In a culture of positive influence, confrontation is not a situation to fear, but one to embrace as an opportunity to achieve a resolution or breakthrough that cannot be achieved otherwise. In your mental preparation for a tough conversation, consider replacing the word “confrontation” with the phrase “conversation to achieve resolution.” In conversational confrontation, think “resolution” instead of “victory.” Instead of bringing the other person to their knees, imagine that your goal is to bring out the best in them.
A heart for bringing out the best in others is a valuable leadership quality, but it goes beyond that. Leaders with a passion for bringing out the best in the people they lead often have a heart for bringing out the best in whoever they encounter, including themselves.
The goal of productive confrontation is not to win at the expense of the other person. The goal is for everyone to come out of the confrontation better off than they entered it. Envision that result for the other person as well as yourself. An empowering mindset for confrontation equips you to rise above win-lose confrontation in order to pursue win-win confrontation. Win-lose confrontation applies to war or litigation, but win-win confrontation is what you want for a culture of positive influence. A heart for win-win confrontation makes it more productive.
The fear of confrontation is an enemy that absolutely must be conquered – decisively and permanently. Of course, I’m not talking about confrontation just for the sake of confrontation. I’m talking about engaging in a confrontation that is necessary in order for a problem to be resolved.
Instead of approaching confrontation with fear, approach it with excitement for the good that can come out of it, especially for the other person. To overcome the fear of confrontation, begin with this principle: The number one strategy for handling confrontation is not to worry about yourself. We are all wired in such a way that we are at our best and strongest when we are focused on the well-being of others above our own, and we are all at our worst and weakest when we are focused on the well-being of ourselves above others.
Just understanding that we are at our best and strongest when we are focused on the well-being of others helps us master confrontation in a positive way, a way that leaves everyone better off at the end than they were at the beginning, brings out the best in the people you lead, and makes you a leader that people want to follow.
Confrontation is especially stressful when we believe that we are in the position of weakness and the other person has the position of strength. We always want to engage in a confrontation from a position of strength.
Once you realize that we are naturally wired to be at our best and strongest when we are focused on the well-being of others above our own, it provides an absolute game-changer for establishing your position of strength in confrontation. It turns the whole idea of strength and weakness in confrontation upside down. The rule for establishing a position of strength in confrontation now becomes this:
- The key to achieving the best results in confrontations is to focus on the needs, well-being and dignity of the other person and let your own needs, well-being and dignity take care of themselves – and trust that they will.
Your self-talk may sound like this: “When this is over, I’ll be fine. I need to help the other person get through it, so they’ll be fine, too.”
You also want everyone in the confrontation to be relaxed. In a sense, you want them to have the same feeling of strength that you have, because it’s the right kind of strength for achieving the ideal resolution. You don’t want them to feel fear any more than you want yourself to feel it.
Fear on either side undermines a confrontation. This is why intimidation rarely has a long-term benefit in a confrontation. Intimidation won’t empower you to lead a win-win confrontation.
Instead, you want to use the confrontation to build a relationship of mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual understanding and mutual dignity. When you allow yourself to take this approach, it increases your own feelings of peace, strength and hope for the confrontation. It also increases the chances of a win-win outcome.