The world is going through a stressful time. Most people are stuck at home, spending more time than ever with family, partners, or roommates, as the case may be. Social distancing guidelines and video calls have changed the way we interact with each other.
While social media is full of fun, quirky images of people baking banana bread, doing home workouts, and on family Zoom calls, giving the impression that largely humanity is making lemonade from the lemons life dealt them, in reality all this endless time together at home with others during a time of uncertainty and the fear of the unknown can be more than a little stressful.
This new reality brings with it, its own challenges. Being stuck indoors with not much physical activity, managing small kids with too much energy, dealing with difficult work situations over video calls, anxiety over potential job loss— all this can lead to anger, frustration and resentment which manifests into conflict with those around us.
Some people prefer to withdraw while others lash out. Both reactions are an attempt to manage stress and will put a dent on your relationships, be it with those at home or at work. However, there is a third option to manage conflicts in a healthy way — Confrontation!
The root word for confrontation comes from the Medieval Latin confrontārī—stand face to face with. When we confront someone, we are facing down each other’s fears, issues, and challenges before they escalate into a major conflict. I have personally found that when faced with a challenge caused by a difference of opinion, the best way to find resolution and move forward, is to confront the other party with rationale and logic. This is particularly important to do at an early stage before the situation escalates into a full-blown conflict, and then it may be too late to find a resolution that works.
Most conflicts begin with a confrontation that was not governed by ground rules. Based on my own experiences, I developed a set of guidelines that have proven useful in deescalating many a situation in both my personal and professional life.
- Check your emotions at the door.
Emotions are the greatest obstacle to conducive communication. When you bring emotions into a confrontation, it detracts from the message and your intent is rarely ever conveyed in the right way. The most important thing to do before you get ready to confront a person is to make a conscious effort to remove your emotional reaction from the equation. This means, never enter a confrontation when you are angry or hurt. Remember that confrontation is about building bridges, not walls.
- Never confront the person, always the issue.
Words are powerful when you use them the right way. Avoid using “I” and “you” in the discussion. When you drag the personality into the problem, the dynamics of the conversation change. It automatically devolves from a discussion into an argument that will likely not go anywhere. Never argue your point for the point’s sake; only lawyers do that. You cannot go into a confrontation with the intent to win. Victory is only valid when both sides win. And that can only be achieved when both sides can reach an understanding on the issue at hand.
- Always begin with listening. Listen as much as you talk, if not more.
Confrontation requires mastering the art of listening, not just talking. You must listen to understand and not just to reply. Your body language is a powerful tool in this. When you agree with something the other person has said, a simple nod of your head to convey your agreement will greatly improve the quality of the discussion.
You can only begin to address the issue once you fully understand what the other person wishes to state. In my experience, I have found that in many cases, the other person simply wants to vent. Venting is therapeutic! Sometimes a situation builds up because the person feels they have not been heard. Hence, it is important to begin any confrontation by letting the other person speak first. The more you listen, the more effective you become in addressing the issue.
- Confrontation must always have an end game in sight.
You must know where you want to go and not lose sight of it. Do not digress. However tempting it is to bring other issues into the discussion, refrain. When you bring in unrelated subjects, it defeats the purpose of the ongoing confrontation. Resist, and remain focused. Make only one point at a time.
I refer back to the second rule here. Your aim is not to win, but to find a resolution that works for both of you. Compromise is not giving in to the other person but completing that bridge you started out to build. When you agree to a compromise, you allow the other person to see that you are willing to see things from their point of view. Confrontation without compromise is only possible for a principle, never in your personal relationships. This also allows you the opportunity to put an end to the stressful situation and begin the process of healing.
As human beings, we are social creatures. Social distancing or not, people crave interaction and seek out human connection. Especially now, during a time of deep uncertainty, relationships are crucial for our mental health and wellbeing. Knowing how to sort through our difference can help us connect better with each other and treat each other with kindness.
About the Author
Vijay Eswaran is a successful entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and philanthropist and the author of the best-selling book In the Sphere of Silence. An economist by training, he is the founder of a multimillion-dollar global business.
A well-known thought leader in Asia, he has written and spoken extensively about business, leadership, personal development, and life management. For more of his writing and videos, please follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
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