How to Confront Issues Without Being Confrontational

How to Confront Someone Without Being Confrontational

How to Confront Issues Without Being Confrontational

Confronting is an essential negotiation, conflict resolution, and problem-solving skill. Being confrontational, though, will usually do you more harm then help. Here’s a mediator’s tip for how to confront someone and raise an issue for discussion without being aggressive or argumentative.

When I want to confront someone about a concern but don’t want to come across as confrontational, I pull out this tool from my mediator’s toolbox:

Say what you’re seeing and check it out.

“Say what you’re seeing” means making an observation without loading it full of junk — diagnoses, judgments, and the . It’s naming and/or describing a behavior or circumstance that’s bothering you.

“Check it out” means finding out if what you’re noticing is accurate, what’s behind it, and the . It’s about checking out your observations before jumping to conclusions about them.

Translated into language you can use, the approach uses this phrasing:

Here’s what I’m noticing…and here’s what I’m wondering…

Say what you’re seeing: “Here’s what I’m noticing…”

“Here’s what I’m noticing” is a simple, straightforward, yet considerate way to be transparent about what’s on your mind.

I and use this phrasing because it doesn’t come across a statement of fact, label, or diagnosis. Those are apt to put someone on the defensive, after all. Instead,it’s just you wondering out loud and willing to be disproved.

Keep it short and sweet, because the longer you go on, the less it seems a wondering aloud and the more it seems a tirade. One sentence is enough. You can go into detail later.

Check it out: “…and here’s what I’m wondering”

“…And here’s what I’m wondering” is a gentle invitation, one that’s kind and direct at the same time. It’s not a demand or an ultimatum, and it discloses what’s on your mind without calling someone on the carpet.

Keep this short and sweet, too. Before you open your mouth, get clear on what you’re wondering and how you can say it succinctly. Make sure you’re not abusing the idea by using it to cast aspersions (“I’m wondering why you’re a jerk”), blame (“I’m wondering why you can never take responsibility”), or diagnose (“I’m wondering why you’re so passive-aggressive with me”).

What it sounds in practice

At work…

  • I’ve noticed that each time I request a meeting agenda, you roll your eyes. I’m wondering if there’s something you want to say to me about that? (Hat tip to Brenda.)
  • I’m noticing that things still seem tense between the two of you, even though you tell me you’ve worked things out. I’m wondering if I’m misinterpreting what I’m seeing…?
  • I’m noticing that your work has been a little off your usual high standard. I’m wondering if everything’s ok for you…?

At home…

  • I noticed you were unusually quiet before leaving for work this morning. I’m wondering if our disagreement last night is still on your mind…
  • I’m noticing the tension between us lately. I’m wondering if you’re noticing it too?
  • When we argue, I’ve noticed that you often say I started it. I’m wondering if that’s something you say in anger or if you really believe that to be the case…? (Alternatively: When we argue, I’ve noticed that you often say I started it. I’m wondering what I’m saying or doing that leads you to that conclusion.)

If you’re a mediator or coach…

  • I’m noticing that each time the conversation references an incident last summer, one or both of you change the topic. I’m wondering what that’s about…?
  • I noticed that you got very quiet when I gave you feedback. I’m wondering if I’ve inadvertently been too blunt with my feedback?
  • I’m noticing that each time you say X, her anger flares quite a bit. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed the strong negative reaction you’re getting to that language (more suitable for private session).

Dr. Tammy Lenski helps people resolve conflict in ongoing business and personal relationships and bring their “A” game to difficult conversations.

Since founding her NH-based conflict resolution firm Myriaccord LLC in 1997, Tammy has worked with individuals and organizations worldwide as a master mediator, executive coach, speaker, and educator.

Author of the award-winning book, Making Mediation Your Day Job, she recently received the Association for Conflict Resolution’s prestigious Mary Parker Follett award for innovative and pioneering work in her field. Her second book, The Conflict Pivot, was released in 2014.


What To Say (And What To Keep To Yourself) During A Confrontation

How to Confront Issues Without Being Confrontational

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” may have been true in an age when epithets were flung from children’s mouths on the playground, but in business–especially online–words pack a lot more punch.

When conflict arises in the workplace, and words are exchanged in the heat of the moment, it’s ly people aren’t choosing those words carefully.

That’s because our brains are working hard to protect us, even when we’re wrong or on the receiving end of criticism.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman says, “Threats to our standing in the eyes of others are remarkably potent biologically, almost as those to our very survival.”

Sharp words and criticism threaten our safety and security, which appear just above breathing, food, water, and shelter on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

But while part of our brain is busy scrambling to react to the threat, the original criticism hangs on in a different region.

According to numerous studies, our brains process negative data faster and more thoroughly, creating a “negative bias” that’s much more sticky than happy events or positive words.

Words can also be problematic during a confrontation for other reasons, according to Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Hill said one reason is because when negative emotions are stirred up, we stumble or say things we don’t mean.

Hill also believes that in those moments of disagreement, people get defensive and frame the issue in terms of who’s right and who’s wrong.

Finally, she says, people have trouble extracting the true meaning of what’s being said. When we hear words that contradict what we believe is true about ourselves, author Charles Jacobs says our reflex is to change the information, rather than ourselves.

It’s a challenge to keep your cool and say the right thing during a confrontation, but here are a few strategies that can help mitigate foot-in-mouth syndrome.

Just Shut Up

We know that our brains are also wired to reward us for communicating. As social animals, our survival depends on it. But Geoffrey Tumlin, communication consultant and author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating, says it’s often smart to play dumb: Hold your own tongue.

When someone is upset, the more you talk the angrier they get.

Tumlin told Fast Company that not responding immediately allows the person you’re talking to a little time to self-correct a half-baked observation and prevents an otherwise working relationship from being damaged.

Don’t Make It Personal

We are often advised not to take things personally when they happen in a professional setting. But it’s hard to swallow and remember that when a person confronts you. The next time a conflict arises, take a deep breath and choose words that clearly address the situation, and not the other person (or people) involved.

Criticism focused just on the issue, rather than what someone else is doing or saying, separates the problem from the person and allows them to address the source of the conflict without feeling defensive.

Ask Questions

Another strategy for avoiding conversational missteps is to ask questions rather than make statements, says Hill. “Instead of thinking about what you want to say, consider what you want to learn. This will help you get to the root cause of the conflict and set you up to resolve it.” Use words that indicate you are open to constructive dialogue.

Own Up

Conflict devolves into an argument when people intentionally or unintentionally place blame on someone else. Hill believes using “I” can help the other person see that you are not blaming them for the problem. Also, she cautions, resist using words such as “You must be uncomfortable,” because putting emotions on the other person can just make them angry.

Deal With Quick Tempers

There’s at least one in every office: the person with the short fuse who starts shouting at the slightest whiff of criticism. Raising your own voice to match theirs never helps, even if you are making a perfectly valid argument. “When someone is upset, the more you talk, the angrier they get,” Tumlin observes, so keep your own volume down, or mute it completely.

Use attentive silence to signal that you are paying attention, says Tumlin.

If you can’t keep quiet, say things , “I hear you,” or, “I see this has really upset you,” and other phrases that demonstrate you’re listening without escalating the matter.

If the person presses you for more substantive comment, Tumlin suggests saying, “I don’t know what I think about that,” or something else equally noncommittal, and then say you’ll get back to them in a while.

Don’t Fear The Conflict

While it’s okay to walk away (respectfully) from a heated discussion from time to time, conflict can actually do some good in the workplace.

Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman of the Boston Consulting Group believe that conflict actually makes employees happier and allows them to perform better.

If cooperation is key to teams working together, it will also naturally generate conflict as employees compromise individual goals to produce specific results for the company.

“When you let conflict happen and sometimes encourage it, people get angry and confront each other,” they reason. “That, instead of convivial avoidance of the tough issues that would strain their relationships, makes them happier, because in the end they did difficult, important work that was meaningful and made a difference.”

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How To Confront Without Being Confrontational

How to Confront Issues Without Being Confrontational

June 4, 2019

That word, confrontation, can feel overly aggressive, something we want to avoid. Done incorrectly, confrontations make you look aggressive, defensive, or even petty. We avoid them because we’re always trying to moderate our emotions to seem calm, and to maintain the status quo.

If you’re currently in or aiming for a leadership role, confrontation is inevitable.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Confrontation isn’t about fighting; it’s about being assertive. It’s not about creating drama; it’s about standing up for yourself.

And sometimes, confrontation is a necessary tool to help you live fully, asserting yourself without being overly aggressive.

If used well, confrontation helps you and your opponent get what you want—provided you can step up to the challenge.

Come up with a plan

Ideally, confronting someone should never be spur-of-the-moment. When you’re acting on impulse, or defensiveness, discussions can quickly become arguments. Instead, plan out and even rehearse what you want to say to ensure the conversation doesn’t get derailed. What issues are you trying to address? What should the outcome look for both parties?

Choose your words carefully

“You’ll catch more flies with honey” has never been more true. Assertiveness doesn’t need to be negative, and ideally the conversation should remain positive and even friendly.

Be sure to note any aspects of your mutual situation that currently work well, and choose neutral rather than negative words.

Follow up with your rehearsed ideas and potential solutions, and try to end things on a positive note.

Don’t apologize for your point of view

In life in general, you should never apologize for feeling the way you do. Your thoughts, opinions, and emotions are perfectly valid—and you shouldn’t feel lesser for having them.

More importantly in terms of confrontation, showing using apologetic language can make you look weak.

So while it is important to stay positive, make sure you aren’t doing so at the expense of undermining your efforts.

Reflect the other party’s opinion back at them

You may have heard of this basic communicative technique before. It’s simple: once the other party has finished explaining their side, reflect their point of view back at them. Your goal isn’t to mirror word for word; it’s to ensure that you understand them properly. You don’t have to agree, but you do want to make sure that they feel heard.

More importantly, it’s crucial to have a complete understanding of the situation. Jumping to false conclusions only makes a confrontation escalate, so start things off on the right foot before you get into the thick of it.

Sell your solution to them

When we go into an argument, we often become confrontational because we’re in it for ourselves. We’re worried that things won’t go our way. But to dial back the aggression, and to make the outcome a “win-win” for both parties, keep in mind the goals of the other party.

What do they want? Once you understand where they’re coming from (see why the step above is so crucial?), you can decide how to resolve the issue in a way that works for you and your opponent, letting them “win” as well.

This may mean compromising a little—but solving a problem while maintaining your relationship can often be worth the slight change in plans.
The goal of any confrontation, ideally, is that both parties walk away feeling as though they’ve taken a step forward.

These techniques can take practice, and they can be difficult in more intense situations—especially when you’re confronting someone at work, or if you’re the one who messed up. If you need extra support before a big confrontation, reach out to one of our life coaches for more specific advice!


4 Steps to Handling Difficult Conversations

How to Confront Issues Without Being Confrontational

Difficult conversations can lead to anxiety, among many other things.

We’ve all been there, though.

Loud voices.

Accusing words.

Cold shoulders.

Heated discussions.

These are just a few signs of relationships and conversations that are on the verge of explosion. How we deal with these tough moments, in our actions and our language, is important – not only to maintain healthy relationships with others but also to preserve our own peace of mind and self-esteem.

Here are four crucial communication skills and steps that will help you manage a difficult conversation without detrimental confrontation.

1) Speak directly with the other person

  • Practice with a supportive person
  • ­Notice body language and tone

Let’s say you have had a disagreement, a misunderstanding or even an argumentative fight with someone, and you want to resolve it. It is best to speak directly with the other person involved.

Ask for a time that is convenient for them and agree to talk in person.

It may take some courage to speak up and have a difficult conversation with someone, so practicing with a supportive friend may be helpful.

Be convincing with your body language and your words. Remember that 80 percent of your communication will be non-verbal.

Practice being calm, as your tone of voice is also crucial in keeping difficult conversations from heading toward a heated confrontation.

2) Soften the conversation during difficult conversations

  • Don’t blame
  • ­Use “I” statements

When discussions lead off in a negative and accusatory way, it can make things worse instead of better.

Psychologist John Gottman suggests using a “soft start-up” to prevent major arguments when differences are present by bringing up problems gently and without blame. Making a critical remark off the bat will only cause the other person to be defensive.

His research reveals that 96 percent of the time, you can predict the outcome of a 15-minute conversation the first three minutes of the interaction.

Also, when sharing your opinion or request, use “I” statements as opposed to “You” statements, which only point out the problems and bad behavior you feel the other person has.

For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me” or “You always do (this or that),” say something , “I feel frustrated/confused/not appreciated when (this) happens.”

Being sarcastic and using the terms “always” or “never” are ly to cause immediate defensiveness.

Soften your next oppositional conversation, and if possible, begin it on a positive note. Discussions invariably end on the same note they begin.

3) Be a good listener

  • Don’t interrupt
  • ­Check for understanding

Perhaps one of the most precious and powerful gifts we can give another person is to really listen to them, to listen with quiet, fascinated attention, with our whole being, fully present.

Try to withhold any judgment and do not interrupt while you are hearing all the facts and understanding his or her perspective. Ask questions to clarify their position or opinion.

Don’t get caught up in a trap if the other person is playing games, by going around and around trying to prove who is right. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the only option.

Working toward mutual understanding and respect is the goal, in the midst of differing opinions. Being listened to and, more importantly, being heard is a fundamental need we all have.

4) Be solution-focused

  • ­Focus on one issue
  • ­Remember the value of the relationship

In resolving conflicts, focus on one issue or one complaint at a time.

Try to agree on what the specific problem is, and then explore options to meet each person’s needs.

Avoiding conversations that may be difficult – because of hurt feelings or angry words spoken – may cause more problems. Each day that passes causes detachment for those involved and is a breeding ground for further misunderstandings.

Also, remember the value of the relationship. Whether it is with a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor or a family member, focusing on the benefits of reconciliation may give you the boost you need to work through the problems.

Communication is what connects all relationships.

The words and actions we use can reveal a variety of thoughts and emotions, from love or excitement to anger and resentfulness.

Practice these four steps to having a difficult conversation without confrontation, and greater peace in your relationships, improved health for yourself and less stress for all will result!


Take 5 Steps to Successful Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

How to Confront Issues Without Being Confrontational

A former colleague holds complete conversations in his head with people with whom he is angry. He rarely speaks directly with the other person. This anger in his mind continues to build because of his frustration, yet he never lets the other person know that he is frustrated and subsequently angry.

His conflict avoidance almost cost him his marriage because he didn't let his wife into the conversations he was having with her but by himself in his head. It was almost too late by the time he did bring her into the real conversation.

His need to avoid confrontation is so strong that he has a safe confrontation in his mind and feels that he has dealt with the issue. As you can imagine, this doesn't work—especially for the other person involved who doesn't even know that they are involved in the conversation.

Are you guilty of holding mental conflicts and confrontations?

Many people are uncomfortable when it comes to confrontation. You can understand the concept of having the conversation in your head; so you can plan out what you want to say and how you want to say it. Sometimes these mental conversations are enough to settle the issue, as you realize you are making too much a simple situation.

Many of you know that you have spent hours lying in bed at night having conversations with people with whom you are angry and frustrated. Not only does this practice disrupt your sleep, your attitude, and your health, it never really resolves the issue, and this approach is also potentially damaging to your relationships.

Don't get this advice wrong, you don't need to confront every action that other people take. If you have the conversation once in your head, don't worry about it. If it comes back and you have it again, perhaps start thinking about holding a real conversation. Or, figure out what you are afraid of that you are avoiding an essential confrontational conversation.

By the third in your headconfrontation, you need to start planning how you will deal with the real confrontation because it looks as if you are going to need to have one.

For example, assume you want to confront your coworker for taking all of the credit for the work that the two of you did together on a project. Instead of saying, “You took all the credit, blah, blah, blah…” and venting your frustration, which is what you might say in your mind, rephrase your approach using the above guidelines.

Say instead, “It looks as if I played no role in the Johnson account. My name does not appear anywhere on the document, nor I have been given credit anywhere that I can see.”

(You will notice that additional communication techniques such as the I-language have also been used in this statement. Notice that using the words “I feel” was avoided because that is an emotional statement, without proof and facts. The facts in this statement cannot be disputed, but anI feel” statement is easy for your coworker to refute.)

When the person you are confronting responds, allow them to respond. It's a human tendency, but don't make the mistake of adding to your initial statement, to further justify the statement.

Defending why you feel the way you do will generally just create an argument. Say what you want to say (the confrontation), then just allow the other person to respond.

You want to listen very carefully to catch the differences between what your initial statement indicated and your coworker's response. This is not a time when you should rehearse responses in your mind. Just listen effectively and stay open to the possibility that your coworker has a good reason for the actions taken.

Especially since you've probably held the conversation in your head a few times, you may think you know how the other person is going to respond. But, it's a mistake to jump to that point before they have the opportunity to respond. Resist the temptation to say anything else at this point. Let them respond.

Do you need to prove the other person right or wrong? Does someone have to take the blame? Get your frustration off your chest, and move on.

If you approached your coworker with the initial statement, “You took all the credit, blah, blah, blah…” her response is ly going to be quite defensive. Perhaps she'll say something , “Yes, you have been given credit. I said both of our names to the boss just last week.”

If you already know what you are looking for in the confrontation, this is where you move the conversation. Don't get into an argument about whether she did or didn't mention anything to the boss last week—that isn't really the issue and don't let it distract you from accomplishing the goal of the confrontation.

In order to resolve the conflict, your response could be, “I would appreciate if in the future that we use both of our names on any documentation, and include each other in all of the correspondence about the project.”

The other party will either agree or disagree. Keep to the issue at this point, and avoid all temptation to get into an argument. Negotiate, but don't fight.

The issue is that you aren't receiving credit, your colleague left your name off of the documentation, and you want your name on the documentation. (Projects in written form are better remembered in organizations than verbal credit when performance development planning and meetings about raises or promotions are held.)

That's it. It isn't about blame, about who is right or wrong or anything other than your desired resolution. You want to affect how this issue is handled in future projects you work on with this individual. They will remember that you called them on their bad behavior.

You will rarely look forward to confrontation; you may never become completely comfortable with, or even skilled in holding a confrontation. However, it is important that you say something when you are frustrated and angry. If you can't stand up for yourself, who will?

For additional ideas about confrontation and conflict, see:


11 Ways to Handle Confrontation

How to Confront Issues Without Being Confrontational

You probably hate confrontation just as much as the next guy, right? And it’s probably because 1.) you’re scared that the conversation is going to be terribly awkward and so you put it on the backburner; or 2.) you’re frustrated but don’t want to make a big deal of it and so you just bottle it up.

Related: How to Speak Well… and Listen Better

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Neither option is good for handling confrontation.

So what is the best way to hash out a problem? We asked the Young Entrepreneur Council, “What is your No. 1 tip for confronting adversity head on?” for some tips:

1. Don’t wait.

When confronting adversity, big or small, it’s important to tackle the root causes quickly.

That doesn’t mean reacting without thought or planning, but be prepared to prioritize these problems quickly and identify the real source.

If left on the backburner, the adversity grows, fear and doubt set in, and control of the situation or options diminishes. So inhale, identify, plan and tackle.

—Matthew Gellis, Keystone Solutions

2. Feel, then deal.

Take a few minutes to accept and process the feeling resulting from the adversity before fixing the problem. Writing a page in a journal to vent on paper or doing some tapping (also known as the emotional freedom technique) for a few minutes can help move the emotion the body. This allows a leader to approach the problem with wisdom and neutrality, versus fear and adrenaline.

—Erin Weed, evoso inc.

3. Speak about it in person.

If there is an issue—any issue—it’s always best to ask the person to go out for a walk or coffee and hash it out. Bottling it up and not addressing it is the worst course of action. And never try to talk it out over email. If it’s really important, it needs to be addressed in person.

—Jordan Fliegel, CoachUp, Inc.

4. Express empathy.

When confronted with adversity, it’s important that you don’t just try to create a solution as quickly as possible and risk neglecting someone’s feelings or point of view. Take time to understand their side of the story and show this sense of understanding clearly. Then, work together to reach a middle ground. Do not sweep opinions under the rug, but spend time working with them.

—Miles Jennings,

5. Identify your goals.

Before heading into a bad situation, make sure you understand it and you’re fully prepped. Then figure out what you want to walk away with.

What is your goal after the confrontation? Remember that it’s about the business performance, not about a person’s personality or something that you can’t change.

Work toward your goal with a positive attitude, knowing the limits of what can or cannot change.

—Wei-Shin Lai, M.D., AcousticSheep LLC

6. Remember it’s part of your job.

Whenever I approach one of our advisors with a problem he often says, “It’s your job to deal with hard problems,” which sounds harsh but true. Dealing with adversity and overcoming it is a huge part of starting and running a company.

—Joseph Walla, HelloSign

Related: Why Good Leaders Love Office Conflict

7. Make friends with adversity.

Be prepared and understand that adversity is something you’re going to have to face every day. If you believe that business is full of highs and not so many lows, then you won’t be in business for long. Be constantly aware and willing to fight adversity in all aspects of your business every day.

—Mark Samuel, Fitmark

8. Remember bad news travels fast.

Whenever you face adversity, it’s important to communicate as quickly as possible to all relevant stakeholders (investors, partners, customers, etc). Entrepreneurs are born problem-solvers, but it doesn’t mean you should keep problems close to the vest because they will fester. Rip off the Band-Aid, face reality and focus on how to overcome the issue with your stakeholders.

—Nick Braun,

9. Smile.

I always think about the worst-case scenario in situations that I’m in. I make sure that that worst case is something that I can handle. That way, I can be positive and smile through adverse situations. Life is good!

—Thomas Cullen, LaunchPad Lab

10. Communicate from the top.

Take the lead personally. It’s extremely important that all of our team hears directly from the founders on any issue of confusion or change of direction that comes up. A quick email from the CEO can immediately answer any questions and provide confidence to the rest of the team.

—Ross Cohen, BeenVerified

11. Take one day at a time.

It’s not an easy road. Outsiders may think, “This is a well-established business!” but it didn’t used to be. It started small—they all do. So it’s vital to motivate young people to believe that things can go well and that their businesses will grow with time and effort. Each day comes with problems, so why stress about tomorrow?

—Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

Related: Time for a Tough Talk at the Office? Remember These 5 Steps

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.


8 Ways of Turning Confrontational Feedback into Constructive Feedback: A Lesson for Leadership

How to Confront Issues Without Being Confrontational

Living in what seems to be an increasingly confrontational society has led to adverse reactions from people of varied cultures, ages, sex, perceptions, and personalities. Most people who act in a confrontational manner believe it is the most appropriate way of communicating.

Once you as a leader adopt a confrontational tone, some people may react constructively while others may perceive it as a challenge. Your followers’ perceptions of your leadership will dictate how you will engage with them.

The group that perceives confrontational feedback as an assertive way of getting things done is better equipped to understand your leadership style.

The group that perceives confrontational feedback as a “battle” will engage furiously with you. Once people learn that your style is confrontational, they automatically put their guards up and either block you or engage you in a war of words.

What was meant to be a casual and short conversation ends up in a shouting match that causes the group to abhor your leadership style and be ready for a fight whenever you approach them to discuss something. They prepare for war whenever they see you coming.

A group that is constantly prepared to engage in a fight with you and believes it will win will be a constant source of difficulty for you.

· Use Logic and Wisdom

C. Joybell C. says, “Choose your battles wisely.” This quote has the logic and wisdom of leadership. Life is not measured by the number of battles that you engage yourself in but rather the many times that you opted for a better direction and option. Pick the most important fights and lose the rest.

As a leader, your followers already know your confrontational traits. Once they see you, they are prepared for a battle. Do not allow your confrontational style to affect your followers to the point of losing them.

Peace and serenity often come when you opt to make the best choices and take the less trodden path.

· Silence

A group that perceives confrontational styles as a battle can best be dealt with silence. This group does not expect you to walk away without a battle. At times, turn them down with silence. Silence speaks volumes.

Lailah Gifty Akita says, “You have to choose your path and decide what you wish to do.” There is greatness in the choice of being silent. It can avoid wars with your followers. Losing your followers is worse than being silent.

Most people understand silence more than active words. Silence is constructive feedback on its own.

1. Build Rapport

Connect with the people that you are engaging. Demonstrate your good intent with a clear agenda. Most people will read your motive and behavior and learn that you care.

They will examine your consistency and learn to build rapport and have some confidence in you.

When you are well-connected with others, it is easy to engage them even with difficult topics that could cause discomfort and adverse emotional reactions.

2. Timeliness

Address a problem when it occurs immediately. A problem should not be swept under the carpet with the expectation that it will take care of itself. Always ensure that you don’t bury your head in the sand when something negative occurs. Attack the problem decisively and vigorously.

3. Look at Issues and Not People

The feeling of being attacked can cause an emotional reaction to confrontation. Some people will feel that you are attacking their personality, gender, age, style, or culture. It is critical to confront issues rather than people, and you should try to avoid aggravating them.

4. Assertive

You should learn how to be assertive with your followers. Assertiveness is the trait of being confident and self-assured without using any form of aggression. The benefits of assertive behavior include having the ability to express your beliefs, opinions, and feelings in an honest and direct manner.

Another benefit of being assertive is that you can engage productively. Do not drag other people into the conversation. For example, “I told you that I have a problem with that behavior, and the whole team is complaining about it.” These words can reveal that you have been discussing the person with other employees.

  Learning to be assertive will help you to communicate and support your points without hurting others with aggression.

5. Focus on Language

The language that you use determines the way people perceive your leadership. All age brackets, genders, and cultures prefer adapting language to the topic being discussed. The tone of your voice makes the difference between confrontational and constructive feedback.

Shouting and yelling can lead to confrontations. Some cultures do not to confront individuals, which is perceived as an attack on the person. For example, asking “What didn’t you understand about my email?” is perceived as an attack on an individual.

This can be rephrased as “Was there something that wasn’t clear in my email?” Always try to use non-accusatory language when speaking with your clients and your team members. As a leader, your choice of words makes the difference between a win or a loss.

These two sentences mean the same thing, but one attacks the individual while the other encourages the exchange of ideas.

6. Clarity

As a leader, mixed messages often trigger your followers. People often know when they have done something wrong in the presence or absence of the leader.

If you say that you saw someone do something that was not right, and you were not present in the office; that mixed message could spark a confrontation and rebellion.

Try to inform people about the impact of their behavior on your work and your progress as an organization. As a leader, you must establish and communicate expectations about everything. 

7. Listen

Bryant H. McGill said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” Listening with a kind ear can turn a life around. Listen to your followers because it can break all the defensive posturing among them. Listening can end a confrontation even before it starts. Do not listen with the intent to reply; just learn to listen.

8. Make Resolutions

Powerful leaders confront constructively. You must have a backup plan when confronting a certain trait or behavior among your followers or employees.

The reason for a confrontation is to help people attain a higher level of success or develop a positive trait. It is important to ensure that you have a way of closing the gap that caused the confrontation.

This is one of the ways of coaching people and nurturing their positive traits.

There is a thin line between confrontational feedback and constructive feedback. Your language, assertion, listening skills, clarity, and timeliness can be used to turn confrontational feedback into constructive feedback.

People’s age, gender, sex, and cultural orientation determine their perception of your confrontational style. When people feel that you are attacking them, they will become emotional and prepare for a battle.

It is logical and wise to choose your words and battles with care.

Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP® is the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. She is a member of the CNBC FA Council and a contributor for Investopedia & Kiplinger.

Marguerita is passionate about ensuring that her clients have clarity and confidence about planning for their financial future.

As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Ambassador, Marguerita helps educate the public, policymakers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.

Marguerita’s mantra is “So many people spend their health to gain wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health” (A.J. Reb Materi).

Securities offered through Private Client Services, LLC. Member FINRA | SIPC. Advisory products and services offered through Blue Ocean Global Wealth, a registered investment advisor. Private Client Services, LLC and Blue Ocean Global Wealth are not affiliated entities.

Blue Ocean Global Wealth intends that this article will be viewed for informational purposes only. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties.

Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.

The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.


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