Saturday, August 2, 2008

Positive Confrontations

The word "confrontation" can sound inherently negative, but I like one of the definitions offered by "a bringing together of ideas, themes, etc., for comparison." Both girls and women ask me how to approach someone they feel is being relationally aggressive toward them, and while there are no cookie cutter answers, there are a few guidelines I can offer keeping in this spirit:

1. Calm down. Trying to confront someone when emotions are running high can actually make the situation worse, rather than better. Walk away, take a few deep breaths, or wait for another day.

2. Choose a neutral location to meet. Plan to talk things out when you're not in the midst of a crisis and find a place that's private and safe.

3. Focus on the facts. Avoid accusing the other person of not liking you or teating you badly. Instead, share a list of observations that lead you to feel relational aggression is occurring, i.e. "When you invited everyone but me to be part of the planning session, it made me wonder why?" or, "In the team meeting last week, you asked me four times to write down what you said so I would 'get it right.' Have there been times when I haven't met your expectations?"

4. Meet one on one. If you're trying to talk things out with an uber aggressive person who already feels threatened by the world, taking a posse along with you is going to make her even more defensive.

5. Monitor your body language. You'd be surprised how your posture, facial expression, and tone of voice can add to or detract from the message you hope to deliver.

6. Practice. Enlist the help of a friend or your mirror, and rehearse what you plan to say.

7. Use assertive, not aggressive communication techniques. In a nutshell, you want a win-win conversation, not a lose-lose confrontation.

8. Avoid cyberconfrontations. The computer and cell phone have a long memory and a wide reach.

The goal of a positive confrontation (ideally) is to inform and be informed--it can be a powerful conflict resolution tool that will serve you well in many settings!

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