3 min read

Effective Confrontation: How to Approach Difficult Conversations

A necessity in your personal and professional relationships.

Done right, the interaction will lead to a meaningful, productive discussion mutually beneficial to the parties involved. Done wrong, it may lead to a defensive, disagreeable and difficult relationship. It pays to prepare yourself beforehand.

How do you deal with it?

Prioritise building trust

This helps you gain influence and develop mutual trust and understanding with those around you.

Building trust is important; when a difficult conversation arises, it will be easier because your colleagues/partners will be less likely to assume negative intent.

Prepare Beforehand

Even if a conversation erupts spontaneously, you can always slow it down and say, “It looks like we have some challenging things to talk about - let’s maybe set some time up so we can prepare and have a productive dialogue.” for example.

The first step is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to develop an understanding of why they have behaved or performed in a substandard/unacceptable way. Effective confrontation is empathetic confrontation.

Seek out the situation’s wider context and understand the conversation’s implications for all parties.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What happened?
  • How do we feel about what happened?
  • How will the interaction threaten the person’s identity?
  • Will they be offended?
  • What is the desired goal of the confrontation?

Be Specific

The most effective confrontation is when emotions and ego are set aside.

Focus the discussion on the facts rather than venting or satisfying personal ego needs.

Focusing on facts and examples moves the focus of the discussion away from the person’s personality or unique traits; this helps avoid personal biases from creeping in.

Listen Actively

We all prefer when people listen to us rather than explain away the issue at hand.

That’s exactly what you should be doing, too.

Try to understand where the other person is coming from so you can understand their perspective. If you don’t, ask clarifying questions.

Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, it’s important to focus on what the other party are saying rather than internally drafting an immediate response.

Come up with Solutions Together

You can all leave knowing you did your best to reach a solution if you make the confrontation a collaborative one.

No doubt you would have had an end goal in mind. Brainstorming a plan together might surface stronger solutions to the problem or help you reach a better understanding.


In addition to my own personal opinions, I used a number of different sources for this so if you’d like to learn more you can do so by following the links below: