How to Handle Confrontation

accountability professional development Aug 16, 2021

Nobody likes handling confrontation, but it’s only a matter of time before you will need to do so. Whether it’s at work, at school or in your personal life, confrontation is inevitable. You may have tried to avoid conflict and confrontation in the past because it can seem like the better path to just suck it up or try not to rock the boat. But just like in team sports, when you are dealing with conflict it’s best to confront and solve problems quickly before the dynamic becomes unbearable. Confrontation doesn’t always have to be horrible - there are ways to make it better for everyone.

Confront the problem quickly. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.

When it comes to a problem you have with another person, know that as long as you ignore it, it never goes away. In fact, purposefully ignoring a problem can make it worse. Instead of working to resolve the issue, you can start to create resentment towards the other person, making it harder to confront them without conflict. You should always address any problems that arise as quickly as possible - while of course planning and thinking through the best way to approach things and address possible solutions. 

Talk or write it out first. 

It’s important to get the emotions you have out of your system before you have these kinds of conversations. Whether you journal, talk to yourself or call a friend who has nothing to do with the situation, let out your frustrations before you go talk to the person you need to confront. As best as you can, you should take the emotion out of the situation so you are ready to have a real conversation with them about the problem.

Never confront someone over email or text. 

Confrontation should always be dealt with by talking to that person directly. Whether it’s a phone call, a zoom or an in person meeting (the best way!) you should always be sure you are talking to the person one on one - and it’s best if technology cannot get in the way. Words without context and delivery can be misconstrued or misinterpreted, so you want to make sure your points are getting across correctly. Plus, you want the other person to have the opportunity to share as well. 

Listen and use empathy.

Empathy is key when it comes to confrontation. Remember this person is human too - they make mistakes and deserve to be listened to and heard. Many confrontations are made worse when the person doing the confronting makes no effort to allow the other person a chance to share and speak as well. Make sure when you are done talking, you take a breath, and let the other person respond. And let empathy lead the way - despite how frustrated you are, if you can show that you understand where they are coming from, you will be much more likely to reach an amicable resolution. 

Hold yourself accountable. 

When you confront someone, be sure you are willing to hold yourself accountable for where you missed the bar in that relationship. It’s important to admit that this is a two way street, and you can do better too. Not every problem is going to get solved amicably or to your liking, and not every relationship will be saved. It’s up to you to approach confrontation in a meaningful way, listening to the other person, holding yourself accountable for what YOU can do better, explaining the problem and offering realistic solutions to achieve the desired outcome. 

If you are being confronted, don’t get angry. 

It can be really hard to not get defensive when someone confronts you about something. But if someone has taken the time to sit down and have a conversation with you about something that is a problem or a conflict that needs to be resolved, meet them halfway. Even if this conversation comes as a surprise, listen to their concerns and do your best to understand their perspective. Instead of getting defensive, let them know they are heard, and that you are committed to working with them on a solution.

Again, confrontation doesn’t have to be as bad as you make it out to be in your head. It’s an important part of life and the more comfortable you are with addressing problems directly and head on, the better off you'll be. 


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