“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock the stream always wins. Not through strength, but through persistence.” ~ Unknown
When confrontation in the workplace used to happen I would get very upset and flustered which hindered my communication. I would stammer, stumble and shake and it made matters worse. Some confronters are very good at sensing a “weak lamb” and will push the limits to see if they can get them to fall apart.
I cannot say that I enjoy confrontation now, but I have become better at handling it when it does happen, and at times enjoy the challenge. There are a few techniques that I have learned that make these types of situations less stressful and more successful when encountered.
1. Allow the person to state their complaint completely before speaking. Interrupting them will only make them more upset (I learned this the hard way).
2. Put yourself at the same level as they are if at all possible. If they are sitting then sit, standing then stand. Keep your posture good and look at them directly when they are speaking and when you speak to them.
3. Keep your tone of voice clam and always professional. Do not use slang words, speak slowly and clearly.
4. Do not argue instead agree in principle “I understand how you might feel that way” or “yes, I see this is upsetting to you.” This validates that you have heard them and shows empathy.
5. Let them know what you can do about their issue and repeat it as many times and in different ways until they understand what it is that you can do.
It is always difficult when the situation is one that you cannot fix to the confronter’s liking. Using phrases as “I wish I could do that, our policy states…” or “I would like to help you by doing….” can steer the situation toward resolution.
Not all confrontations have a happy ending. Reflecting on them after they happen I try to learn what I could have done better or what I did that worked well. In our workplace we share with each other when these situations happen so that we all can benefit from the incidence and be more confident in helping our clients when future issues arise.
These five points to dealing with confrontations have helped me tremendously to be able to handle situations with more confidence, which has made a difference in my professional life.