Mindful Confrontation: 9 Steps to Handle Conflict in a Healthy Way
Confrontations can be overwhelming, disappointing, unpleasant, and sometimes terrifying. Confrontations can also often come with a negative connotation, implying some sort of unfair treatment to another human being or maybe even feel like a type of bullying. However, confrontation is a healthy avenue for you to stand up for yourself and your beliefs—to be heard and not silenced by inaction or fear. The key is in learning techniques to successfully approach confrontation as a constructive action rather than a mindless, purposeless string of verbal attacks.
Confrontation can be derived from a number of steps, all rooted in mindfulness, including:
- Being mindful of your beliefs
- Taking action to stand for those beliefs
- Clearly communicating where you stand
- Finding objectivity, rather than letting your emotions drive your responses
Ultimately, knowing that once you’ve stood up for yourself without expecting to change someone else’s belief or opinion, you have reached success. Try the following tips to help you ensure your confrontations are mindful.
Before you even dive into a confrontation, there is some preparation work you can do that can help you weigh the risks and build confidence and clarity around your goals. Doing this will help you feel more grounded and confident before you confront someone.
Note: If you’re being confronted, you most likely will not have a lot of time to prepare, so this section is dedicated to the person initiating the confrontation to help them decide the best path to take.
1. Assess Risks
If you’re considering a confrontation, ask yourself:
- What do you stand to lose if you confront?
- What do you stand to lose if you don’t?
- What are the risks?
If you’re having trouble deciding, make a list of “reasons I want to confront” and “reasons I don’t want to.” Once done, go back to both lists and analyze your reasons. Are they based in fear? Shame? Are you protecting yourself or someone/something else? Are your reasons empowering?
While there are definitely good reasons to not confront, feeling ashamed is not one of them, so cross those off your list. Reassess your fear lists—are the fears realistic? Are they fears that are inevitable to accompanying any courageous act?
Next, ask yourself:
- Would you go ahead with the confrontation even though your fears might be realized? Why or why not?
- If they were realized, how would you live with the result?
These exercises will help you decide whether or not to confront someone, and bring clarity to the particular confrontation you’re considering.
2. Assess Goals
Assess your current situation and ask yourself what your goals are. If you are secretly entering into a confrontation hoping that things will magically be set right—that you will be supported and nurtured the way you want or have always longed for—you may be highly disappointed during your confrontation.
Instead of hoping for a particular response, enter a confrontation because it will strengthen and empower you. You have the opportunity and power to assess the situation realistically, form realistic expectations, set protective ground rules (if needed), and say what you want to say directly and confidently.
Recognize and relinquish any and all unrealistic expectations you are carrying, to the greatest extent possible. It may be impossible to release everything—sometimes only repeated confrontations and disappointments make it possible to let go of tightly held false hopes.
3. Make a Plan
Having a plan is more about making sure that you truly know what you are standing up for and preparing to clearly express that objective. In being prepared, you will be able to tap into your plan during the confrontation and speak to clear, concise points that you want to get across. This will help you in coming off confident about your beliefs and where you stand.
Meditation can serve as a great way of helping you plan. Sit with your thoughts, discomforts, and fears and allow yourself to organize your thoughts and define objectives. The consistent practice of meditation will not only embed the plan in your mind, it will also help in building a calm and agile mind capable of responding mindfully to the adverse emotional reactions of those that you are confronting.
5. Learn from the Past
If you have been confronted or have confronted someone in the past, now is a good time to reflect on what worked well and what did not. This isn’t the time to beat yourself up over past mistakes, but to simply find areas you can improve and areas you want to repeat.
Preparation will serve you well during the delivery of your confrontation, but what should you do while you’re in the moment? Here are a few things that you can practice and keep in mind during confrontations.
1. Tap into Your Plan
Start by tapping into your plan. You’ve done your homework and know what you want to accomplish, which will create confidence.
2. Take Deep Breaths
Remind yourself to take deep breaths as this will help keep your heart rate and blood pressure down. A reduced heart rate will also slow the spread of adrenaline (your body’s natural reaction to a threat), which can stimulate your physiological reaction and sometimes cloud the mind if left unchecked.
3. Maintain Your Calm
It is likely that the person you confront will have a reaction. Remember, you are not there to force someone to believe something they don’t want to. Their reaction, however, may not be as controlled as yours and may involve a much more emotional response—and it may catch you off guard.
When anxiety builds up or you’re starting to clench your fists, make sure to acknowledge what is happening physically and emotionally in your own body and mind. Once you take notice, you can choose your response, instead of just reacting. Try your best to maintain your calm deep breathing pattern and stay objective. If you notice that you are unable to maintain your calm, go back to step two—take a few more deep breaths. If both of you are unable to maintain a calm, objective state, suggest pausing the conversation and picking it up after you’ve both had a chance to simmer your emotions.
After your confrontation, it’s a good idea to assess how the confrontation went by asking yourself some questions. This isn’t meant to be an exercise in judging yourself, but rather an opportunity to learn how to improve your handling of confrontation in the future. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I feel now?
- Was I able to take care of myself? If not, what got in my way?
- Did I say what I wanted to say? If not, what was left unsaid?
- How would I do things differently if I had another chance?
- Is there anything unfinished about this confrontation? If so, what do I need to do about it?
- What have I learned from this confrontation that I could apply to another one?
- What am I proud of?
Overall, everyone needs feedback, and healthy, mindful confrontation allows for two people to close the gap and find a resolution to problems. Often, mindful confrontation can result in closer connections with others.
So when the situation calls for it, exercise your confrontation muscles, and you will create powerful connections with yourself and others.
Break free of unhealthy patterns and learn how to make the best choices for your mind, body, and spirit—no matter what challenges life brings your way—at Living in Balance, our four-day, interactive wellness retreat featuring Deepak Chopra. Learn More.