Handling confrontation is not a science. An envied few probably make it seem more like an art. But for the vast majority of executives it's a necessity we would rather do without. Here's the rub: we are the ones who have to deal with it. Every level of the organization faces confrontation. Owners, executives, managers and professionals, none are immune.
Fortunately there are strategies we can learn. Here are twelve things to keep in mind when you are in the thick of confrontation:
- Separate the person's character from their behavior. Never 'attack' the person. Treat them with dignity and respect.
- Don't be sidetracked from the topic. Do not talk about other issues. Refuse to go down the path of confusion. Stay focused.
- If possible, stand up. You will feel more in control reaching your full stature with your shoulders back.
- Speak calmly with a low and controlled voice. Rising and runaway emotions only hamper constructive conversation.
- Plan for a reaction. There will be one of some sort, either passive or aggressive.
- If necessary, have a third person join you to verify information or witness the conversation.
- Stand your ground on what you know to be true. And stick to the facts not the assumptions.
- Speak with clarity. Don't go around in circles. Be respectfully direct. Deliver bad news quickly. People know when something bad is about to happen.
- Maintain eye contact. Be sincere.
- Refuse to engage in an argument.
- Keep control without an attitude of superiority. Act like the wise leader you are.
- A sincere smile can go a long way. In most confrontations you don't feel like smiling, but if there is the smallest reason or opportunity at all, take it.
If you are in leadership, work with your coach on this one. You know how vital it is to improve your skills at this. Your ability at handling confrontation may keep a good employee, mitigate the damage of a disgruntled one, help a professional to step up and reach for their potential or stop a mass exodus.