Meet Confrontation Head-On Without Upsetting Anyone (Including Yourself!)

Confrontation doesn't need to be scary.

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Have you ever found yourself carrying around resentment over something that someone has said or done in the past? Perhaps even a close friend or family member?

Or, even worse, have you passively watched a once-cherished relationship fizzle out because of an unspoken hurt or resentment?

If you don't know how to handle confrontation, then you likely left things where they were, even if it was upsetting to you.


Maybe it was something subtle, like your once-single friend stopped reaching out as much after they started dating. Maybe it was something more explicit, like a heated argument that was never properly addressed.

Whatever the cause, consider for a moment why you chose to keep it bottled up inside, rather than address it.

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Confrontation is hard and scary.

Or, at the very least, it really feels that way. Especially when you’ve never really been taught how to go about it.

But when done properly, it has the potential to both save relationships and free you from the very unnecessary burden of carrying around anger and resentment.

And that is precisely why you owe it to yourself to get better at it.

Here are 6 ways you can learn how to handle confrontation without upsetting anyone.

1. Before you talk, set the right intention.

So, you’ve gathered up the nerve to have an open conversation about the thing that’s been bugging you. Great!

Now, before you sit down to talk, you must ask yourself: Why am I having this conversation? What is my goal?


Be honest. If your intention is any of the following (or something similar), I recommend pumping the brakes:

Proving that you are right and the other person is wrong.
Making the other person feel bad.
Demanding change or an apology.

I encourage you to only initiate a confrontation for the purpose of making things better between you and the other person.

With that intention in mind, you can strive to create understanding by speaking kindly and truthfully.

2. Listen intently when the other person speaks.

If you want to be heard by the other person, you must demonstrate a willingness to listen. Yes, even if you don’t want to, and even if you think you're right and they're wrong.


Remember, there truly is no right or wrong. There is only your perspective and theirs. And if you want them to hear your perspective, you must also hear theirs — and you must resist the temptation to interrupt, argue, or roll your eyes.

This is about giving the other person the chance to give you insight into their perspective, which will likely be different from yours. Try being open and curious. See if you can understand where they’re coming from.

It’s often tempting to interrupt when you hear something you believe to be incorrect (e.g., "No, I absolutely did not do that thing you just said I did.”). Try your best to resist the urge to interrupt in the moment.

Remember you'll have your chance to respond (and calmly correct any misconceptions or misunderstandings) once they have finished speaking.


3. State your observations.

This is step one in how to navigate confrontational situations according to Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

The first thing you’ll want to think about and communicate is this: What actually happened? At first glance, this seems pretty straightforward. Don’t be fooled; it's not! You absolutely must think about this beforehand.

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What you tend to communicate in a confrontation is your evaluations and interpretations of what happened (e.g., “You don’t care about spending time with me anymore.”) rather than what actually, objectively happened (e.g., “For the past few nights, you’ve played video games for several hours after work and haven’t asked me about my day.”).


See the difference? The problem with communicating your evaluations rather than the facts is twofold: You're often wrong, and evaluations are often received as criticism, which is often not received well.

4. Express your feelings.

After stating the facts, it’s time to express how you feel about them. This is all about taking ownership of how you're feeling without placing blame on the other person (or yourself).

It’s vital here to express a true feeling (e.g., anger, fear, indifference, sadness, unease), rather than further interpretations of the situation (e.g., “I feel rejected,” translates to, “I feel that you rejected me.”).

Here are a few other ways we use the word “feel” without actually expressing a feeling:


“I feel that you don’t care about spending time with me.”

“I feel like you just don’t understand my needs.”

These examples are essentially just more thoughts and interpretations. Additionally, these are all things that typically cause defensiveness in the other person, can easily be argued, and are probably incorrect.

By expressing a pure feeling (e.g., “I felt sad when you didn’t ask me about my day.”), you're communicating something that is true, cannot be argued, and is less likely to be heard as criticism by the other person.

5. State your needs.

Underneath every hurt feeling is a need or value that has been squashed by a situation (or your interpretation of it). After you’ve stated your observations and expressed your feelings, it’s time to identify your unmet needs and values.


Essentially, this is the reason you are feeling hurt, sad, angry, etc. This is probably the most difficult thing to identify, as it requires a bit of self-reflection.

So ask yourself: "What need or value of mine is not being honored in this situation?"

In the ongoing example, maybe it’s connection or closeness. Maybe it’s quality time. Whatever it is, it’s imperative to include it as part of your conversation.

You can’t expect others to honor your needs if they’re never actually spoken.


6. Make a request.

The final piece of a successful confrontation is stating a clear, actionable request that, if met, would help meet your needs.

Keep in mind: This is a request, not a demand. It’s important to include a request, because raising an issue without a potential solution isn’t conducive to making things better.

As much as you’d like for people to read your mind and then employ effective strategies for meeting your needs, it just doesn’t work that way.

Based on the ongoing example, here are a few possible requests:

“Going forward, would you be willing to limit the amount of time you play video games?”

“In the future, would you be willing to have a conversation about how our days have gone each night?”


And yes, you're taking a “risk” that the person will say no, but you’ll never receive what you don’t ask for.

Additionally, a “no” doesn’t necessarily mean the conversation is over. It just means that more honest communication (and more listening) is needed.

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Rachel Henderson is a wellness coach and a certified professional coach who wants to help you empower your relationship with healthy communication. For more information on how she can help you, visit her website here.