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Michelle Gottlieb Psy.D., MFT, LPCC
Individual, Couple and Family Therapy
Resolving issues from your past that block your future

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Confrontations Don’t Need to be Scary

March 2011

Have you ever had a situation where you disagreed with someone and struggled with how to approach them? It can be very difficult. You can be stuck with trying to figure out what to say, what to do, how to act. Some people deal with it by not dealing with it at all, but by disappearing. Some people deal with it by becoming aggressive and trying to dominate the entire situation. I am going to suggest that there may be a better option.

The first thing that I suggest is that you talk to a neutral party who can give you some honest feedback if you are in the right or the wrong. If you talk with someone who is “on your side”, odds are that you will just get someone who is agreeing with everything that you say. If, after getting some good feedback, you know that you still need to move forward, then write down what are the points that you want to get across. As you write, be sure that you are not just being emotional, but that you have some good solid points to discuss. It is certainly okay to discuss your emotions and how you are being impacted by the situation; however, you do not want to be emotional during the discussion. Once we start being emotional, our ability to have a calm conversation can go out the window. Including the fact the people that we are have the disagreement with may no longer be paying heed to anything that we are saying.

Now that you are clear about what you need to talk about, you need to practice. Ask a trusted friend to role play with you. Practice different strategies of confrontation. Remember, confrontation does not necessarily mean screaming and yelling. It simply means saying that you disagree. You can have a very quiet confrontation. You can have a very gentle confrontation. Practice different styles until you find one that works for you.

Okay, you are ready. Call the person and set up a time to talk where you will not be interrupted. Make sure that you are well fed and well rested before you go. Talk to friends to help you keep your anxiety and stress down.  Once you start talking, if you begin to be emotional, ask to take a five minute break to calm down.  Very succinctly and calmly, tell the person why you are upset and what you disagree with. Tell them what you would like to see happen.  See if you can work out a compromise. Be clear about what your needs are.

You may be surprised about how well the conversation goes. You may be surprised to find out that you get to be heard and your needs get to be met. It takes practice, but you can do this!

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