Monday, September 6, 2010

Keys to Good Confrontation

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I don't know if anyone actually enjoys confrontation, I hope not. However, I think it's healthy to not necessarily shy away from it. From my experience, a healthy confrontation often leads to: closer-knit relationships, it's an unusual bonding experience and something that brings people closer after an emotional journey; greater understanding, I think it's always helpful to walk away from a situation feeling clarity where previously it was cloudy; humility, nothing attracts me to a person more than knowing they're humble, and nothing brings humility out quite like a healthy dose of resolution. That's scratching the surface I'm sure, but I want to get into what I think of as the keys to having a good confrontation that you can walk away from with a lighter heart.

1. Breathe. This whole post is coming out of my recent drama at my gym. I was working on the speed bag for a few rounds and then a trainer approached me (humbly I might add) to say that in the future if there was a rehab client on one of the tables that I shouldn't get on the bags. Now, this lit a giant fire inside me, but I knew that maybe the worst time to speak is when I'm emotional, so I nodded my acknowledgment and finished my workout. I immediately felt that someone else's workout was taking precedence over my own and felt slighted, it wasn't as if I were taking away the other client's equipment, right?? So, with all these emotions flooding I knew I was in no place to hear very well, and hearing is of the utmost importance for healthy conflict.

2. Humility. There has to be an absolute desire to understand from another point of view, if the only concern is making your own point heard then there cannot be a healthy resolution, because "getting your way" isn't healthy for anyone, listening is healthy, and you can't expect for someone else to listen if you don't do it first. Example may be the best teacher.

3. Express emotions, unemotionally. The trickiest of them all is to say exactly how you're feeling but to do it in an non-accusational, one way to do this is using language that's "removed" from the other person. i.e. instead of "You pissed me off by saying I'm ugly", perhaps something like "when I heard myself being called ugly, I was really hurt", I think this helps retain accuracy while helping paint your own picture without directly villifying the other person, helping to keep emotions abated.

4. Validate emotions. No matter how illogical the misunderstanding, it's vital to acknowledge and validate someone's emotions. It's okay to understand and even apologize for someone's hurt feelings even if you did nothing wrong, because even in a ridiculous situation saying "I'm sorry you're hurt over that" does not mean "I'm a giant jerk and I'm sorry for what you think I did". To clear up a misunderstanding it's important the other person feels valid, even if their emotions arrived invalidly. Facts are important in any conflict, and you can't change the fact of how someone feels/felt.

I'm sure there's more to it, but I think those are the ones I need to get through a confrontation, whether it's one I initiate or not. I need to be level-headed first, so that I can then be humble and expressive and genuinely understanding. If at the end of the day there's no resolution, never lie, just acknowledge you have differing views and don't try to kick the dead horse back to life.

So, how did mine at the gym go? Well, the next day I worked out and caught up with the guy afterward, asked if he had a second to talk, told him that I thought he was great and did nothing wrong in spirit, but that I was offended that it seemed like another member's workout was getting priority over mine, he apologized immediately (and I restated that I wasn't offended at *him*, but that I didn't understand the philosophy of what was said) and he explained that when a client is on the table that they by terms have rented out that entire section of the gym. I understood immediately and we had a good few minutes of clearing the air, future strategy for similar situations, and mutual understanding/respect, a quick hand-pound and man-hug and we were through. A good confrontation.

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