You’re dreading it – that conversation with your boss, your significant other, your neighbor, your teenager… you know that conversation. You’ve been avoiding it forever, but you just can’t keep things as they are, and this time, you have to say something.
Fear of confrontation is something almost every one of us feels at some point in our lives. It comes with the territory of being human and communicating with others. So, while a bit of anxiety about having those challenging conversations is natural, experiencing fear of confrontation at the level that stops you from having a voice will cost you in more ways than one.
I would argue that the biggest loss is questioning how you feel about yourself, your self-worth, and your confidence.
So, how do you get over your fear of confrontation?
Steps to Getting Over Your Fear of Confrontation
1. Shift the Script
It starts with confronting yourself about what “confrontation” means.
Do you believe that it’s an act of aggression? Are you readying yourself to go into battle where there can be only one winner? Has experience taught you that confrontation is to be avoided because it only leads to adverse reactions, hurt feelings, and lots of regrets?
According to Merriam-Webster, confrontation can be defined as “a face-to-face meeting” or “the clashing of forces or ideas.” .
This expectation of negative outcomes becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So instead of thinking of all of the disastrous results that may happen, what if you started to think of confrontation in a very different way? Shifting the script, and defining it in a more positive light is how you begin to overcome your fear of confrontation.
Confrontation is, at its core, nothing more than opposing ideas or disagreeing opinions being communicated. The fear of confrontation comes into play when we approach it not as healthy debate but as emotions escalating, getting out of control, and an inevitable win-lose situation. Reframing the conversation to focus on the possibility that confrontation does not have to get ugly automatically positions us to better express ourselves without the fears of doing so.
So, before you intend to communicate with another person or an entire group of people, take the time to understand your own beliefs and understandings regarding the situation. Make sure you are not in a negative place to start. How you show up to that encounter is going to influence how it ends up going.
2. Have Fun “Rocking the Boat”
Once you redefine what you’ve assumed confrontation needs to be, take it a step further and decide that you’re going to have fun “rocking the boat.”
Deliberately asking for what you want and believing it is needed is the only way you might get it. While it’s true that you have no control over what the other party brings to the table, it’s also true that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.
Therefore, why not approach confrontation with more light-heartedness and humor? Laughter has been proven to be a power tool in elevating moods, provides as stress relief, and eve strengthens the intimacy and connection you have with others.
Tips to Go About Confrontation:
- Ask questions of others from a place of curiosity, not pointing fingers. Pay attention to what others are trying to communicate and view the issue from their point of view. Maybe there is something there that will hit a note with you, and something you never thought of before.
- Consider that things aren’t always “black or white.” Be mindful, that others are also trying to understand what it is you are trying to say. Don’t get frustrated if they don’t quite “get it,” in your opinion. It’s your job to make sure what you are communicating is, indeed, hitting the mark.
- In between this back and forth, share a laugh at something you all have in common. Because no matter what the confrontation may be, we share more in common than not.
A great game to play that’ll relieve some of that fear of confrontation is to take turns, uninterrupted, sharing your respective points of view. When one person is finished speaking, they ask the others, “what did you hear me say?” The other party summs up what they heard.
If they’ve nailed it, then it’s their turn to speak their mind. If they didn’t, they continue until they are given the “yes, that’s exactly what I said” nod from the speaker. This exercise may seem silly at first, but it’s a real eye-opener regarding how simple misunderstandings can be cleared up before escalating to a full-blown worst-case scenario confrontation.
3. Overcome Your Need to People-Please
Fear of confrontation has more to do with you than with the other people with whom you’re engaged. Avoiding conflict is tied to people-pleasing, and people-pleasing is often tied to childhood; people-pleasing is the feeling of being overly concerned with pleasing others and earning the approval from others.
Growing up in environments that were dismissive or hypercritical causes us as adults to fear asserting our opinions. As a result, we learn that it’s much safer to stay silent.
But that was then, and this is now. As an adult, it’s time to tell that little kid you were long ago (and who is still inside of you) that you’ve got this. You have a voice. What you think has value. You matter.
It’s time to practice disappointing people on purpose. Yes, I know it sounds a little nutty. But trust me, it works.
To practice your voice when dealing with people or situations that aren’t as high-stakes is empowering. Telling someone, “no, I won’t,” or “unfortunately, I’m unable to follow through on that at this time,” even when you actually could do whatever it is they are asking of you is a super powerful practice for when it really matters.
The power of saying no goes a long way. Why? Because in these lesser-charged opportunities, you saying, “no, that’s not what I want to do,” will without a doubt have the other person understanding your boundaries and even serves as a form of self-care.
Every time you get positive affirmation as opposed to a scary or unnerving response, you gain confidence in letting your voice be heard and speaking your mind.
Let’s say your partner asks you to swing by on your way home to pick up their dry cleaning. You could. But instead of saying yes, even if it’d be easy for you to do, just say no. “Oh, shoot, I won’t be able to.” Don’t explain why unless you want to come up with a reason. “I have plans after work and won’t be in that part of town.”
The thought of you not pleasing your person may fill you with a bit of trepidation, but try it, and you’ll soon realize that you have power and that the other person will accept your response.
Taking those empowering experiences with you to a conversation that may be more emotionally charged helps you to find the courage and strength to say what you want to rather than not just because of a fear of confrontation that – now – you can say you used to have. Overcoming fear of conflict takes practice, and baby steps will get you there.
Overcoming your fear of confrontation is a practice. Any communication with another person or group that’s worth having may have moments where confrontations happen. Learning to conquer confrontation fears is worth the work. Shift your script, have fun rocking the boat, and practice getting over your need to please others. It’s all about taking the first baby steps and putting these tips into practice.
Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Solutions via unsplash.com