How to Fearlessly Handle Confrontation

How to Fearlessly Handle Confrontation

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!

[Related: Letting Go of Toxic People: Why Now is the Right Time]

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:

Describe
Express
Assert
Reinforce

Mindful
Appear Confident
Negotiate

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

“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.”

Express

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.

Assert

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.”

Reinforce

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.”

Mindful

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?]

Appear Confident

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.

Negotiate

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.”

Easy, right?

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!

How To Fearlessly Handle Confrontation

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  • LOVE this…confrontation is so hard, but many times needs to be done anyway…great tips and steps…I’m going to be using this once I go back to work after the summer…thank you

  • Love this! I tend to hate confrontation and try to avoid it, but good to know that there’s ways that confrontation can be handled without things getting escalated and out of control.

  • Christina Rambo

    Whoa. This is good. So practical. Thank you.

  • Margaret Wahl Westhoff

    I’ve never heard of the DEAR MAN approach, but it is excellent. Thanks for sharing.

  • I don’t know how I haven’t come across your blog before, Amanda, but I love it. Just gave you a follow on Bloglovin’ so I can start keeping up, aaaand I’m off to stalk some more of your blog posts, haha.

    I love how you went in depth here and explained what each step meant – I’ve never heard of the “Dear Man” approach before, but I’m sold. I’m not the best at confrontation; if something needs to be said, I don’t have a problem saying it, but I usually dissolve into a puddle of tears if I’m having a confrontation with a close family member. This will be super helpful in the future, and I’ll definitely be referencing it. Pinning for later! 🙂

    On the Tendril Wild blog:My Favorite Canva Tips for Better Blog Graphic Design

    • AW Thanks Bria!! That means so much to me. Probably haven’t seen me before because my blog is not even two months old yet 😉

      I’m really glad that you’re able to use “dear man!” It has been so helpful for me and everyone else I’ve introduced it to.

      • Oh! Well that makes sense then, haha. I love the space you’ve created here in just a couple of short months!

  • I don’t like confrontation at all! Thank you for sharing this method that breaks it down so easily. Being able to confront someone in a healthy way is so important for any relationship.

  • this is great! i never heard of the dear man approach before, but love it!

  • Robin

    This is so intriguing! I feel like people get stuck in the “describe” and “express” stage and never give concrete steps on how to fix it. Definitely going to bookmark this one!

  • brittany

    I absolutely loved this post! I’ve always been extremely uncomfortable with confrontation so this was super helpful!

  • Ugh, confrontation is the worst! I love this advice though!

  • Jen

    I have to write this down! I’ve never heard of the DEAR MAN acronym before. The “I” statements rather than “you” statements can truly make all the difference.

  • shootingstarsmag

    Oh gosh, I’m so bad with anything related to confrontation. I’m a pretty shy person and I get social anxiety, so it’s difficult to talk to people about anything. These are great tips though and I’ve never heard of the DEAR MAN method so thanks for breaking it down.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

  • And when all else fails and it turns out you’re working with someone COMPLETELY unable to reason – know when it’s best just to walk away (even if it hurts your pride a little bit).

  • Nicole Locorriere

    What a great resource! I’m in training to be a marriage and family therapist, and I can definitely see this being really useful. The premise of the theory we use is that families get stuck in a loop of behaviors they don’t know how to break, and those behaviors are communicating something to the other members of the family that set the loop in motion. With a more direction confrontation method like DEAR MAN, a family won’t be able to react the way they’re used to, which will easily break the loop. Thanks for the awesome tip, I can’t wait to see if it works in practice!

    • Ah yes! Good old cybernetics theory 🙂 I love finding other therapists out in the blogging world! Can’t wait for you to be able to use DEAR MAN with your own clients soon!

  • Ayanna

    I so needed this!! My hubby and I have been dealing with some family issues that require us to confront some family members. This “DEAR MAN” technique is something we can definitely use in this situation and in life.

  • Jen @ Saving with Spunk

    I had a situation like this on Monday. I followed those steps but it’s still so nerve-wracking because the other person could be totally resistant. This is such a good guide for handling it!

    • Thanks Jen! Yep, gotta remember that you can only do what you can do, and can only control yourself. How they respond is on them.

  • Maya Maceka

    Amanda, this post hit home! I am definitely the type of person who does not like any type of confrontation. And I will putting all of your tips into motion the next time it’s necessary.

  • Jenna Urben

    I hate confrontation, SO MUCH! But these tips will def help, thank you!

  • I am so bad at confrontation. I let it stew until I erupt most of the time. I needed to read this. Thank you.

  • Wow, this is an amazing I am sorry to have not come across before. I often avoid confrontation, but it has a lot to do with the fact that I so rarely see it modeled well. This is an excellent explanation and example. I feel it will take a lot of practice before I get this done, but I am confident it will be a huge help. Thank you for this post! Your blog is wonderful!

    • Thank you Maygin! I think you’re spot on that confrontation is very rarely modeled appropriately, which is really unfortunate. When I was going through my counseling training, they told us that sometimes we’d have to confront clients and I’m sitting there like, “SAY WHAT” because I was not about that life. Now that I know positive ways to confront, it’s a no brainer.

  • This is such a helpful post Amanda. Something I really hate in relationships is when people are passive aggressive. I would much rather have a bit of confrontation! But I like the way you have outlined this because I think there is a right and wrong way to go about it.

  • Thank you so much for this! I struggle with a lot of anxiety so naturally confrontations are hard. I will remember Dear Man and work on putting it into effect in my day-to-day life. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks for this great advice. I will have to remember that phrase when I have to confront someone this weekend.

  • Bailey

    I love that acrostic So well-done.

  • I learned about dear man through DBT work and it’s seriously so life changing! I truly believe this is a huge part of why my boyfriend and I don’t really argue or quickly resolve problems if we do.

    • That’s awesome Michelle! DBT is a lifestyle! It’s so good all around. I’m so glad that you’ve been able to see how awesome this technique works in action!

  • Thanks Debbie!

  • Elizabeth Brico

    I pinned this, because I have a really big problem not blowing up or being accusatory when I’m really upset. I need to work on it, and this seems like a great way to handle it. Conflict is, however, much easier to deal with when the other person is at least willing to listen.

  • Kristen Oliver

    This is such an important topic to talk about! I shared it on my blog as well because it’s such good information. The DEAR MAN approach is a great tool and easy to remember.

  • Sarah DeMott

    I love this so much! I am horribly terrified of confrontation in almost every situation and I’m going to start using this at home, in public, in the workplace. It does seem like a lot of steps but they’re all simple and easy to string together!

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  • Home Baked Bliss

    This is such a great system for handling confrontation, I have to write this down and memorize it for the future. My best friend and I have this thing that we call “calling out each others bs”. We give each other the right to confront the other person anytime if we feel like they are doing something wrong, not just in our relationship but also in eg. our marriages. It’s not always easy, but it really helps you see outside the box. Confrontation is important but it should be done right, like you said.

  • I am the queen of un-confrontation, so this is really helpful!

  • Shana

    This is a really helpful post! I had never heard of the D.E.A.R M.A.N acronym before. Thanks for sharing!

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