Handling confrontation in leadership is a part of every decision maker’s unspoken job description. Overcoming fear of confrontation is helped by taking some time to think about it and plan for it happening prior to it every actually occurring.

Deal with conflict and confrontation. You are the leader. If it is your job, don’t let it sit. Develop the confrontation skills needed and use them. Agreed, it’s not pleasant and you don’t want to do it, but handling confrontation is yours to deal with.

  • Rehearse the upcoming conversation in your mind. Operate and benefit from preparation.
  • Anticipate possible reactions and your responses to them.
  • Practice diffusing the situation – lowering tensions.
  • Consider constructive alternatives for the person to follow.
  • Adapt what you need to say, to their communication style.
  • Separate the person from the behavior. Never ‘attack’ the person.
  • Speak directly to the issues. Don’t divert off onto some other area of behavior.
  • If possible, stand up. It will give you a greater sense of control.
  • Speak in a low, calm and controlled voice.
  • Don’t betray confidentiality. You may have information that others have told you in confidence.
  • As far as possible, confront in private.
  • It may be necessary to be in view of other people, but the conversation should be private.
  • Expect a reaction. You can be the greatest person ever at handling confrontation but reaction will still happen.
  • Sensory information has to go through an area of emotions in the brain before it gets to an area of rationalizing and thinking. The first reaction may be emotional. Let them get to the other part of the brain.
  • Know your recipient. This person may not be particularly good at handling emotional information or criticism so don’t expect it of them as much as you would of others.
  • Write down your thoughts. Handling confrontation is often best done on paper, prior to any meeting.
  • Have an appropriate third party present if necessary, to verify information or witness the conversation.
  • Don’t back down from what you know to be true.
  • Make sure you sort truth from assumption.
  • Remember this confrontation will be brief. It doesn’t determine the rest of your life. Don’t carry the emotional weight of it for long.
  • Deliver your information in charge neutral voice. If you are emotionally packed, they may react in kind.
  • Be compassionate. You are talking to a person of dignity and value.
  • If concerned about your handling it well, role play with someone else prior to the meeting.
  • Be clear and direct in what you are saying. It is of no help to beat around the bush. Bad news is better delivered quickly. A person senses something is going on anyway.
  • Take charge of the conversation. Don’t let the other person set the agenda. Handling confrontation means you know where you are going.
  • Don’t let the recipient divert you from your task. Sometimes people sense something unpleasant is coming and they will do everything they can to avoid it.
  • If you can find something good and honest to acknowledge, do so.
  • If you are sitting across the desk or a table, put your hands on the table showing you have nothing to hide.
  • If you are standing, don’t cross your arms, which is a defensive position and indicates a barrier is being put up between you and the other person. Hold you hands at your side.
  • Look the other person in the eye when you are talking to them. Be sincere.
  • Don’t avert their gaze.
  • Use their name and respect who they are as an individual.
  • If action on their part is required, be very clear on what that action is and any timelines that go with it.
  • Ask if they understand what has been said.
  • Do not enter into an argument. Handling confrontation is never about throwing more fuel on the fire.
  • Say it once and be clear.
  • If there is a genuine response and openness to listen and accept change on the part of the other person, then take an appropriate amount of time to help or refer them.
  • Don’t act condescending and superior but be in charge. You are the leader.
  • If others must know the results, and if appropriate, offer to assist them to craft a statement.
  • Be prepared to give them resources that will be helpful to them.
  • A sincere smile can go a long way. In most confrontations you don’t feel like smiling, but if it is appropriate somewhere, do it.
  • Take a few deep breaths before entering into the room. This will allow oxygen to come to the brain.
  • Take a drink of water. You may need this for a dry mouth and throat prior to talking.
  • Take a few moments to calm yourself prior to the confrontation.
  • If there is any appeal to someone else, let them know who that is and have contact information ready for them.
  • 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.
  • Pray for strength and calm as you enter into an undesirable confrontation situation.
  • In the absence of confrontation, simply be prepared. Conflict and confrontation will happen. Rare is the person or leader who doesn’t experience it sometime in life.

Some items on this list will be more important to you than others. Take the time to discuss them with your Coach if that would assist you. If needed, role play a possible meeting, going over various scenarios to have you as prepared as possible for handling confrontation.