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How to Likably Confront People with Rachel Rodgers

By Arel Moodie

Confrontations.  
You DON'T really feel like making that phone call, or sending that email.  But if you wait too long, it'll get awkward when you finally do reach out.  So you've gotta do it.
No one LOVES to confront, at least at first.  But sometimes, enough is enough.  Sometimes, you need to put a foot down for the best of the business or project.  But how can you do it in a likable way without burning bridges?  I sat down with Rachel Rodgers of Small Business Bodyguard to discuss confrontation strategies, tips, and tricks.  Let's head in.
Quick Rundown:
6:45: What are confrontations really about?
10:00: The two-step tango before starting any confrontation:
18:20: Email or phone call?  9 times out of 10, Rachel recommends...
36:50: You're not responsible for other people's feelings.  You're an adult speaking to a fellow adult.
39:30: Rachel shows us how to make a "kindness sandwich."
43:30: What if the confrontation doesn't go the way you want it to go?
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"_______ is the Best Policy"
If you guessed "honesty," you're correct.  Perhaps the word "confrontation" in and of itself is combative, and fighting and conflict comes to mind.  One side brings one perspective, and the other side counters with the opposite.  The unstoppable force meets the unmovable object...
But that's not how Rachel sees it.  Rachel sees confrontations just as conversations on getting to the truth.  If neither side can be truthful, then progress can't be made in the confrontation.  Sure, you have to tailor your words and you can't just unabashedly let out the truth, but you can't go wrong when you tell the truth.  
Because the truth is valuable information both of you need to know in order to figure out how best to solve the problem.  Trust in the process.  Whatever result happens needs to have happened, and telling the truth is the first step.
Pre-confrontation: The Preparation Phase
How does Rachel go about her confrontations?  She does two things first:
1. Get into an appropriate mental/emotional state:  Here's a big one.  Don't get into a confrontation when you're angry.  You'll be ruled by passion rather than coherency, and you may say some things you may end up regretting and can't take back.  Maybe you think it'll be great to get it off your chest but hold on!  Is that brief moment of respite really worth the blowback?  Calm yourself first.
2. Identify your intentions.  What's the goal behind this confrontation?  Are you trying to get someone to change their behavior?  Are you trying to get a client to pay on time?
Be open to other options too.  Could it be as simple as ignoring the person for their terrible behavior?  If that solves the problem too, you don't even need to confront.  Identifying your intentions and your goals can sometimes help you realize your true position on the matter.  Maybe you just need to nonchalantly adjust a bit and you don't even need to go through a confrontation!
Kill 'em with "Kindness Sandwiches"
Rachel recommends for any confrontation to check up with somebody and see how they're doing.  Make small talk.  No need to jump directly into the heavy.  
Beyond small talk, approach the person from the perspective of solving a problem together.  In the example above with getting a client to pay on time, it pays to check in with them to see how everything is going rather than straight up demanding their money.
You're demonstrating empathy, and by doing so you're showing you're open to empathy.  They will open up to you.  It's okay for the other person to showcase vulnerability when you show a degree of vulnerability too.
But maybe you're dealing with someone who could be easily offended, or isn't used to confrontation.  Business, however, is still business, and you need to stick to that.  Rachel suggests a particular, indirect method to get to the point, which she calls "kindness sandwiches:"
First off, let the person know what you like about their actions or behavior, and how it's supportive of your business relationship or of the entire team.  
The inner layer is where you drop the truth, and frame problems as obstacles that can be successfully vaulted with changes in particular actions and behaviors.  This approach to dealing with sensitive people relies on this sequence and a little bit of wordsmithing to soften the blow of telling someone that they're a contributor to a non-ideal situation.  
Finally, keep in mind that you're an adult, likely speaking to another adult.  Unless you're speaking to a child, you're not responsible for their feelings.  Don't give yourself the responsibility, the burden of having to look out for the business as well as the other person's emotions.  How they receive your straight talk is on their end.  
Plus, when you are able to tell someone the truth, it demonstrates to them that you see them as an adult.  That you recognize and respect that they are in control of themselves enough to gather their wits about them and put your heads together to come up with an actionable solution.
Remember that the ideas themselves in this podcast won't help you unless you implement them!
Thanks Rachel for coming onto the show!  You can find Rachel and Small Business Bodyguard at http://smallbusinessbodyguard.com, or follow her on her blog at Rodgers Collective.  Find her on Twitter at @RachRodgersEsq.
Stay tuned, and stay awesome!  
Questions and comments can be directed via email to [email protected]
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