The Art of Confrontation

I subscribe to Dr. Henry Cloud’s I think he is one of the greatest Christian thinkers of our day. I know him. I believe in his mission big time. This blog especially hit me as I’ve dealt with a number of people recently checking in with HomeWord on this subject. I encourage you to do two things: Read and apply this blog and then consider becoming a monthly subscriber to Boundaries.Me or sign up for The Art of Confrontation workshop.

The Art of Confrontation

When the person you are confronting reacts with immaturity, you will be sorely tempted to respond in kind: anger to anger, blame to blame. This is the most natural thing in the world. When we are attacked, we protect ourselves, and sometimes we attack back. At the same time, the most natural thing in the world may not be the best, most helpful, or most mature thing to do: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17). This is why you need to be in control of how you respond to an attack. If you are not, the talk can quickly degenerate into an argument or alienation.

Suppose, for example, you tell your spouse that you need for them to be less distant and more interested in your life. They may say, “You’re the one who is distant. You don’t care about what I think or feel; it’s always about you. Why don’t you ever talk to me about how I am doing?”

You might be tempted to say, “Listen to yourself. You just proved my point. I couldn’t even bring up how I feel without you throwing it back at me. Can’t you for once just listen to my side without blaming it all on me?”

Even if these statements are true, they are not helpful.

Give up the right to pay back in kind. Remember that there needs to be at least one adult present in the room for a problem to be solved. You may have to have a “tight rein” on your tongue (James 1:26) and speak from your maturity rather than from your hurt or anger.

You could instead respond to your spouse this way: “I’m really sorry you feel that way. I don’t want you to think I’m not interested in what is going on with you. I want to pursue this with you, because maybe you can show me when I discount your feelings so I can avoid that. But for now, I’d like to continue with solving the problem of my not feeling I have your emotional interest.”

There is no lecturing or power play in this response. It is a straightforward approach of hearing the reaction, dealing with it, and returning to the matter at hand. You can often get through reactions by patiently turning the other cheek and pursuing the problem.

This example also illustrates another important point about reactions: Do not make the counterattack or defensiveness the issue at first. You may not need to do that, because your love and balance will get through so you can resolve the issue. Often, when a person finds that you didn’t react to their reaction, they drop it and get to the problem. Try to overlook the resistance: “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Provo 19:11).

It is sometimes easier to point out rationalization or to blame someone than to overlook it for the moment. However, in winning that point, the person may feel you are lying in wait to prove them wrong, and you risk not solving the problem.

I’m going to walk you through how to have difficult conversations that are meaningful and oriented around a goal, even when the other person reacts with immaturity. Sign up here for The Art of Confrontation.

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Dr. Henry Cloud

Dr. Cloud is an acclaimed leadership expert, psychologist, and best-selling author. He draws on his extensive experience in clinical psychology and leadership development, to impart practical and effective advice.

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