Confrontation is a word that makes a lot of people cringe. Lots of people avoid confrontation because they believe that if they don’t speak their mind, the issue will resolve on its own. Or they think that confrontation only makes the problem worse. People are so afraid of confrontation!
But what if I told you that confrontation is a great skill to have that can actually IMPROVE your relationships? It’s time that we stop thinking about confrontation as something to avoid and start thinking about it as a helpful tool. Today we’ll talk about how to handle confrontation fearlessly so you can start speaking your mind and making your relationships even better.
I’d like you to think about how you tend to handle confrontation. Do you get loud and say things like “you did this to me!” Or do you tend to shy away and say things like “I’m sorry, but…”
The problem with confrontation isn’t the act itself, but how people go about doing it. The best way to handle confrontation is with confidence, not with arrogance or timidness.If you handle confrontation by pointing fingers and blaming people for making you feel the way you do, you’ll put people on the defense. No one likes to be told they’re wrong, and they definitely don’t like to hear it in a hostile way. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you apologize for the way you feel, you invite the other person to not take you seriously.
The following skill is one that comes from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is one of my absolute favorite skills to teach not only my clients, but my friends and family. Heck, I use this one for myself whenever I have to handle confrontation!
Fearlessly Handle Confrontation with “DEAR MAN”
“DEAR MAN” is an acronym that will help you to handle confrontation fearlessly and effectively. When you know how to confront appropriately, you take fear out of the equation and can focus on improving the relationship.
The “DEAR” in the “DEAR MAN” acronym is the actual confrontation part, and the “MAN” is how you behave when you’re confronting. This is a quick, simple skill that can be used alone or with other interpersonal skills. “DEAR MAN” stands for:
This sounds like a lot, but it’s really not! We’ll go through each step in the acronym, and then I’ll provide an example of how to use the skill.
“Describe” is exactly what it sounds like. Start by describing the situation that you want to confront the person about. Stick to the facts– things you could confirm. For example, “I heard you talking about me behind my back last night.”
This is where you talk about how you feel. Be careful to not point fingers or place blame here. One effective way of making sure you keep the focus on you is to start your sentences with “I feel.” For example, “When I heard you tell your friends that I’m over-dramatic, I felt really embarrassed.” Don’t say “You embarrassed me!” That can set the other person up to be defensive and turn the confrontation into an argument.
Let the other person know what you want to be different. This is your opportunity to fix the situation, so choose your words wisely! Be specific! Don’t say “Please don’t do that anymore.” Give the other person a solution so they know exactly what you want. For example, “It would mean a lot to me if you would come to me directly if you have a problem with something I said or did.”
Let the other person know what they will get out of the deal if they do what you want. For example, “If you talk to me first, I’ll know how you feel and I can change the way I’m acting a lot quicker.”
This is where we get into how you should act when you are confronting someone. Handle confrontation mindfully. In other words, be aware of how you are feeling and keep your emotions in check. Also, be mindful of how the other person is acting. Stay mindful of the moment and don’t get distracted by other times you felt hurt by the person. And don’t allow them to try to bring up past fights either. Turn it right back to the moment by saying something like “I understand that you’re still upset about our fight a few months ago, but right now I want to focus on what I heard you saying about me last night.”
[Related: Mindful Mondays Part 1: What is Mindfulness?]
Confrontation is not easy. Even if you’re afraid, act confident by making good eye contact, avoiding words like “just” and “maybe,” and use open body language (uncross your arms!) All these things will make the other person know that you’re serious about what you’re saying. And when you act confident, you’ll feel more confident.
Come in with a Plan B. It may be that the other person doesn’t agree with your solution to the problem, or maybe they have an even better solution. Be open-minded and flexible. For example, “I can see where you’re coming from not wanting to talk to me directly about how I was acting. Would you be more comfortable writing me a note instead?”
Putting it Together
This method to handle confrontation can sound like a lot, but when you put it all together, it’s really pretty simple! Here’s how the “DEAR” in “DEAR MAN” sounds all together:
“I heard you talking about me behind my back last night. When I heard you tell your friends that I’m over-dramatic, I felt really embarrassed. It would mean a lot to me if you would come to me directly if you have a problem with something I said or did. If you talk to me first, I’ll know how you feel and I can change the way I’m acting a lot quicker.”
Being confronted isn’t fun. And even when you do everything right in your confrontation, people will still sometimes get defensive and upset. If this happens, don’t forget to think about how you would feel if the situation was reversed, and validate, validate, validate. Say something like, “I can see that you’re feeling upset and I know that hearing this isn’t easy. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me even though it’s uncomfortable for us both.”
How do you fearlessly handle confrontation? Have you used the “DEAR MAN” skill before? Tell me about a time that you confronted someone and it made your relationship better!