How To Be More Confrontational With Your Colleagues And Why It Can Help With Your Growth

Confrontation. A word that triggers so many feelings of negativity and hostility in people. We automatically associate it with words such as aggression, anger, and hatred. Often, we would rather tiptoe around the “elephant in the room” and avoid these encounters out of fear of it turning into a blood bath. However, in order to cultivate a healthy work environment, open communication is essential where we can respectfully challenge current behaviours and practices. While it is not an easy thing to do, confrontations when done correctly are very beneficial to a team. So, it’s worthwhile learning to have the tough conversations we’ve been avoiding.


Here are the first steps to having more productive, healthy, and effective confrontations with your colleagues.



1. Take it one step at a time.

Don’t take out your pen and paper and start listing all the people who are doing things you don’t like. Start by choosing to address one issue at a time – like a particular colleague who leaves rubbish around the office. You might also want to start off by choosing something minor with someone whom you know isn’t going to go off at you. Taking these small steps can increase your confidence so that you’ll be able to stand up for yourself in other situations. Start small and see what happens.

Confrontations are more of an art than a science. One way which worked well in a certain situation might not work in another. But with practice, you’ll figure out when to speak up and how to express yourself effectively. Learning the art of confrontations takes effort. So, after each instance, take the time to acknowledge your small wins.


The more you speak up, the less scary it becomes.


2. Have flexible expectations of the outcome.

Sometimes the outcomes of confrontations are not as you would expect. The other person might not agree to change their behaviours or don’t feel that what they are doing is wrong at all. In these situations, you need to have an open mind to explore and discuss potential solutions to achieve each party’s needs and wants. Go into every confrontation willing to strike a compromise and don’t have rigid expectations of the outcome.


People are quite unpredictable and it’s very hard to anticipate how they might react in tense situations. Understand that every interaction is 50% 50% and it takes two hands to clap. You cannot control how the other person responds to you. So, if it doesn’t turn out the way you wish it did, don’t be too hard on yourself.



3. Work on your EQ.

If you have not heard of emotional intelligence, you should put it on your radar. Essentially, EQ is the ability to perceive, understand and manage emotions. Humans are social beings where our emotions play a big role when we interact. There are several traits of an individual with high EQ, such as cooperativeness and having an even temper that can ease the tension in a confrontational situation.

So, by building up your EQ, you’ll be more prepared to handle high stress-inducing situations, such as when confronting someone or when being confronted by someone.


How can confrontations with your colleagues contribute to your growth?

Remember how we were talking about building a healthy work environment? It starts with culture and culture starts with people. Here are some ways confrontations can help with your growth to empower you to promote a positive work culture.


1. It allows for honesty and mutual respect.

“Say what you mean, mean what you say.”


Confrontations provide the platform to be honest and vulnerable with our feelings. Although being transparent with your colleagues might be uncomfortable at first, it is better than harbouring subconscious resentment towards the other person which will surely strain the relationship in the long run.


When confronting someone, do it out of respect and the person will value your honesty and willingness to bring up your concerns.



2. It teaches you to pick your battles.

Some battles don’t need to be fought; you can let them go.

There are things that might seem very important right now, but when you look back in a few years, you’ll realise that they were not as significant as you thought them to be. To pick your battles wisely, you first need to know what matters to you. People aren’t perfect, you can’t go around correcting everyone in your life to behave the way you want them to.


You only have 24 hours in a day, so know when to drop the sword.


3. It’s a mark of maturity.

We cannot run away from confrontations for the rest of our lives. Being part of the workforce, we must master the art of confrontation in order to be taken seriously. Oftentimes, we resort to gossiping or ranting to vent our frustrations (I am guilty as charged). While gossiping might have been fun at school, as an adult you have the responsibility to handle conflicts with maturity and respect. Gossiping and other similar behaviours will not only sour the relationship when the other party finds out, but it will also damage your reputation and people might question your integrity.


The truth is, the most mature thing to do is to calmly sit them down and communicate your concerns – with honesty, openness, and mutual respect.



Always remember that you need to be mentally healthy in order to produce high-quality work. So, don’t dismiss the need to pause or rest, but learn to pace yourself – after all, you’re going to be working for a very long time. Run it like a marathon, not a sprint.


For further reading, check out this article on avoidant coping and how to overcome it.

A work in progress. Might get overexcited for a good book, a good conversation or a good meal.

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