Conquering discomfort: Mastering the art of effective confrontation

Published on
16 May 2024
Susie Jones
Susie Jones
Principal Consultant

It’s been nearly 30 years since I watched my mum navigate the labyrinthine world of UK school leadership as a self-employed education consultant.  Back then, she wasn’t just solving problems; she was an alchemist, transforming conflict into opportunities for growth. 

Her secret ingredient?  The art of effective confrontation.

Have you ever stared at a work email composing a “difficult conversation” message, then sighed and hit delete?  We’ve all been there.

Confrontation, when done poorly, can feel like a social grenade – guaranteed to damage relationships and leave problems unresolved. Even the word “confrontation” gets us feeling uncomfortable!

But what if I told you that effective confrontation can be a powerful tool that YOU can use for growth and positive change?  By learning to navigate discomfort and have constructive conversations, you can address challenges head-on, build stronger relationships, and create a more positive work environment (or personal life!).

Why effective confrontation matters

Let’s face it, avoiding confrontation often comes at a high cost. Unresolved issues fester, resentment builds, and progress stalls. But effective confrontation cuts through the tension. It allows you to communicate openly, address problems directly, and find solutions that benefit everyone.

The two faces of confrontation

Not all confrontations are created equal. Let’s break down the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly:

Before the conversation: preparation is key

Conquering discomfort starts before the conversation even begins. Here are some actionable steps to get you ready:

  1. Choose your environment wisely: Pick a private, quiet space where you can both focus.
  2. Know your enemy (just kidding – know your issue): Clearly define the problem you want to address.
  3. Plan your approach: Outline your opening statement and desired outcomes.

The art of conversation 

The actual conversation is where the magic happens (or doesn’t). Here’s how to make it a success:

Phrases for success: Here are some conversation starters to get you going:

Beyond the words

Remember, communication isn’t just about words. Maintain eye contact, use an open body posture, and keep your tone professional.

Confrontation doesn’t have to be a battle. By approaching it with preparation, respect, and a focus on solutions, you can transform it into an opportunity for growth and positive change.

So, it seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! I am currently supporting three different organisations to build these skills, so Mum, this one’s for you.  Thank you for teaching me the power of clear communication, even in the face of discomfort.  It’s a privilege to share this wisdom.

Talk to us about supporting you and your teams to navigate discomfort and build capability in the art of effective confrontation. Get in touch, we’d love to help.

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