I’ve talked to hundreds of business leaders over the years and only managed to find a handful who actually enjoy confronting people….but they were also guys who like a good fight in any setting.
Confronting people…… maybe it is a staff member with an attitude, or a disgruntled customer who won’t pay their account, or a supplier who is once again making excuses for a late delivery…. If you are a business owner or manager you know what I mean. It is one of the tasks that leaders have to do whether they like it or not. And the truth is that most of us don’t like it.
I learned long ago that a problem person or issue left alone, avoided for whatever reason, rarely resolved itself; in fact it usually became worse, sometimes far worse. I found that if I ‘grasped the nettle’ earlier rather than later, it would hurt me less than the issues I avoided (usually because I hated conflict). The issue left alone would then become bigger than Ben Hur and cause me to make all kinds of resolutions like, “I’m going to stop being Mr Nice Guy around here and start getting tough with these people from now on…..” And I would for a few days until I relaxed and started to forget how much that person or that issue hurt me.
I realised somewhere along the way that usually what happens when I confront people, is that I had to get myself a bit worked up before I would start, the other person would feel attacked, they would either close down or attack back, and then I would be ready to defend, to prove, to convince….to win. It was always a situation where there was one winner and one loser….and usually both of us was determined NOT to be the loser. No wonder most leaders hate this stuff.
So, I thought how I could make it work so we achieve a win-win situation. That’s when it hit me that a different approach may work better. What if I simply went in early, before I got too frustrated, and instead of ‘confront’ the person, seek to ‘clarify’ the issue?
Well it worked! I was different. The person responded differently. We talked about the key issues early. A lot less emotion was spent. And problems rarely grew larger.
To clarify an issue, whether it is a statement, an attitude or a commitment, means that you come alongside the other person and have a conversation about it rather than meet the person head on in a more confronting way.
It enables the person to explain themselves, communication to occur, for both parties to speak and listen. There is a far better chance that resolution will occur and conflict will be avoided.
I still get a bit knotted in the stomach when I have a difficult person to deal with, but I’ve found that because I have a whole different approach to start with that conflict is less often the outcome and I’ve stopped fearing the dreaded ‘confrontation’ with people