The word confront is rooted in Latin and means: To turn one’s face toward something or someone.
But nobody likes confrontation. We fear it will break relationships or add more harm or result in anger. But more often than not, it’s just because we don’t know how to handle confrontation safely.
So, when might confrontation be helpful? Let’s say you have a friend who is vulgar and it’s damaging his reputation. Or maybe your sister is always making disrespectful comments about her husband to her friends. Or your colleague is always late to your meetings and you’re beginning to build resentment.
The longer you wait to confront someone, the worse the problem will get.
For example, just yesterday my good friend pulled me aside and said, “Dale you were really harsh with your words to him earlier. It made me feel uncomfortable and it probably hurt his feelings.”
Ouch. I felt like an idiot for a moment, but realized his statement was founded in love and will ultimately grow me as a person.
In my experience, here are four questions that have provided me the clarity needed to move forward with confrontation.
1. Will confronting this person preserve love?
2. Will confronting this person resolve disconnection or building resentment?
3. Will confronting this person empower or build them up?
4. Will confronting this person solve problems that will likely get worse?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these, you might just have a confrontation on your hands. But as we all know, there’s not a real pretty way of telling someone they have a booger on their face. So I’ve put together a short list of steps to help you remove the resentment, help each other grow, and gain the ability to have healthy conflict that won’t destroy your relationships.
Remember, confrontation is about reconciliation and awareness, not judgment or anger.
1. Ask Permission
Before you open a potential can of worms, softly ask the person if you could have a conversation about something that is bothering you. This puts them in control and allows them to prepare emotionally for what is to come.
2. Do it in person
In our generation, we often use social media and email as a surface-level way to stay connected to friends. But a relationship that is struggling or gearing up for a healthy confrontation should never be handled in digital format. As you likely know, any conflict seems much worse when you read it. Furthermore, there is a good chance the responder will feel attacked or judged. Social media and email is a great way to stay connected, but face-to-face communication is the only way to gain reconnection.
3. Converse, don’t lecture
In Proverbs, there’s a verse that says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” There’s nothing more harsh than someone lecturing you on your behavior. Instead, sit at eye level, intently listen, be warm and available, and most importantly, be willing and ready to feel uncomfortable.
Be careful on how you use your words. Stay away from “you need to…” Rather, use this formula, “when you do ‘A’, it makes me feel ‘B’.” And expect them to be defensive and even to divert the attention elsewhere. Be strong enough to bring the conversation back to the issue.
At the end, clarify expectations, apologize for your part or any pain you may have caused, and thank them for allowing you to speak with them.
It’s relationships like these that will provide the depth and connection your soul truly desires. There’s nothing easy about it. But you’ll be better for it.
How have you handled confrontation in the past? Do you have any tips? Let me know in the comments below.Awesome photo by Lightstock