Confrontation! How to Make it Helpful, not Hurtful

screeming menAt some point we have had or will have a tough conversation. Whether with a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, or a family member, confrontation is never easy.

Because we dislike confrontation, and because it is so difficult, we often do anything to avoid it.

These conversations usually occur because you care about the person, you have been hurt, or you do not want someone else to get hurt.

Whatever the reason, confronting another person is never easy.

The reason we fear such conversations – and the reason it often goes poorly – is because we lack the tools of healthy confrontation.

Let me suggest some steps you can take to confront others in a healthy way.

Always start with giving the benefit of the doubt. First, begin by letting the person explain why he behaved in such a hurtful way, or why she said such hurtful things.

You don’t always know the reason for someone’s hurtful behavior. Even if you think you know, it is still best to start by letting them explain.

Separate emotions from behavior. You can easily get caught up in the emotions of a situation and miss the facts of the behavior. Give yourself some time to identify exactly what you are feeling as well as what you are confronting the person about.

Can you separate the precise reason for confronting this person from what you are feeling? And can you make that distinction during the conversation? Many conversations that were well-intended at the start ended horribly when emotions took over.

Begin the conversation positively. Tell the person what they mean to you and how much you value the relationship. Be sure to let them know that you are having this conversation because you care and place great value on the relationship.

Getting lost in the pain and anger of the situation usually results in the loss of anything positive as well.

Start with positives up front and try not to lose sight of them throughout the conversation. After all, the positives are the reason you are risking this confrontation in the first place.

Focus on the issue. Along with separating emotions from behaviors, as noted above, this is probably the most challenging aspect when confronting someone about an issue. It is very easy to bring up past behaviors and issues when trying to make your point.

You may have had the experience of confronting a co-worker or spouse and found yourself bringing up other issues to make your point. Or it may have happened to you: you were confronted about one issue but a non-related issue was brought up by the person confronting you.

Generally when this happens the conversation does not end well. Make every effort to stay focused on the immediate issue. One of the best ways to do this is to write down the precise issue you need to address.

Maintain healthy boundaries. Avoid name calling, raising your voice, putting down or disrespecting the other person during the confrontation. Always treat the other person in the same manner you would like to be treated.

At the same time, do not allow the other person to treat you badly during the conversation. You must set boundaries for how you will allow others to treat you. Also, do not allow the other person to blame you for what is rightly their own responsibility.

Confrontation will never be easy or welcomed by most of us, but they are a necessary part of life. If you have meaningful relationships, you will have to deal with confrontation at some point.

While we find confrontation uncomfortable and unwelcomed, we can work toward positive and healthy outcomes if we enter into confrontational situations carefully and prepared, applying the suggested tools above.

Before your next confrontation, take some time and go over a recent situation – even if it is a current one – applying the tools suggested above. Then attempt to have a more healthy and helpful conversation.

If you would like help in achieving your goals in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.