Not too long ago my son asked me if I thought he avoided confrontations. My answer was something like, “Is the Pope Catholic?” Then he told me that he learned in his Psychology class that most people dislike and avoid confronting others. Imagine that. Kid’s a real genius.
This is how you know you need to work on this skill if (when) you notice the following reactions:
- Eyes roll or glaze over
- You hear the word “Fine” spoken with enough force to knock you over
- You lose eye contact
- The other person looks oddly angry
- You get a defense argument on the level of a mass murderer’s attorney
Not that you can control other people’s reactions. But you can deliver a delicate message in a way that’s easier to swallow. Blurting out something in the name of being “honest” is not always an effective strategy for getting your point across.
A great trick with sticky situations is confronting others early in the game, long before meltdown, breakdown or fistfight appears on the distant horizon. (Pro-tip: none of these should be your go-to for conflict resolution)
Don’t even think about confronting someone by email. Remember last time you misinterpreted a text? Turns out, that happens a lot. Don’t let it happen to you. Delicate conversations must be face to face. Be brave.
Another way to make these conversations easier (they’re never easy) is to strengthen the relationship on a foundation of respect and appreciation. (In other words, make sure you’re talking to people about good things too. Don’t just come to them with a conflict. Cake is good. Talk about cake.) The worst situation is when your only conversations are the difficult ones.
Use one of following openings to difficult-but-hugely-important conversations. These suggestions are far better than the traditional “I need to talk to you.”