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How to Handle Confrontations with Confidence and Skill

By |April 01, 2024

Confrontation is an inevitable part of life, whether it’s in personal relationships, the workplace, or any other setting where people interact. Confrontation puts most of us on edge, triggering a fight-or-flight response that can lead to unproductive reactions. We tend to react in one of two ways: we dodge and deflect, hoping the issues resolve themselves, or we react in kind and make ourselves and our counterpart(s) dumber.  Neither approach is effective in dealing with confrontation, and both can have detrimental effects on our relationships.

Dodging and deflecting gets us nowhere and is akin to leaving the elephant in the room. When negative emotions or dynamics are present and we fail to defuse them they trample all over our conversation. It doesn’t matter who introduces the negative (the confrontation). If it isn’t addressed immediately it festers and ruins any chance of building rapport or gaining a trust-based influence. 

Reacting to the confrontation drives the negative energy in the conversation higher and impedes any ability to resolve the issue. Confrontation triggers the amygdala which cuts off the prefrontal cortex (where logical thinking happens) thus inhibiting any attempts at Tactical Empathy®.

So, how should we respond to someone who confronts us? 

With curiosity! When you stay curious it keeps your anger at bay. Think to yourself “Where is this coming from? Why are they angry?” If you have those questions top of mind you will uncover the motivation behind the confrontation much more quickly.  It is nearly impossible to stay angry when you are curious.

When considering the motivation for the confrontation (attack) remember the three reasons people attack.

  1. They don’t feel heard/listened to. 
  2. They are under tremendous pressure on their side. 
  3. They’re manipulating you. 

Start with the Quick 2+1™  to find your answer.

The next phase is to trust your intuition to Label™ and Mirror™ the circumstances or dynamics that may have led to the confrontation. Then use a little Dynamic Silence™ to allow room for a response from the other side. Once they respond, use mirrors and labels to encourage them to keep talking and gather the information you need to get to the heart of the matter.

Ensure you are listening at an elevated level (level three is listening for the ‘why’ behind the behavior)

Five levels of listening

Remember it doesn’t matter if you are right with the label you choose. You’ll be rewarded for the attempt. One of our Laws of Negotiation Gravity™ states that the urge to correct is irresistible. If you get it wrong they will correct you! This will give you the honest, candid information you need.

Tactical Empathy® and assertiveness are not mutually exclusive. 

Sometimes issues arise and it’s necessary to call out your counterpart for their counterproductive behavior. If you are the one who needs to confront the other side for some reason make sure you never use an assertive tone of voice. Use a few Accusations Audits® to help prepare them for what you are going to say. Then speak clearly, in the analyst tone (Late Night FM DJ voice) followed by Dynamic Silence™.

Using this roadmap will equip you to handle confrontations effectively – protecting the interests of both sides while fortifying relationships for ongoing success. By staying curious and employing Tactical Empathy® to address the unexpressed emotions, dynamics, or motivations, you will be able to navigate even the most challenging confrontations with confidence and skill. Remember, the goal is not to avoid confrontation altogether, but rather to approach it in a way that demonstrates understanding, resolves conflicts and strengthens relationships. With practice, you can move from dreading confrontation to adeptly handling it.

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