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Confrontation is a huge part of my life.

For example, in my job as project manager I need to confront clients about things that might make them upset or I need to talk to them when I know they are upset about something.

The other is in dating where if I go out on a couple of dates with a guy and then decide I am not interested in him, I want to tell him in the most sensitive way - usually through a phone call - but I am frozen by fear, thinking about the confrontation involved.

Basically, I spent a lot of my time dreading the confrontation in my life.

Are there techniques one could use to stop fearing confrontation so intensely?

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7 Answers 7

So I'm of the school that fear is fear is fear. That the thing that your afraid of will be just as scary whatever you do. In my experience, the things I've found terrifying (kissing a girl, giving a presentation, entering a sports event) are in every-way equally horrific every single time…

But this isn't about doom and gloom - what I do know is that you can change your attitude about fear… for example - knowing that the fear is coming allows you to prepare for it (I schedule "panicking" time before a big presentation and know that I'm not getting anything done - I also know that I'm not going to need a morning caffeine but I am going to need lots of food all day). The major thing is that you know that the fear shouldn't stop you - the absolute thing to know that you've been terrified before and come though it just fine. Let it become part of your identity; 'I am someone who does things because they need to be done or because I want to do them' not 'I am someone who does things because they need to be done or because I want to do them, unless they're scary'

To finish with a quick trick - try comparing an individual scary thing with something much more scary that happened in the past. "This is much less scary than getting lost in the woods that time and I managed that" - I use "This is much less scary than that exam that I passed" and I have a friend who finds things "less scary than childbirth"…

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Thanks for your comment. I think you're right. One of the things I do is get upset about the fear but, although once in a while that's a good idea because then maybe I'll work on being less scared (not sure how but whatever), most of the time the best strategy is to face facts that it's there and do whatever I can to get through it. –  deenalev Apr 25 '12 at 5:25

As far as the PM job, consider this. The longer you delay the worse the confrontation will be. Don't be someone who manages by wishful thinking, i.e. if I don't tell them maybe the problem will go away on it's own. It won't and the longer you delay the worse it will be. Would you prefer being told two months ahead of time that we had unexpected problems and that launch will be delayed a month or would you rather find out on launch day? I've worked for PMS who hate confrontation and their procrastination invariably makes the problem worse. Frankly, if you can't learn to bring up bad news as soon as it is known, this is not the profession for you, you will leave a trail of failed projects in your wake.

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HLGEM, your answer could potential instil more fear in me instead of the opposite. :) Intellectually I know how important timeliness is in PM (and in dating - to the same extent or more). It is my emotions that make me hesitate. –  deenalev Apr 25 '12 at 5:30

Just keep on keeping on, as they say. I, as well, used to hate confrontation when I got out of college. Then I became an auditor. Now confrontation doesn't phase me; it still elicits the fight or flight response, but knowing I can handle the situation makes me confident. Build your confidence by pretending to be confident. Eventually you will be what you've been pretending to be.

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Ah, confidence... What a dream. :) –  deenalev Apr 25 '12 at 5:34

13 Tips To Face Your Fear and Enjoy the Ride seems interesting.

However, if you really want to get rid of this problem you'll need to take this up as a long term goal. Find out what causes the problem (Surpressed self esteem? Did your parents allow you to confront them? ...) and take steps to solve the problem. Possible examples are:

  • Find a sparetime group activity you are good at, and find a groop with a good group atmosphere. That can really boost your self esteem and help your social skills
  • Psychotherapy, self help groups, whatever
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I agree that it must be a long-term goal, getting rid of my fears. I agree 100%. I am trying! Thanks for your comment. –  deenalev Apr 25 '12 at 5:35

I think your fear of confrontation actually translates to a lack of experience with these kind of problems. That's why probably the best piece of advice is to raise your head, take a deep breath and walk into the uncomfortable situation like it's no big deal. Once you gather some experience, handling these events will come to you more naturally and your anxiety will fade away.

One good technique that worked for me in the past is writing down on a sheet of paper all you want to say and 'rehearse' it a little before the meeting, phone call etc. This will ensure 2 things:

  1. You did a little research and you have something to back you up going into your confrontation
  2. You don't have to concentrate as much on what you are saying, and you focus more on how you say it (confidence level, voice tone etc.)
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Thanks for the advice. But I have to say that although my fear sometimes comes from a lack of experience, it often comes from fear of how it might turn out. Because even if I've had hundreds of similar experiences already, no two situations are the same and all that unknown is daunting to me. –  deenalev Apr 8 '12 at 14:58

Listen to this episode of Get-It-Done Guy. The idea is that you let something else worry about what will happen and you just do it.

Another technique before doing something that terrifies you is to imagine that you had already done that in the past at least once and you went through.

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Eugene, amusing article... There is something calming about being able to believe that not everything is in your hands. –  deenalev Apr 14 '12 at 22:07
    
@deenalev Thanks, I enjoyed it very much myself. The interesting part is that this concept is not new. Search for "Prayer of the Optina Elders", Christianity had already thought of the idea a while ago. –  Eugene Apr 14 '12 at 23:23
    
and I am familiar with the idea from Judaism. :) I just often have a hard time believing it for an extended period of time. –  deenalev Apr 25 '12 at 5:32

Feel the fear... And do it anyway

The book recommends to feel the fear. To explore the feelings you get, when you get them and to really immerse yourselve with the feeling. With better understanding of your fear comes the realization that it is just a feeling. This enables you to do it anyway, despite the fear.

Remember, everyone has fears. Even the most successfull people.

Good Luck!

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Thanks for your comment. Really letting yourself feel the fear also helps you understand really what you're feeling and, most importantly, WHY. That could be very productive, IMHO. Thanks! –  deenalev Apr 25 '12 at 5:33

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