Think about times when you feel annoyed with someone. There is a good chance that the person involved is someone you have ongoing contact with, perhaps a family member, a close friend, or a coworker. As you attempt to coordinate life with those nearest you, there is a high probability that your needs will not intersect perfectly with theirs, so your unsettled feelings should not cause great alarm. Healthy relations are typified not by perfect harmony, but by the willingness to give and receive input from each other when disharmony is experienced. In fact, there is probably something wrong with a close relationship where disagreements never surface.
In moments of displeasure, you will need a plan to help you manage the situation for the purpose of encouraging relationship growth. Sometimes you will need to be wise enough to remain tolerant, not confronting at all. Other times you will need the wisdom to be direct about your feelings while also acting as a positive contributor to the relationship. Are you up to the task?
When you choose to confront another person, there is always the chance that the confrontation will not be received with open arms, even if you are textbook perfect in your approach. Virtually no one welcomes the idea that another person has found them lacking, so it should come as no surprise if your confrontation is met with some measure of defensiveness. While you cannot dictate how your message will be received, there is one key ingredient that will be a major factor in minimizing the potential negative responses. Let”s call it the liking ingredient.
As you communicate, others are looking for cues that your spirit is edifying and trustworthy. The notions you convey may be quite pertinent and helpful, but if they are delivered in a fashion that implies disgust, you have virtually no chance of wielding a positive influence. If, however, your words are anchored in a spirit of tolerance, there is a much higher potential that the confrontation will produce good fruit. Simply put, people receiving your confrontation want to know that you like them.
Fred shook his head as he spoke with me about his lack of success in maneuvering through difficulties with his son and his wife. “My son is the typical teenager who thinks he needs no direction from adults,” he said. “Any time I talk with him about the need to finish school assignments or when I try to advise him about his social life, he becomes belligerent. All I have to do is utter one sentence and he is ready for battle.” He further explained that his efforts to discuss delicate matters with his wife often generated similar poor results.
As I got to know Fred, I learned that the advice he dispensed was usually wise, yet laced with sarcasm and bossiness. His voice was forceful and when his son or wife tried to explain their perspectives, he could crush them with invalidating rebuttals. His wife once told me that sometimes Fred was a really nice guy but his explosive temper could be so difficult to digest that he was commonly his own worst enemy.
I told him, “It sounds to me like you will need to concentrate less on cramming your ideas into the minds of your wife and son, focusing instead on the non-verbal messages you convey.” The quizzical look on his face told me that he was interested in my thoughts, but he wasn”t quite sure what I meant. “Your delivery is the most crucial aspect of communication,” I explained. “If the look on your face is harsh and the sound of your voice is condescending, you are implying that you do not like the other person. No matter how right your ideas are, they will not be received well.”
Too many people focus on being correct as they confront, paying little attention to the covert messages they transmit. Your tone of voice and the look on your face, for instance, can convey either stubbornness or open-mindedness. Your delivery might send a message implying a feeling of equality, but it can just as easily imply belittlement. Likewise, you can come across as either controlling or as flexible. Are you aware of the covert elements that accompany your overt messages?
Additionally, before confronting, it is good to be aware of your overall reputation. If you have a deep history of being grouchy or critical, you are not likely to be well received when it is time to seriously address important matters. If, however, you have a long record of being kind and merciful, your words of confrontation will probably bear fruit. Others tend to put your current words into the context of their historical experiences with you.
People don”t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If you want to be successful in confronting problems, make sure you have prioritized an accepting spirit, and when you are in the moment of conflict, make sure your motives are not manipulative, but kind.
Hardly anyone will listen to someone who approaches life with a rejecting and grouchy spirit.