Managing confrontation and conflict has been a dominant theme in sessions lately. With so much tension in the world, professional and personal relationships are being strained by disagreements, differing perspectives, conflicting beliefs and experiences.

With the holiday period approaching, here are some key tips for working through confrontations, conflicts and difficult conversations and interactions with empathy, composure and confidence.

1. Learn your default behaviours

Confrontation and conflict are stressful and we engage in default behaviours as a way of coping with the discomfort. You may:

  • Avoid and withdraw
  • Prioritise harmony and over-accommodate
  • Become defensive and aggressive
  • Stonewall and give the silent treatment
  • Minimise and downplay importance
  • Become passive-aggressive
  • Shift the blame onto others
  • Seek validation and over-apologise

Spend time understanding your default behaviours and the fears driving them. Most often it’s one or more of these:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of judgement
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Fear of being vulnerable

Stay as mindful as possible of whether you are moving into fear-based default behaviours as they don’t lead to effective resolution. Instead….

2. Prepare Intentionally
  • Know how you want to show up;
  • Set intentions;
  • Think through what points are important for you to make; and
  • Prioritise managing your own emotions before and during the interaction. Have practices available to you to calm your body and mind.
3. Engage with Emotional Intelligence
  • Show up and lead with empathy. Actively listen to others, give them your full attention and if required, ask them to do the same for you.
  • Keep your body, tone of voice and facial expressions as neutral and composed as possible. If you need to take a break, do so – it’s incredible the impact it can have on your ability to engage with equanimity.
  • Avoid personal or character attacks, keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand.
4. Find Resolution Now and in the Future
  • Keep things in perspective. If the conversation is getting out of hand or off track, bring it back to what is most important – resolution may look like agreeing to disagree.
  • Give yourself the opportunity to engage in managing confrontation and conflict regularly. It is a skillset to be learned and practiced.