This is How Timid People Get Over Their Fear of Confrontation (and Win!)
A confrontation is usually a conversation with heightened emotions. Sometimes it is a result of unresolved conflict. Sometimes it is a cause of future conflict. And sometimes, if managed properly, it can be the beginning of greater trust and understanding. But first, you must learn to control your fear of confrontation.
Reasons people fear confrontation
Charley Reid from LovePanky.com says there are six reasons that people have a fear of confrontation and listed them in a recent blog:
- You fear confrontation due to your upbringing – Something from your past (abusive relationships, terrible break-up) makes you gun-shy
- You fear confrontation because you fear failure – You don’t want to be wrong in front of others
- You’re afraid you might not be liked – You’re scared that the other person will stop liking you, or like you a lot less, after a confrontation
- You’re outnumbered – Standing up for yourself to one other person is tough enough, but when you’re going against a group of people, that’s frightening
- You’re not confident in delivering your side of the argument – Perhaps your speaking skills aren’t as good as you’d like them to be and you’re afraid you won’t get your point across
- You speak before listening – you didn’t give your brain enough time to process information and you speak before you’re ready
Most of the hard work involved in difficult conversations is related to preparing yourself and keeping yourself calm. Once you feel prepared, it’s time to dive in. Remember, if you can maintain calm and focus during the conversation, even when things seem out of control, you retain your power and help calm other people, too.
Overcoming your fear of confrontation
If you’re leery of expressing your opinion in a direct manner, here are six ways to get over your fear of confrontation:
Identify the problems with being a pushover
Write down the problems you experience when you avoid confrontation. Perhaps you go home from work feeling stressed out. Or maybe your relationship with someone close to you becomes more damaged every time you allow that person to hurt your feelings.
List what you might gain by speaking up
On the back of the same piece of paper, write down what you could achieve by speaking up: Your relationships might improve, your problems might get solved, or you might become happier. Be specific about the things you stand to gain.
Reconsider your assumptions about confrontation
Fear of confrontation is often based on false assumptions. Thoughts like “Confrontation is bad,” or, “Telling someone I disagree with them will ruin our relationship” only fuel your fear. In reality, confrontation is healthy. There are many kind—and assertive—ways to speak up and express your opinion, and doing so might improve the situation more than you ever imagined.
Address one issue at a time
If there’s just one person you tend to avoid confronting—like a particularly challenging colleague—choose one minor issue to address. Don’t pick the biggest problem and don’t bring up a lengthy list of items you don’t like. Start small and see what happens.
If you avoid speaking up to everyone around you, pick a safe person to confront first. Address something minor and you’ll increase your confidence in being able to be assertive in other situations.
Stick to “I” statements and work on staying calm
At the heart of all good communication is the ability to stick to “I” statements. Rather than saying, “You’re so arrogant in meetings and you never even bother showing up on time,” say, “I am concerned about the way you address the group and I feel disrespected when you arrive late.” The goal is to be assertive, not aggressive.
Confronting someone is more of an art than a science. What works well in one circumstance might not fly in another. But with practice, you’ll be able to recognize when to speak up, how to do it, and the best ways to express yourself effectively.
Consider your efforts a work in progress and take small steps.
Preparing for Constructive Confrontation
Now that you feel a bit more confident, use these tips to prepare yourself every time you have a confrontation. With practice, they’ll become second nature. (Not that I’m suggesting you become the office bully picking fights with everyone. That’s a job for Gwen in HR!!!)
- Why are we having this conversation, and what do I hope to achieve? Is my goal supportive of the other person, or punishing?
- What are my assumptions about the other person’s goals for this conversation?
- Am I emotionally prepared for this meeting? What feelings are being triggered by this situation, and how does my history explain those triggers?
- How is my attitude about the impending conversation influencing my approach to it? Can I focus on the good that could come from this rather than worrying about the negative?
- What do I know about the other person? What could he or she want, and what are his or her fears? Could I make this person a partner rather than an adversary?
- What are my fears? Do we have common concerns?
- What have I done so far to contribute to the problem at hand? What do I believe the other person has contributed to the problem?
You shouldn’t confront others at times when:
- You haven’t done the necessary preparatory work
- Emotions are too heightened for a rational discussion
- There isn’t enough time to deal with the issue constructively
- The battle isn’t worth it
- It is impossible for the two participants to solve the problem by themselves
I hope this helps some of you overcome your fear of confrontation. Remember that most people have a “fight or flight” instinct when it comes to these types of things. Even being a “flight” kind of person is OK except when you need to stand up for yourself at work or at home.