Confrontation. Most people go through great lengths to either avoid it, or put it off even if there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Why? Well it’s rather obvious – many people associate confrontation with initiating uncomfortably awkward conversations where someone will be told something they don’t want to hear. Confrontation is usually feared and avoided because the confrontor assumes that an already strained relationship will only get worse as the confrontee may bark back something in his or her defense, or, in some instances, become very emotional. After all, people don’t confront good behavior – only behavior that gets in the way of getting one’s needs met. But, confrontation is inevitable, and learning how to confront properly is a skill that can be acquired through a good leadership training program.
And what is the price we pay for not confronting? It can cost us our emotional and mental sanity.
For starters, our urge to confront usually stems from, as previously mentioned, someone who is compromising or affecting our ability to get our needs met. In other words, we confront when a problem needs to get fixed. And the longer we wait, the more miserable we become, and the angrier we get which perpetuates the misery. For example, if one of your direct reports always seems as if he is about to blow a gasket, displays a lack of respect toward you and doesn’t play well with others, he is affecting your ability to keep your team productive and in sync. Should you choose to not confront the problem, you are clearly excusing the behavior while making everyone on your work team frustrated. Soon, you will lose the respect of your team, and winning back that respect is a steep hill to climb.
However, confrontations, when handled properly with the use of “I” messages, end on positive note where both people win through getting their needs met. Where ineffective managers think in terms of one person winning and another losing, effective managers strive to reach solutions where both parties win and part on good terms. And the formula for a complete I-Message is simple: provide a brief non-blameful description of the behavior you find unacceptable, express your feelings about the behavior and the tangible and concrete effect of the behavior on you. Give the person you are speaking with an opportunity to voice their issues or feelings and then switch gears through active listening to identify the core of the problem in the spirit of reaching a solution and resolution.
With this approach, you can actually think of the confrontation as nothing more than a conversation with an objective in mind. And when you think these terms, the conversation isn’t nearly as intimidating, and much easier to facilitate.