How to Master the Art of Confrontation and Completely Resolve Any Issue
“All confidence is acquired, developed. No one is born with confidence. Those people you know who radiate confidence, who have conquered worry, have acquired their confidence, every bit of it.” -Dr. David Schwartz
I’ve only even known one person who seemed to be 100% relaxed with confrontation.
His name was Beau, and he was a mentor of mine in college. He was very type-A, a dominant and intimidating character. He seemed inexplicably sure of himself. He never had a problem with straightforward confrontation.
I envied him tremendously. I was terrified of confrontation (especially if it was with him, geez). My adrenaline surged just thinking about having a hard conversation. My whole life, my response to something I didn’t like was passive acceptance. Frankly, it was pathetic. I felt spineless, like a doormat everyone walked on.
Mastering confrontation is difficult, no doubt about it. Some of the most successful, powerful, and imposing individuals have a hard time with it. You may have met one or two people in your life who seem wired for it, but they’re not the norm. The other 99% of us usually have a really hard time expressing how we feel in a straightforward and frank manner that resolves conflict.
Sadly, most people are living completely confrontation-less lives. They don’t speak up when they should. They don’t put stand up for themselves because it’s simply too scary, too intimidating. The result? They’re unhappy, with failing relationships. Anxiety and stress have become chronic.
Confrontation is cunning, baffling, and powerful. You may think you’re terrible at facilitating confrontation, but I’m going to teach you how to not only master the art of confrontation, but use it to your advantage and resolve any issue: be it with your spouse, your boss, your children, or your best friend.
If you’re ready to learn this art, then keep reading.
Remember — Most People Act Out of Fear and Pain-Avoidance
“It’s human nature to quit when it hurts.” -Seth Godin
Your first step towards mastering the art of confrontation is to understand the default stance of most people — fear-and-pain avoidance.
Seth Godin is perhaps the most prolific marketing guru I’ve ever seen. His understanding of people and how they react to different scenarios is not just mastery, it’s wizardry. When describing people’s default reactions, Godin once wrote:
“Short-term pain has more impact on most people than long-term benefits do.”
The truth is, most people are focused on avoiding short-term pain than they are achieving long-term success.
Even if it only took one serious, blunt confrontation with someone to dramatically improve their life, most people still wouldn’t do it. As a result, most people are living lives that are, frankly, mediocre and average-at-best.
This described me perfectly. Growing up, I desperately wanted to connect with my dad, but never could. I felt he wanted me to be something I wasn’t so that we could relate more — to be wild and crazy just like he was as a teenager, and to be an engineer like he was.
That just wasn’t me, though. I never told him how I felt; the thought of confronting him about his desires was terrifying. So I’d fake it, hating myself all the while. Talking to him would’ve changed our whole dynamic, but I was completely focused on pain-avoidance and not long-term success.
It took me years to finally get the guts to call him and say, “You know what dad, that’s just not me. I’ve never going to be that guy.” Sure, it was awkward. And emotionally exhausting. I had been in pain for years pretending to be what I thought he wanted. But after I confronted him, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt light and confident and actually happy.
Think about your life right now.
- What is the one conversation you know you need to have — the one you keep putting off?
- Why are you avoiding it?
- What’s holding you back from creating a better life for yourself?
- Is it worth it to never achieve your BIG goal…just because you were too scared to have a conversation?
- Is the fear of that conversation really worth all the anxiety, stress, and mental drain its been having on you?
Even though most people are afraid of confrontation, you don’t have to be. As entrepreneur
Tim Ferriss once wrote:
“It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.”
Most people are fixated on mediocre aims, goals that are far below their potential. They fight for scraps with the other 99%, getting the same mediocre, average results most other people get.
But you don’t have to do that. In fact, once you decide you want a life that only 1% of people are going for, you’ll find the competition and progress is easier than ever.
Here’s How Self-Confident People Confront Someone
David Deida is a best-selling author and teacher on the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. I came across the following passage by him, and it’s one of the most helpful guides to confrontation I’ve ever seen.
Here’s how self-confident, self-assured, and focused individuals approach confrontation (and successfully resolve the issue):
“Open the front of your body so your chest and solar plexus are not tense. Sit or stand up straight and full, opening the front of your body, softening your chest and belly. Look directly into the eyes of whomever you are with, feeling your own pain as well as feeling the other person.
Only when the front of your body is relaxed and unguarded, your breath full and deep, and your gaze unguarded and directly connected with another person’s eyes, can your fullest intelligence manifest spontaneously in the situation.”
Your physical and physiological stature during a confrontation is extremely important.
Most people don’t realize that a confident posture unlocks enormous power in your mental state. Only when you fully embrace the pain can you see the situation with objective, emotion-free stress.
The opposite is also true; if you’re cowering with slumped shoulders and a meek, quiet voice as you try to confront an intimidating individual, your impact will be minimal and you’ll feel weak and inferior.
Recently, I was confronted by the Director of a project I had been working on. Several of them weren’t pleased with how I gave a presentation. In that moment, when 5 sets of eyes are glaring at you, it’s very easy to panic, get defensive, and lash out.
Instead, I embraced the posture of a self-confident person. I opened my chest, made direct eye contact with them, and relaxed my tense shoulders. As a result, I could respond tactfully and patiently, and not feel overwhelmed, which always leads to less chance of successful resolution.
Self-confident speakers approach confrontation with a battle plan, especially for their posture and stature. If you want to have a successful confrontation and resolve a difficult issue, you need to have a plan for your body language beforehand.
Your mind follows what your body does. To allow yourself the maximum confidence and assertiveness, you need to open your chest and front of your body. Your chin should be up, your eyes locked on the other person (not submissively avoiding eye contact). You should be focused, direct, and embrace the pain of the conversation, not avoid it.
This and other techniques are quite common lessons that professional speakers, presenters, and leaders learn. I’ve learned similar lessons in Toastmasters and leadership training. This is seriously what the masters do.
If you want to master the art of confrontation and resolve the difficult issues most people never address, you need to have an upgraded self-confidence.
Without first preparing your body and posture, you’ll always end up approaching these conversations with less confidence, assurance, and power than you need.
“The key to becoming world-class in your endeavors is to build your performance around world-class routines.” -Darren Hardy, former Editor of SUCCESS Magazine
Want to Resolve Any Issue? First, Clean Up Your Side of the Street
“Taking responsibility always leads to a revelation of what your next step needs to be.” -David Richo, How to Be an Adult
The reason most people fail to successfully confront and resolve difficult issues is simple: it’s easier to lash out at someone else than take responsibility for your part.
We’ve already covered that most people act out of fear-and-pain avoidance. It’s easier to criticize something out of your control than admit and fix something in your control.
Thousands of years ago, Jesus Christ had a similar message to thousands of people listening to his famous Sermon on the Mount:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
-Matthew 7: 3–5
If you want to have extremely successful confrontations and difficult conversations than end in life-changing resolution, you need to take time to “clean up your side of the street,” so to speak.
First, fix your problems. Only then can you unlock the confidence and self-assurance to come to others about theirs.
Taking responsibility always facilitates higher levels of thinking, deeper insights into the core of what’s really going on — the resolution. This is why most people seem to never resolve anything; they aren’t willing to take responsibility for their part, preventing them from achieving higher levels of thinking.
As Carl Jung once said:
“Darkness and upheaval always provide an expansion of consciousness.”
“To act our of fear of guilt or of looking bad or of punishment means that our values have no had the chance to achieve their full primacy in our lives.” -David Richo
Confrontations is hard. Most people never take the time to learn how to do it right, or even at all.
As a result, most people won’t have great relationships, because highly intimate and rewarding relationships require the occasional confrontation. Furthermore, most people’s self-confidence and self-assurance is low and weak. Their fear of short-term pain outweighs the potential enormous gain by having an uncomfortable conversation.
There are specific techniques anyone can employ to begin mastering the art of confrontation:
- Open your chest and front of your body
- Soften your muscles and relax your shoulders
- Make direct eye contact
- Breathe full and deep
- Embrace the pain, don’t avoid it
Only then can you fully focus on the subtle nuances and behind-the-scenes emotions most people because they’re too busy being defensive and afraid. If you can keep a steady hand, you’ll be able to resolve anything.
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