Why did I choose this tool?
This tool is useful to assess how ready we are to confront and be confronted. If you find that any of these statements don’t yet apply to you, you can begin to focus on that area and strengthen it further so that confronting or being confronted when necessary is not something that you run away from or handle poorly. Instead you can get to the point where you are always able to handle it with grace and yet at the same time stay true to yourself, your values and goals.
How does this apply to being a trainer?
As trainers we are faced with so many different types of people, cultures, opinions, values and beliefs. The ability to confront or be confronted can easily make the difference between a deep and insightful training, or one where people end up angry, confused or dissatisfied. It is the willingness to confront and be confronted in a constructive way that can pave the way to deeper learning outcomes for the participant, and ensure that you as a professional are not swayed by every opinion but can kindly and gracefully deal with anything that comes up in a way that is educational rather than destructive or hurtful.
There is a big difference between conflict and confrontation. A conflict is a clash or disagreement, often verbally or physically violent, between two opposing groups or individuals. A confrontation, on the other hand, is the act of confronting or challenging each other. It is presenting an opposing view that you feel strongly about, without resorting to verbal or physical violence or abuse of any kind.
While conflict is certainly negative, the confrontation that is handled in a healthy and constructive way can lead to positive results and further enlightenment of both parties. As trainers, and definitely as leaders, whether we like it or not, we will at times be confronted or be faced with the need to confront someone.
Being able to have a confrontation that leads to positive instead of negative results has a lot to do with being assertive.
So what exactly is assertiveness?
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines assertiveness as: “Forthright, positive, insistence on the recognition of one’s rights”
Expanding on this definition, being assertive means being able to stand up for your own rights, or the rights of others, without being aggressive and also without passively accepting something that you believe to be wrong. When you are assertive, you can get your point across clearly without upsetting others and without becoming angry yourself.
Although being passive/aggressive can happen to anyone from time to time, it definitely shows that there is work to be done on the assertiveness front so that you are able to more frequently strike the right balance between being kind and respectful to others, while also being kind and respectful to yourself and your beliefs and values.
Although assertiveness is often viewed as the balance point between passive and aggressive behavior, it is probably easier to consider that they are points of a triangle.
In light of this understanding of assertiveness, how do we know that we are assertively handling confrontation, as in a way that doesn’t undermine our own rights, beliefs or opinions but neither does it undermine those of the person we are confronting/being confronted by?
Here are some indicators that can reveal where you are at when it comes to handling confrontations assertively and thereby able to further the educational process through the confrontation rather than hinder it.
I am ready to confront and be confronted when I…..
- Have taken the time to think deeply about what I believe and why;
- Strive to align my beliefs, words and actions, so that when confronted the clarity of my standpoint is reflected not only with my words but also with my actions and can be more clearly and genuinely understood;
- Accept that there will undoubtedly be other ways of viewing the issues I feel strongly about, and yet I still choose my current standpoint, unless new information is presented to me that is strong enough to make me change my stance;
- Am open to truly listening to another, even if their view is completely opposite of mine, and to see what aspects of what they are saying can be valid even if I don’t embrace their conclusion;
- Don’t feel threatened by confrontation, especially when the confrontation is limited to the issue at hand and not a personal affront, and I know how to distinguish between the two;
- Know the difference between understanding and accepting, and that although I can understand the issue from someone else’s view or understand how they feel about it, it still doesn’t mean that I have to accept it;
- Can leave from a confrontation feeling thoughtful, even enlightened, rather than angry;
- Am able to recognize when one or more people in the group are not being treated with respect, and I am able to confront the “perpetrator/s” in a way that empowers the group as a whole;
- Am able to differentiate between the issues or wounds that I may have, and what is going on in the group, so that I can be sure I am reacting based on the needs of the group instead of my personal issues on the matter;
- Am able to bring up difficult issues in the group for clarification, when I feel an undercurrent of antagonism or disrespect, and I am able to bring it to the light and resolve it constructively;
- Am not attached to being right, but rather getting to the “right” solution in any given situation;
- Trust myself, my approach, my goals and my methods enough to not feel shaky or unstable when confronted;
- Am able to express and support others in expressing negative emotions in a non-violent way;
- Am able to see that every time someone is confronting me, it actually has less to do with me and more to do with their own feelings, thoughts and perhaps projections at that moment, and as such I am able to handle it with compassion rather than feeling they are against me;
- Understand that someone disagreeing with me doesn’t mean I am doing a bad job, it actually means I am doing a good job. And that in contrary, if everyone agreed with me all the time it would probably mean I was more concerned with pleasing them then with supporting their learning;
- Understand that the things that I feel strongly about are framed mostly by my personal experiences and my emotional connections with those things, and that it doesn’t make my standpoint less valid….in fact it makes it more valid so long as I am able to accept this, and that the same is true for the others even when their view is opposite to mine;
- Am able to understand when the confrontation has run its course and outlived its usefulness, and I’m able to move on and help others to move on rather than continue pounding on the same points. That I know when to allow it or even encourage it to go further, and when it’s time to bring it to a close and change the focus.
When was the last time I found myself confronting/being confronted by someone?
Do I feel I handled it constructively?
What could I have done differently?
How did I feel after the confrontation?
Do I fear of confronting someone, or being confronted by someone? Do I avoid it at all costs?
On the other extreme, am I very prone to confrontation even when the issue is not so important?
What steps can I take to get better at constructive confrontation?
How to apply it in everyday life:
Who we are in our everyday life will undoubtedly be reflected in our work as a trainer; there is no sustainable way of improving ourselves as trainers without improving ourselves as individuals first of all. In your everyday life situations, after any situation where you have been confronted or have confronted someone (or conversely “ran away” from a confrontation) go through these questions to see how you did, and to see what aspects you can work on further so that you are even more prepared and stable next time around. You can keep doing this until you feel that all of the above statements are valid for you.