Do You Hate Confrontation? How to Transform Confrontation into Conversation

When I ask leaders why they avoid talking to people in the face of difficulty, they often say, “I just don’t like confrontation.” When leaders avoid confrontation at all costs, they will have problems with their teams and organizations.

We all know we need to do it. But no one tells themselves, “I can’t wait to be obnoxious and put people in their place!” So, how do we get the results we are after without all the drama? Let me show you.

confrontation vs conversation

I Hate Confrontation

Truth be told, I hate confrontation, too. In a matter of minutes, confrontation can cause relationships to implode, people to quit, and tempers to flare. So yes, I loathe it. But the key to successfully navigating these exchanges is found in our perspective. Rather than seeing them as potentially destructive confrontations, we must view them as potentially fruitful conversations. Conversations between two adults who respect each other.

So, I never have confrontations. I only have conversations. Twitter_logo_blue That subtle shift in perspective makes a world of difference. This persepctive allows us to employ different strategies and approaches to our crucial conversations.

Let me take it a step further. If I am completely transparent, I don’t like difficult conversations either. They require an immense amount of emotional energy and effort. You have to wait for the right time, monitor people’s emotions, practice the right words and the right tone. These conversations take work. I would much rather avoid these uncomfortable interactions as well. But friend, I am passionate about my mission. I am serious about my calling as a leader. Therefore, I must have the courage to have crucial conversations.

So I have abandoned the concept of confrontation: a raw exchange between people that usually requires force, as well as offensive and defensive tactics which can be explosive and potentially destructive. I simply prefer to move away from the concept of confrontation toward the concept of conversation. It is our responsibility as leaders to have these conversations regardless what you call them. Here is how I feel about it:

  • I hate confrontation, but I love my people. So I say what needs to be said.
  • I hate confrontation, but I love my family. So I set things straight.
  • I hate confrontation, but I take my calling as a leader seriously. So I establish boundaries.
  • I hate confrontation, but I am responsible for the mission. So I speak about it clearly.
  • I hate confrontation, but I am the guardian of the culture. So I don’t stand for inappropriate behavior.

I know many leaders simply lash out to brashly confront their people. If that’s you, stop. You will never succeed like that. But when you’ve waited for the right time, when you’ve chosen the right words, when your heart is in the right place—at that point, if you are needed to stand, stand. Leaders stand.

How to Transform Confrontation into Conversation

So here’s how I have moved from confrontation to conversation. I will show you the principles you must change before you can do that. Stay with me.

  • Love your people. Make it clear in the culture you create that you love your people. When we deposit love and care into our relationships, we can weather the potential strain of difficult conversations. 
  • Guard your mission. Part of our job as leaders is seeing the big picture and protecting the mission. This means sometimes we must make difficult decisions and conduct necessary conversations in order to keep everyone aligned and positively contributing to the execution of our mission together. 
  • Know it’s your job. When uncomfortable or difficult situations arise, it is our job as leaders to address these things. If we don’t have the courage to have critical conversations, who will? We must accept this as our responsibility and know that we are letting the entire team down if we continuously avoid difficult conversations. 
  • Never think or speak when you are emotional. This skill requires practice. We must be calm and self-controlled if we are to say the right words in the right way. Train yourself to recognize when you are upset or anxious. Then be disciplined—and yes, this requires great discipline—to only think through things when you are not under the influence of strong emotions. 
  • Don’t speak up yet. Wait for the right timing. Sometimes I wait months, even years, to speak to someone. Other leaders may say, “I like to speak my mind.” Or, “Don’t worry. I will tell you when there is something I don’t like.” But I challenge you to wait. Don’t speak up unless it’s the right time. It usually requires more courage to wait for the right timing.
  • Risk the relationship if you must. Sometimes, if you don’t risk the relationship, you will lose it. Just risk it carefully. Twitter_logo_blue When we have crucial conversations, our biggest fear is that we are risking the relationship. But we must risk them. Otherwise we will ultimately lose them anyway. Or they will become so dysfunctional, we may as well have lost them.
  • Fight! This is your family. This is your mission. Do what needs to be done. Say what needs to be said. Be the leader you were created to be. Like my friend Andria Bicknell shared with me recently, we must own what’s ours. You’re the leader. Own it.

I hope the thoughts I’ve shared will help you turn your confrontations into conversations. You will better serve others and make a positive, lasting impact with everything God has entrusted to you.

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

For Further Reading:

Say It Gently, But Say It
How to Deal with Difficult People

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