How to Diffuse Confrontation — While Still Telling the Truth
Step 1: Remove the negative emotion from your concerns
Step 1: Remove the negative emotion from your concerns
Why do people complain about their job, without ever confronting their Boss?
Why do people secretly cheat on their significant other?
When the waiter asks “how is your meal?”, why do people say “great” and then complain to their friends about that restaurant in private?
I’ll tell you exactly why…
People hate the truth, unless it’s being kept from them.
They assume it’s rude to be honest when the truth could hurt someone’s feelings, or instigate some aggression in another.
It’s not that they don’t want to tell the truth, it’s that they don’t know the right way to tell it.
But what if I told you that confronting someone isn’t as ‘aggressive’ as it’s perceived. The truth is not rude on its own, it’s the way it’s told that holds the power.
Today I’m going to show you 4 ways to diffuse potential confrontation, while still telling the absolute truth.
This is an underrated skill in your professional and personal lives. Telling the truth in these ways will disperse any awkwardness while keeping your integrity.
#1 Remove the negative emotion from your concerns
When describing something, adjectives (describing words) are often used to convey emotion.
e.g. “That was a beautiful meal, truly stunning.”
One secret to giving the truth, if it can be perceived as negative by the recipient, is to strip all potentially negative adjectives and emotive language away from what you’re saying.
You want to be factual and honest. By saying words like ‘disgusting’ you’re adding descriptive words — full of emotion, into your questions or statements.
By qualifying statements with “This is nothing personal” you can ensure the information you’re about to deliver can’t be taken as a vendetta.
The wrong way is “I’m sure Adam is embezzling money from this company, I know it, he’s a terrible human being and a thief.”
The right way is “This is nothing personal. You hire me for my advice and I always give it. It’s worth looking into Adam’s corporate spending, to find out whether it’s all above board.”
It’s stoic, calm and emotionless. It implies there is something to find, but it doesn’t pass any judgment over the fact.
It doesn’t matter that you could be correct in both instances. The first delivery makes you look like you’re settling a personal score. The second gain you some respect for your composure.
#2 Recognising the elephant in the room
I always tell the truth to direct questions…
… but if I feel it’s about to upset someone, I’ll soften the blow first.
I start with “This is going to sound really rude, but my intention isn’t to upset you…”
You’ve called out the ‘elephant in the room’ first, so the recipient can’t assume your intentions.
In the context of a breakup, you could say “This is going to sound really rude, but my intention isn’t to upset you. I honestly don’t feel the same way about you that I did before. My feelings have changed and without wanting to lead you on, I think it’s best we go our separate ways.”
Clean. Direct. Void of blame or emotive language. It’s the truth and it’s not open for discussion.
You’ve protected their emotions, told the truth and kept your integrity.
Any reaction above acceptance is a reflection on them, more than it is yourself. Of course, they’ll be in shock, but eventually, they’ll respect the way you said it.
One of the reasons people are unfaithful is because they want ‘out’ of a relationship, but they’re not sure of how to tell the truth. Instead, they cheat, get caught and let the other person end it for them.
This method could also be a way to tell your significant other they’ve gained unhealthy weight.
e.g. “You know I love you right? This is going to sound really rude, but my intention isn’t to hurt your feelings. We’ve both binged chocolate over Christmas and I think you need to get back to the gym with me and work it off. We could help each other.”
If it’s the truth, they probably know it too, but saying it in the right way could inspire positive change instead of feelings of resentment and low self-esteem.
#3 Asking ‘Why?’ in a different way
Nobody can hate a person coming from a place of self-deprecation. In the power-dynamic, they’re placing themselves below you.
This is a useful strategy to learn.
“Why?” when used incorrectly can be cold and assuming.
“Why is my meal cold?” is a rhetorical question. You don’t want to know why it is, you just want it to be warm.
That question assumes there is someone or something to blame and people will immediately become defensive, to push the blame to someone else, or back on you.
An alternative to asking why is to ask with a self-deprecating statement.
“Sorry to bother you, I’ve never had lentil dhal before. Is it supposed to be served cold?”
The question implies it’s cold without emotion and puts the blame on you for not knowing. That way you’ve told the truth, without making the other person defensive.
This can be used at work also.
“I had a question, I just saw that Peter got the promotion. I probably missed the email, but did you have some feedback for me — on why I wasn’t as suitable for the role?”
That last one is much more professional than “Why did Peter get the promotion and not me?”
#4 The **** sandwich
I go into this in more detail in my post below.
To simplify it for those here, you can tell the truth between two slices of good news, or ‘bread’.
The ‘filling’ of this proverbial sandwich is the part that, on its own, would be inedible. It’s the bad news or ‘poop’, to put it lightly.
Let’s use the example of telling your boss you’re not happy with your work.
This is how it’s done.
“This feels like a super awkward conversation, but it shouldn’t be. We have a great working relationship, so I wanted to come to you and tell you the truth.”
This part is the ‘bread’, using the ‘elephant in the room’ tactic. You’re taking any potential awkwardness away up-front, by addressing it.
“Lately I’ve been unhappy with my role. It seems like I’ve taken on a lot of added responsibility, but not seen any reward for that extra work. My input has had a net positive affect to the company’s bottom line and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and undervalued.”
Now you just need to finish the sandwich with a more positive slice of bread, like so…
“Anyway, I wanted to be 100% honest and tell you where I was, to see if we can work together on a solution. I love working here and I love to give value. Maybe I’m just getting caught up in my own emotions, so I’d be happy to hear your insight.”
That last slice of positive ‘bread’ was laced with a self-deprecating statement. Did you spot it?
With a professional approach like this, the only two outcomes you can expect are more money or less work.
The truth is like an addictive superpower
By using everything you’ve learned in conjunction with other tactics, you’ll become a dangerously honest person. A force of positivity, while still living the life you want.
When talking about the impact of his Netflix show ‘After Life’ Ricky Gervais said that “telling the unadulterated truth is like a superpower.” and I can’t help but agree.
My friends revel in the stories I tell them of truthful confrontations with strangers. Street justice served ice-cold, sans aggression.
Someone cuts in front of you in a queue? Tell them truthfully that they don’t understand the nature of the queuing system, with a bit of self-deprecation.
You’re trying to wash your car, but someone has blocked the entrance to the car wash by parking their Audi there? Tell them how selfish that action was in literal terms. Don’t get emotional, angry or demeaning.
Taking the first example, perhaps they didn’t see that you were before them in the queue, but no harm was done, you’ll just go before them. This is a true story and this is what I said…
“Sorry I was in front of you, but it’s my first time shopping here, so maybe I wasn’t standing exactly where you could see me. I’m first.”
Said with a smile, it leaves nowhere for them to go, but full compliance. You’re correct, but you were also polite. The recipient won’t get defensive, because you aren’t assuming the blame lies with them.
The last example of the Audi blocking the car-wash is also a true story. Perhaps they could only park there as a van had double-parked in the last 2 spaces? You can’t be sure.
I’ll let you guess what I said from the tactics above, but know that the word ‘selfish’ was used and the culprit did indeed reverse his car to let me go first.
From this moment on, you no longer have to hide behind secrets and lies. Your thoughts and feelings can be expressed, without swallowing the normal dose of guilt associated with saying it.
Other people’s reactions aren’t your concern. Your only concern is that you’re delivering the truth correctly, using one or all of the 4 methods above.
When doing so, you can expect more fulfilling relationships, both professionally and personally. You’ll become the person that others come to, knowing that they’re getting the truth, no matter what.