignificant.

There are various methods that can be used when it is necessary to confront.

The person who has the most success in confrontation tries:

  • To express the type of relationship that he would like to have with the other person.  It can be an opportunity to say in concrete terms that he believes that there is value and dignity in the relationship and he desires for it to continue, even to grow.  It is also and opportunity to say that the expectations being discussed are not part of the relationship.
  • To clarify the roots of the problem.  Many times it is true that the other person already knows the reason for the confrontation.  In this case it is very easy to ask, “And why do you think we are talking today?”  Even if the exact words of the reason are restated it is a good opportunity to repeat them and to call attention to the fact that the desired end of the confrontation will be in positive direction. Before beginning it is useful to say, “Good. Then we are in agreement.”  If there is no agreement on the topic, the one leading the confrontation ought to use the opportunity to listen carefully to the concerns of the other and conclude by stating clearly what will be discussed, at least at this meeting.
  • To indicate what are the values and goals that are held in common. It is important that the solution be based on agreement and affirmative goals.
  • To remind the other party, and this can be the most important part, and the most difficult, that for every action there is a consequence.  For good actions there are good consequences and that for poorly and unwisely chosen actions the consequence can be discipline.  You can move forward after you both agree that no one desires the discipline.
  • To say clearly from one to three things that can be done immediately or very soon after the meeting that can be done for the one confronted to be able to demonstrate his desire to comply.
  • To observe the desire to change behaviors and to acknowledge the positive action by a smile, a kind word, or through some other concrete affirmative gesture.  Do not use this affirmative moment to go back over the undesired behavior. 
  • To not become angry.  Anger has little value in these situations.  There are those who when confronted who look on those who get angry as being the loser in the confrontation.  Of course, the goal is not to injure anyone.
  • To avoid impulsive or compulsive comments or body language. Also avoid sarcasm  or condescension. The one confronting must keep in mind that just because a thought crosses his mind does mean that it should be spoken.
  • To allow silence or a pause or rest be a part of the process.  This often allows for the clearing of the thought process and for emotions to subside.
  • To restate the specific purpose of the meeting and return to it if it is off-course.
  • To use praise as an indispensible tool. Remember, discipline is not a goal; it is a method.
  • To point out that in change of attitude, education, cooperation and negotiation there can be hope for improvement.
  • To evaluate, before, during, or after, how many times will the confrontation process be necessary.  If more will be necessary do not give the impression that after one time everything is settled. In deed, it may be better to set a date for a follow-up before concluding.
  • To remember that the entire process will lose much of its effectiveness if there is no positive individual attention given by the one who initiated the confrontation to reinforce the demonstrated positive change during the next few days and weeks.
  • To remind the one being confronted that accountability is the process and that  resolution is the goal.
  • To conclude the entire process by some certain date and concrete expression that the terms of the confrontation/discipline have been successfully met.  This will formally remove the one confronted from under his cloud of discipline.
  • To show appropriate recognition and congratulations.
  • To be happy and satisfied when there is resolution and let it be in the past.

It is advised that the term “confrontationnot be used as part of the process.  Rather use meeting, session, time to talk, or other euphemism that is less abrasive or threatening. Parts of this process as outlined may be omitted or modified as necessary.

C. Keortge/2010

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