Doug Dvorak's Blog

How to Conquer Your Fear of Confrontation

Do you often find it difficult to stand up to someone when they disrespect you? There’s nothing wrong with being quiet or introverted, but if you let people take advantage of you, it will take a toll on your mental health.

Whether it’s from peers or strangers, there will come a point where you will have to put your foot down and demand to be treated with respect. If you know that but still find yourself frustrated that you can’t stand up for yourself, here are five tips in conquering that fear:

1. Understand the Harm in Being a People-Pleaser

People-pleasers want to be accepted and will say “yes” to things that they really want to say “no” to. Some will agree to things that don’t mean to, some will put others wants ahead for their needs, and some may even take on more work than they can handle, all because they don’t want to seem like the “bad guy.”

It can be a major burden on your mental health if you act like this. Always remember that it’s okay to say no. Have confidence that your peers will respect you if you limit your obligations for their benefit.

2. Don’t Waste Time Imagining Terrible Outcomes

Often, people will be anxious about all the possible negative outcomes of a decision. While that is a healthy to a point – as it prevents us from making bad decisions – that anxiety can get dialed up way too high. In the unhealthiest cases, people will focus only on the worst possible case scenarios which is not health. Wasting your time such thoughts will not only prevent you from making decisions that will make your life better.

The fear of a negative outcome is often worse than the actual outcome. Often, the worst that can happen if you stand up for yourself is a little pushback. For example, if someone cuts in front of you in line and you say something, likely the worst that will happen is that they act indignant, in which case management would be on your side.

If they give you a negative response, it will reveal more about their character than it will about yours. It is best to disregard negative outcomes when advocating for yourself. They exist, but they are far less common or impactful than you would think.

Keep Your Cool

When you’re standing up for yourself, always be sure to remain calm. You might still be afraid of causing offense or not being taken seriously, but it is important to be confident. You don’t need to act tough, you just have to show in your demeanor that you’re willing to stand up for yourself.

However, you don’t go too far in the other direction and become annoyed. It’s easy to get frustrated and come across as aggressive, but you don’t want to escalate a situation that could otherwise be easily diffused. It’s better to be the bigger person and act politely at all times.

Keep your cool and communicate in a confident yet neutral tone when confronting someone. Often, you’ll find that people will not only take you seriously but will be apologetic as they didn’t actually mean to offend or inconvenience you. Acting confidently and humbly will deescalate the situation and earn you respect.

Finding a Solution

Knowing how you like to be treated is important when it comes to setting your limits on what is worth a confrontation and what isn’t. The point of a confrontation is to point out a problem, but it can still have a negative impact on you if the confrontation is a bigger deal to you than the problem you hope to solve.

When you do confront someone, tell them how you’d like to be treated up front and set firm boundaries. For instance, if someone is stealing your lunch from the lunchroom refrigerator, tell them that your lunch is off limits, and you will report the theft to HR if it happens again.

Of course, sometimes the answer isn’t as simple as setting boundaries if the person you’re dealing with won’t respect them. If the situation is more complicated, it is better to work through it with the offender in order for both parties to be satisfied. For example, if one colleague is using all the copy paper, but you both need it, come to an agreement on how much each will use.

Knowing what you want and setting boundaries before you confront someone will more likely result in a positive outcome. However, it is also important to note that you may need to be flexible to arrive at a solution that works for everyone.

Know When to Walk Away

You have to know when to pick your battles. If the offense was an accident or something that is inconsequential in the long term, it’s better to just walk away from it. Truth be told, there will be times when you run into a situation that is simply unresolvable – no matter how right you are!

If you’re dealing with a toxic workplace and you’ve tried everything to improve it, you may just have to quit for your own mental health. Perhaps a close friend or family member is mistreating you properly; there may come a point when you have to cut ties and move on.

Ultimately, it all boils down to you figuring out what you can and can’t accept in your dealings with others. Once you have a firm understanding of this, start standing firm and see your life improve!


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