Most people hate confrontation and will do whatever they can to avoid it. What if I told you that I believe when we truly care about people we will not shy away from confronting them? What if confronting is a form of coaching people forward? What if confrontation is actually a very valuable part of problem-solving, conflict resolution and organizational progress?
It’s understandable that confrontation can seem hard for most people since the standard definition implies a hostile conversation involving accusations and argumentative tones. However, I believe that the highest form of trust is built when healthy confrontation takes place. Confrontation doesn’t have to be a bad word. It doesn’t have to send you into immediate “fight-or-flight” mode.
Let’s start by redefining confrontation.
Think of confrontation as speaking the truth in a way that helps the other person move in the right direction. Maybe you’ve heard “speak the truth in love.” This doesn’t always mean in soft tones or beating around the bush of a tough conversation. It will include accountability, honesty, and vulnerability for anyone involved in the conversation to create an environment for healthy and productive confrontation.
If you are leading people and think that looking past bad attitudes, sweeping issues under the rug, or talking about a person’s mistakes to everyone in the world except the actual person, then you are an unhealthy leader who is breeding a destructive culture into your workplace, family, school, church or in relationships. Sooner or later, the culture that is created when the truth is not brought into your conversations will dismantle trust, integrity, organizational values, and overall motivation.
The greatest organizations to be a part of and to work for are organizations that care enough to confront. The Bible encourages church leaders and Christ followers to develop relationships that care enough to confront just look at Matthew 18 as a prime example.
I’m on a mission to help leaders get better at healthy confrontation.
Here are 21 questions or prompts to equip you for healthy confrontation. There are seven questions to consider before you have a confronting conversation, seven prompts to consider during a confrontation, and seven reminders if you are the one being confronted.
Let’s get better at having tough conversations. Let’s get better at coaching people forward. Let’s get better at allowing others a doorway into our lives to coach us forward through confrontation.
21 Questions to Equip You for Healthy Confrontation
Before you initiate a conversation or confrontation ask yourself these questions:
1) What is the problem that needs to be talked about?
2) What am I hoping to accomplish?
3) Am I the right person to confront this situation or person? If not, who is and are they aware of the need?
4) Will a talk make a difference?
5) When’s the soonest I can talk to this person/people?
6) Is this better as a casual confrontation or formal confrontation? (There are casual confrontations that go on all the time in great organizations. It’s done casually and is so much a part of the culture that it doesn’t feel threatening.)
7) Should I have someone else present? If so, who?
Some things to remember in confrontation:
1) Ask questions that point towards the topic/area you want to address.
2) Speak to one issue at a time.
3) Don’t let it be a complaint session with no resolution-be clear about what the person can do to improve or change.
4) Avoid sarcasm. But if feelings are involved say “When you do X I feel Y”.
5) Avoid words like always and never.
6) Don’t apologize for the confrontation.
7) Don’t forget the compliments…..the sandwich principle.
How to respond to confrontation:
1) Answer questions honestly and openly.
2) Listen to understand, not react.
3) If confused, repeat what you think the person is saying is a concern to them.
4) Don’t get defensive.
5) Don’t make excuses.
6) If you are sorry-say it, show it, ask for forgiveness.
7) Begin to show immediately that you are taking the confrontation seriously and making a change.