Importance of Crucial Confrontations

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Everyone has encountered situations where promises have been broken, expectations have been violated and people have just flat out acted inappropriately. These are actions that trigger the need for a crucial confrontation, or holding someone accountable for their actions face-to-face. The book Crucial Confrontations teaches you how to identify a crucial confrontation, decide whether or not it should be addressed, create a sense of safety for everyone involved to discuss the situation openly and honestly, and then establish and carry out an appropriate action plan to resolve the issue.

Before a crucial confrontation can begin the confronter must decide what the real problem is and if it should be addressed. Many times problems arise in bundles and the issue that seems most obvious is not always the issue that needs to be addressed. It is important to understand all issues upfront. The book gives the example of a teenage daughter coming home an hour after her curfew. Her parents are upset that she is late but that is not the only problem here. She also willfully broke curfew, lied to her parents that she would be home on time, and she was trying to get back at them for grounding her last weekend and knew it would drive them crazy if she wasn’t home on time. At this point it is imperative that her parents decide what issue to confront so that they aren’t dealing with the same issues again.

Once all of the issues have been uncovered and the correct one to address has been established it is time to decide if the problem should be confronted at all. Just because you have decided on the issue you want to deal with, it doesn’t mean that you should. It is important at this point to weigh the consequences of the action and to make sure you are talking when you should. You need to determine if you are comfortable speaking up even if no one else does and decide if you have the skills to carry out the crucial confrontation. If you do not have the skills it is probably best to stay silent until you have researched how to properly approach these kinds of situations.

After the decision to act has been made it is important that you are in the right frame of mind to handle this crucial confrontation. This step must take place before you start talking to ensure that you do not go in with an aggressive, confrontational manner that does not make the other party feel safe or respected. Ask yourself what other possible reasons could there be for someone to have acted the way they did. Ask yourself if the reward system in place makes the behavior desirable. And finally, ask yourself whether the person has the ability to complete the task in question. Once you have thought about all of these different reasons and not just jumped to the first negative conclusion you could think of, you will have established a much less volatile environment for the conversation to take place. Before a person starts a crucial confrontation there are also things that should not be done. It is always wise not to play games, play charades, pass the buck, or make the person who has disappointed you read your mind. An example of playing games is giving a compliment followed by bringing up the problem, and then giving another compliment. This tactic sends the wrong message. This indirect method gets the point across but will come off as sarcastic, manipulative and insulting to the offending party. See the text for in depth discussions about the other games people play. It is now time to begin the crucial confrontation and it is important to first describe the gap by explaining what was expected and what was actually observed. The best way to describe this gap is to start with safety, share your path, and end with a question. The text states that, “at the foundation of every successful confrontation lies safety. When others feel frightened or nervous or otherwise unsafe, you can’t talk about anything. But if you can create safety,...
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