How to Confront People with a Positive Result
Confrontation is critical.
All good, true relationships have it.
The question is, “Can you confront someone with a positive result?"
That is not to say that all confrontation will end well. Sometimes, it clarifies that you should no longer pursue a friendship with that person!
I’ve had hundreds of confrontational conversations in my years leading churches. Some went well, and others were learning experiences for me.
Try these tips when you feel a major confrontation coming on with someone:
1. Determine to listen more than you speak.
- It is often said that you have “Two ears and one mouth!” The Bible says, “Be quick to hear and slow to speak” (James 1: 19). Listening, not speaking, is the greatest skill in confrontation.
- People need to know that you genuinely seek to understand them. Give them a chance to give their story. Quick-tempered conversations that you have carefully planned in your mind BEFORE they happen will end up disastrously. Listen first.
2. Confront face to face.
- I get it that many people feel more confident expressing their confrontation via email or letters. The problem with that form of confrontation is that it can be quickly spread to 50 other people with a simple keystroke. It can cause more problems that it solves.
- Paul “opposed Peter to his face” (Gal. 2: 11). I have had the greatest success in confrontation when the person can look at my face, feel my emotions, and read my body language. Written words do not carry that kind of context.
3. Pick your battles.
- Don’t kill a fly with a baseball bat! Some people LOVE a good confrontation. They confront everyone about everything.
- I like to decide whether a confrontation is required. Some issues are trivial, of no consequence. Some are pointless because the person is hardened. Spend your “confrontational capital” wisely and don’t waste it on a useless battle.
4. Stick to the issue.
- This is important, especially in marriage. We confront a friend or spouse about “X” but it ends up spreading over into “Y” and “Z.” Sometimes it covers “A to Z!”
- Now, instead of surgically extracting one issue, you have dealt a lethal blow to the entire relationship. Keep this guideline in your mind as you confront: “This is my friend who I am helping to make better.”
5. Offer a pathway to change.
- “Confrontation” without “direction” fuels despair. The person I confront may already know their problem. They just have no solutions!
- Go into the meeting with hope and alternatives. Anyone can confront. Fewer people can think through the options that will give this person a way out, a door of hope, a pathway to freedom.
“Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17).
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27: 5-6).
We all NEED confrontation to mold our character. Your friends, children, and even spouse expect it from you.
Just give it your best chance to have a positive outcome.