Have you ever had a co-worker that drove you absolutely crazy? What did he or she do that made you want to scream? Now, did you ever actually do anything about it?  Chances are you either allowed your anger to erupt, or you just ignored it and allowed resentment to build. But there’s actually a positive way to respond to these unavoidable situations at work!

Barbara Pachter, author of The Power of Positive Confrontation: The Skills You Need to Know to Handle Conflicts at Work, at Home, and In Life says that many work conflicts aren’t dealt with properly. “Most people are simply never taught how to handle themselves politely and powerfully in confrontational situations”. However, it’s not the end of the world. Pachter reminds us, “Most people are not jerks who are out to get us.” She adds, “Many people become preoccupied and don’t realize how their behavior affects others. They simply need to be told in a polite and powerful way.”

Pachter offers six steps to help you confront others in an honorable and effective manner. So the next time you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, don’t express yourself with an angry outburst, or ignore the situation because you don’t know what to say. Instead, try positive confrontation:

  1. Pick your conflict. Easier said than done, right? You can’t win them all, so pick the ones that truly affect you. If it doesn’t really matter, it may be best to just let it go.
  2. Give the person “The Jerk Test”. We’re all guilty of being quick to make negative assumptions about others, but often we have no idea what is driving the other person’s behavior. Give that person “the jerk test” and ask yourself some questions. Did the person really mean any harm? Is it the person or the policy? What’s the other person’s culture? You may find out that the person is not a jerk after all. However, if you still choose to confront them, you may be less likely to explode.
  3. Pick the right time and place. Confront others in private and when you are calm. Be sure to pick a time that’s good for the other person to talk and be sure you give yourself enough time to express your thoughts thoroughly. Another good tip is to use the H.A.L.T method – avoid confrontation if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
  4. One issue at a time. Limit the discussion to one issue in order to avoid confusion. This allows you to be very clear with what you want to get across.
  5. Prepare and practice. Organize your thoughts and practice what you want to say. You’ll be less likely to lose your temper or back out of the conversation. Your wording should be specific, direct, polite, and non-accusatory.
  6. Pay attention to your nonverbal body signals. Have you ever heard yourself say, “But I didn’t mean it that way!” Chances are, your words said one thing but your body language or tone of voice sent a different message. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, seven percent of any message is conveyed through words, 38 percent through certain vocal elements, and 55 percent through nonverbal elements. So remember to smile!

Try to implement these six steps the next time you find yourself in a tense situation and see if you’re able to resolve the issue calmly. Just remember, developing the skills to handle conflict in a polite, powerful way will likely take time and practice – it won’t happen overnight. If you have any other ideas or tips on how to positively handle confrontation in workplace, please leave them below in the comments!


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