Scared of having that ‘little chat’?
Aren’t we all. You’re sitting at work when *ping* an email drops into your inbox.
It’s Sandra from HR asking for a ‘quick chat’. Sounds ominous.
You’re sure she’s never liked you and now she’s found some reason to make you really suffer.
Your entire body runs hot. Confrontation is not your strong suit.
Actually, if you’re honest, you hate it.
Cate Mackenzie, qualified psychosexual therapist and couples counsellor, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s not what we’re doing, it’s how we’re doing it.
‘People get caught in a ‘cortisol dump’. When someone is stressed, their body releases hormones; cortisol, adrenaline and testosterone, which hinder their ability to think straight.’
If you want to handle confrontation without getting worked up into a stress-induced frenzy, there are some simple steps you can take.
Take a moment to slow down
The minute a confrontation rears its head, you probably react like this: You panic, think of the worst case scenario and then ‘bite the bullet’ by launching into an argument. ‘Slow down.
It’s helpful to think appreciative thoughts or do something that helps you feel better like dancing, meditation, or relaxation,’ explains Mackenzie.
‘You’re more likely to have a better conversation when you’re in your body, not your head.’
Sadly, it may not always be possible to dance or meditate – if you’re at work, for instance – but give yourself a second to just chill. Take some deep breaths; in and out.
Figure out what you want
Now you’re feeling calmer, consider how you want this to go down.
For example, if you’re about to come head-to-head with nit-picky Sandra, you may want her to get off your back.
‘Create an intention before you go toward a communication,’ explains Mackenzie.
‘It can be helpful to envision what you would really like and imagine this happening and working.
This sets your mind into a positive place.’
To avoid becoming defensive or angry, focus on the end result.
Having a preferred outcome in mind means you’ll make better choices and articulate yourself well.
Check the time is right
If your confronter has come to you, you can be pretty darn sure that the timing is right for them.
Your move. However, if you’ve got a burning issue to raise, you need to be certain the other person has the time to hear you out.
Before you go bulldozing in, ask the most important question of all.
‘Ask if it’s a good time to talk,’ says Mackenzie.
‘Take a second to check that the person has time to talk and that they are in the right headspace.’
Never attack the other person
Now, for the golden rule of any confrontation.
‘Avoid attacking the other person. When you attack someone, they go into a defensive mode,’ says Mackenzie.
‘It’s very normal – just look at any culture; any society.
We have to go to people with the big discussion in a very calm way or we will engage their defence.’
If you want to handle confrontation like an adult, you’re going to need to act like an adult.
That means ignoring your gut instinct to start a slanging match and approaching the issue in a calmer, more conscientious manner.
Use the ‘appreciation sandwich’
Luckily, there’s a method you can use here.
The Temperature Reading, created by author and therapist Virginia Satir, is a five-step method that helps people communicate well.
While it’s a tad hefty for a novice confronter, Mackenzie offers a snappier version.
‘I use an adaptation of this in my client work as a three-stage method called an appreciation sandwich,’ says Mackenzie.
‘You start with an appreciation; letting the person know you appreciate their time or attention.’
Think of this part as giving someone a piece of chocolate right before you tell them some bad news.
It sweetens the medicine. ‘Move onto the puzzle; querying what happened without accusing them.’
For instance, you might innocently question why Sandra continuously sends you emails rather than simply speaking to you in person.
‘And you finish with a request; asking them to do something or suggesting a solution you can work on together.’
So, you might suggest having a monthly meeting with Sandra, which will conveniently mean she doesn’t have to bother you 24/7. Nicely done.
Of course, in a perfect world, we could all just get along and never have a problem with one another.
It would sunshine, rainbows, and all that jazz. But, as we all know, this is not a perfect world.
So since you’re going to have to deal with it anyhow, you should at least be prepared.
Give the steps here a whirl, go forth, and confront.