Finding 7 ways to prepare for confrontation generally doesn’t appear on the leader or executive’s job description. But it raises its objectionable head on every leader’s to-do list. Everyone has to deal with conflict and confrontation many times throughout their career.
Sometimes there is no warning. Confrontation just happens. Other times we know it needs to happen and we do our best when in the heat of the moment. We somehow get through it, as distasteful as it is.
There is a better way. In all cases we can prepare for handling confrontation when and wherever it comes up. It doesn’t mean the actual event will be easy. It doesn’t always mean it will go the way we think it should. But it does mean we will be more equipped to deal with the situation when it happens.
Take some time now to develop your own strategy for dealing with confrontation prior to any confrontation taking place.
1. Write down your thoughts. Handling confrontation is often best done on paper, prior to any meeting.
2. Know what your emotional triggers are and have strategies to deal with them, so that you don’t ‘blow up’ or ‘break down’ while speaking with this person. Much like an actor, go to those places in your mind that can help you ‘feel’ the confrontation. Take note of what sets you off. If you can name it, you can do something about it and be much more prepared for the real thing.
3. Determine to be compassionate. You are talking to a person of dignity and value. Plan to walk away with your personal integrity intact, not having said or behaved in a way that violated your personal standards or belittled the other person. Value the person, deal with the behavior. If you’re looking for something good and honest to acknowledge, think about it now. If you are delivering sharply critical information, how can you be truthful yet respectful?
4. Sort truth from assumption. Most people spend their lives living on assumptions. It’s easy for the leader to do as well. “He never did like working here,” is different from, “Your performance has declined since being transferred to this project.” Take the time now to write down what you know to be absolutely true. Also make a list of your assumptions. The place to start is with truth.
5. Anticipate possible reactions and your responses to them. When handling confrontation there is almost always a reaction. How will you respond to stone silence, a barrage of excuses, vehement denial, escalating anger or dissolving into tears? What happens if they quit, totally agree with you or ask for immediate help? Thinking through each of these scenarios and having a plan sketched out in your mind will give you something to draw from when you need it. Rehearse possible conversations.
6. Role play with someone else. If you are concerned about improving the way you handle confrontation, role play any number of scenarios to refine your responses. Responding out loud using your own words and approach will increase your confidence and help you refine your delivery.
7. Plan to be clear when outlining next steps. If action on their part is required, be very clear on what that action is and what timelines are involved. Be prepared to give them resources that will be helpful to them. Suggest constructive alternatives they might consider. If an appeal is possible, give them contact information and inform them of the process to follow.
In this most sensitive and potentially explosive of human interactions, be prepared. You have experienced confrontation in the past and if you are still in leadership, you will most certainly experience it in the future. Determine now to improve how you will respond. Take control of yourself and the situation. Your preparation will place you that much closer to achieving the desired outcomes with your integrity and professionalism intact.