28 Sep 2022

‘Healthy’ confrontations – how assertiveness can help with conflict resolution

We’ve now reached the end of our three-part series on communication strategies. You can view the previous two articles on communication roadblocks and active and reflective listening on our blog.

Today, we’ll discuss healthy confrontation practices. And yes, you read that right – ‘healthy’ and ‘confrontation’ are two words that do go together! 

Why confrontation shouldn’t be avoided

Confrontation is a word that can make us flinch, mainly because it’s so frequently tied to negativity or outright hostility. We automatically assume that confronting someone means aggression, anger and placing blame. In fact, confrontation gives us the capacity to overcome challenges in one’s family, career and personal life in a constructive way.

Sometimes our fear of how, when, and where to confront causes us to avoid these encounters. The other person might reject what we’re saying or show resentment, especially if they are already in a heightened state. However, it’s possible to have the conversation we’ve been putting off, face a challenge head-on, and resolve communication problems once we have overcome our fear.

The key to ‘healthy’ confrontation is to be neither submissive nor aggressive, but rather assertive.

How assertiveness can help communication

Individuals can express their needs, wants, and opinions through assertiveness without hurting or offending the listener. Maintaining a respectful, even tone of voice is essential to being assertive; in essence, you want to maintain your composure while still defending your position.

As you develop your assertiveness, it may become your most important tool for effective communication. The three-step process below is a very useful starting point:

Keep in mind that not everyone will be amenable to an assertive approach, and may even become defensive instead of responding in the ‘appropriate’ way. If you are faced with a confrontation that isn’t heading in a positive manner, you may want to use conflict resolution to de-escalate and come to a more appropriate conclusion. 

Conflict resolution and communication

There are times when conflict will arise no matter how skilled you are in assertiveness. In this case, your best bet is to minimise the damage and hopefully bring the conversation back to a resolution.

With conflict resolution, it’s important to bear in mind that you’re not necessarily trying to resolve the issue solely for yourself, but to come to a solution that works equally well for anyone involved in the conversation. This may mean compromising on some aspects, while getting others to understand your point of view simultaneously.

Essentially, you want to collaboratively solve the issue, redefine the problem in terms of what needs to be done, and end with selecting the best solution to fit everyone’s needs, even if it isn’t perfect for all involved. 

Summing up

In the end, remember this: conflict can arise among the best communicators. It’s disruptive in the best case and highly destructive in the worst. However, some types of conflict can also be advantageous to develop a relationship. You can advance and improve your communication skills by being assertive and prepared for conflict management.

We invite you to get in touch for even more communication skills training to help you deliver a better customer and employee experience within your teams today!