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How to Confront: 3 Traps to Avoid


There are two places where confrontation can go seriously awry. The first is when you initially confront someone and deliver your message. Hopefully, you’ve done your homework around this and are using the 60-second Opening Statement from our Confrontation Model. If you are, congratulations! You’ve avoided pitfall #1.

The second opportunity for things to go sideways is immediately after Step #1 above. Sorry folks, no one said this would be easy! The great news is that navigating the whitewater is simple once you’re aware of the upcoming traps.

Okay. You’ve delivered your statement and it’s their turn to speak. Let's assume you are confronting someone in customer service whose behavior towards a client was a little lacking, shall we say. Here are the 3 most common tactics you will encounter and an example of each:

Deny: “It wasn’t me, you must have me confused with someone else. I would never behave that way.”

Defend: “Well, you weren’t there. You should have heard what the customer was saying about our company. And even about you! In fact, I think I deserve a raise based on how I dealt with that.”

Deflect: “Okay, but Suzie does that all the time and I don’t see you confronting her. Is there some kind of special treatment going on here? Is she your little pet??”

And they just get more creative from there. The problem isn’t that they go there. The problem is that we follow them there.

Rather, we need to keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand no matter what curve balls come your way. Bring it right back without engaging. For example, I might respond to #3 by saying, “We aren’t here to speak about Suzie. We’re here to talk about the effect your behavior is having on our relationship with a key client. That’s the issue I’d like to focus on. Talk with me about that.”

Do this every time they stray from the issue or throw out a trap. Eventually, they’ll realize there will be no escaping and they'll focus on the here and now.


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