4 Ways To Make Confrontation Less Intimidating

photographed by Ashley Armitage; modeled by Claire Joko Fujimoto; modeled by Jessica Taylor; produced by Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez; produced by Megan Madden.
How many times have you put off talking about an issue you were having with someone because you "don't like confrontation"? Whether it's a conflict with a partner, friend, or boss, plenty of us dread having to bring up an issue so much that we just keep putting it off.
Megan Fleming, PhD, a sex and relationship therapist in New York City, says that it's completely normal to dislike conflict. Disagreements can be inherently uncomfortable, and who among us would willingly sit in discomfort if we could do the opposite?
"Part of human nature is that we don’t like to be uncomfortable, and a lot of people feel like they can sweep [the issue] under the rug and it’ll go away, but we know that doesn’t happen," she says. "The growth is always in the discomfort."
Dr. Fleming says that when someone has a strong difference of opinion and we imagine having to confront them about it, we likely think that confrontation will involve aggression.
"Aggression feels unsafe, and if you imagine [the conversation is] going to be confrontational, your body is preparing to be defensive and get into protection mode," she says. "From that place, we’re not in a position to truly hear or understand where the other person is coming from."
Ahead, Dr. Fleming breaks down a few tips to make confrontation a little less scary.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Validate their perspective.

"You can’t talk someone out of their feelings, so you have to make room to hear their feelings and understand their perspective," Dr. Fleming says. "Then they can be more open to hearing your perspective, but until you validate them, they’re still feeling the need to be heard."

This doesn't mean that you have to agree with them, but you can acknowledge that you see their point of view by saying something like, "I hear you — are you open to hearing me?"
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Plan for the conversation.

"If you want to have a productive conversation, have a sense of what you want to express and what you want the outcome to be," Dr. Fleming says. "Have a sense of what you think is a good outcome, a better outcome, and the best outcome."

You don't have to come planned with exactly what you want to say, but it's probably a good idea to go over (in your head or on paper) what points you want to get across.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Take a break if you need to.

Confrontations and conflicts can often be emotional, whether we like it or not. Dr. Fleming says that if you find yourself getting worked up, it's worth taking a minute to pause and ask if you can continue the conversation later.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Let your body do the talking.

Body language matters, too. Dr. Fleming says that before you even say anything, the person sitting across from you will be able to pick up on how you're approaching this conversation.

"If you’re coming from a place where you’re [trying to be] understanding, people will pick up on that," she says. "If you just want to get it over with, they’ll feel that too."

That means: No crossed arms and crossed legs. Instead, try sitting next to the person you're talking to so that you can indicate that you're on the same side, and that you're ready to listen.

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