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HomemilastwordThe Last Word: Effective Confrontation

The Last Word: Effective Confrontation

Confrontation. No one likes it. The mere mention of the word raises hackles up most people’s backs. But, proactive confrontation can be a very effective thing.When two parties communicate openly, confrontations can be dealt with gracefully and resolved which ultimately leads to building open healthy relationships.

So why is it that more often than not, instead of confronting an issue we have with someone, we choose to treat it with silence? Is it because we’re scared to offend? We’re worried that we’ll hurt their feelings? Or that the issue might erupt into chaos? Some of us can go for years not talking to a person because we don’t want to confront an issue. In many cases the issue is so small that it has been forgotten over time.

Many who don’t choose the silent pathway opt to treat confrontations with a hastily fired off email – a short or long-winded spray that voices their objections and gets it off their chest. Angry emails fired off in haste may get the issue off your chest but they can cause irreparable damage. Also, they are a written record you no longer have control over.

If I want to send off one of these missives I’ll blast away at the keyboard, then either place it in draft for 24 hours, or ask a colleague to read it and let me know how they think the person on the other end might receive it. With emails, or even discussions in social media threads, you’re not at the other end of the message to hear or see the recipients nod and smile – or to see them roll their eyes, or hear them gasp, see their red face, the look of disgust… the disbelief.

…‘care-fronting’ – care enough to bring it up

That’s not to say miscommunications don’t occur as a result of face-to-face discussions as well. It’s just, when you’re there, you have the chance to observe, discuss, learn and resolve the confrontation.

Confrontation has been described as ‘care-fronting’ – care enough to bring it up. And, while doing so face-to-face is a difficult challenge, ultimately, it’s rewarding and leads to a deeper, more lasting and involved relationship. Often the confrontation we try to avoid becomes the conflict we can no longer avoid – all because of poor communication. But there are some strategies to help steer our communication to a resolution:

  1. Take control of your own emotions. Take a deep breath and even count to ten (to yourself) to slow down your heart rate.
  2. Choose a specific time and place to confront the issue(s).
  3. Think about what you want to say and how you’re going to say it.
  4. Have a positive attitude and stay calm. Use positive words and empathise with what’s happening for the other person. This will help to quell emotional responses which only serve to add fuel to the fire.
  5. Take action and be committed to working it out – ask for their ideas
    and solutions.

Confrontation is not easy but in learning how to confront issues effectively we can avoid those unnecessary conflicts.


1. John KcKee. 10 tips and tactics for dealing with conflict, Sep 2009.

2. Keith Lowry, 10 Tips for Effective Confrontations