Helping you become all that you are capable of becoming!



Handling Confrontations

Chapter 15: Handling Confrontations

Tools for Anger Work-Out

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


What is confrontation?

I use confrontation to:

  • address a negative situation.
  • express my negative emotional response.
  • let others see and feel my anger.
  • openly ventilate my anger.
  • change others' behavior.
  • change the things that get me angry.
  • stand up for my rights when I feel they are being violated.
  • clarify what has happened and why it has upset me.
  • get corrective action taken.
  • do anger work-out on people (inappropriate) rather than on inanimate objects (appropriate).


What types of confrontation are there?


1. Angry confrontation

This is when I'm angry at someone and I reveal my anger to that person by words and/or actions. It is explosive.


Saying, You piss me off, while throwing objects down or slamming the door.

Telling another Get out of here while physically pushing the person out of the way.


2. Assertive confrontation          

This is when I stand up for my rights with a person who has ignored my rights. It is objective and non-accusatory.


I get frustrated when you ignore my offers of help.

I was angry when I got passed over for that promotion.


3. Direct confrontation

This is my clear, precise statement of the facts to a person whom I believe needs direction and guidance. I either want quality action taken or I want this person to do something for me.


John, please clean this place before I return.

Mary, the way to get my attention is by writing a memo to me, not by skipping work.


4. Indirect confrontation

This is a statement of concern I make to a group of people with no specific person pinpointed. The purpose is to let people know my feelings in a general way. No one gets singled out.


I want each of you to get behind my desire to improve our production.

I am upset with the way some of you are acting around here.


5. Accusation

This is a direct confrontation of a person regarding my belief that their behavior was upsetting or unacceptable.


You were the person who started the fight.

Your use of sarcasm upsets the tone of our meeting.

All those calls couldn't be business related.


6. Ordering

This is my attempt to straighten some one out by giving directions that need to be followed to the letter.


To improve your performance you must work at least 30 minutes extra each night for the next month.'

Change your clothes immediately! Get that ear ring out of your ear! and wash your face!


7. Blaming

This is similar to an accusation but it lays the total responsibility on another person for a problem that angers me.


Your careless playing caused us to lose the game.

Your lack of interest in our relationship led to my having an affair.


8. Belittling

When I'm displeased with someone's behavior I try to make them feel especially bad by severely criticizing their unacceptable behavior.


You are a sorry excuse for a human being.

Your presentation was pitiful. Did you notice everyone yawning? They were all bored!


9. Lecturing

When I really want to make a point I become grandiose and pompous. I give a person complete, rigid directions for what I feel is imperative.


The only way to cut a lawn is from left to right overlapping one inch between rows.

The dining room table must be set exactly right, napkins folded so, chairs angled so.


10. Scolding

If I am upset and disappointed with the behavior of a person, I can resort to a finger?pointing tirade to let that person know of my displeasure.


I'm tired of this. I'm in charge and you don't act like anything is important.

Your grades in school are horrible! What have you been doing this semester? Daydreaming?


11. Name calling

I am really upset, out of control, and at an irrational level of anger. I resort to shouting or angrily calling out names of disdain, displeasure, and disrespect.


You bastard! How dare you!

Stupid idiot! Can't you see?


12. Put downs

If a person has upset me and I want that person not only to squirm but to be equally upset, then I resort to a sarcastic put down, trying to make the person feel miserable and embarrassed.


Thank God we have `white out' around here. You need a paint can of it for your work.

What do you expect from a college graduate?

How do people usually react to my style of confrontation?

When I use:


Angry confrontation, they usually react like they understand how I'm feeling. Their reaction to my anger depends on how they would react to any anger situation.


Assertive confrontation, they recognize that I have hurt feelings, and that needs of mine have not been met. They know how they can correct the situation for me.


Direct confrontation, they realize what I am upset about and they either respond or ignore what I say.


Indirect confrontation, they know what is bothering me but usually don't respond; they are never quite certain to whom it was directed.


Accusation, they usually become defensive and begin to protect themselves from my confrontation as if they had been attacked.


Ordering, they are offended by my authoritarian attitude and often react in a passive aggressive manner.


Blaming, they are hurt, offended, and are usually quick to defend themselves.


Belittling, they are usually so befuddled, dismayed, and feeling insignificant and devalued that they retreat from me with lowered self-esteem.


Lecturing, they usually ignore me and what I am telling them because I come across too strong, too autocratic, and unbending.


Scolding, they feel like they are being treated with disrespect, a lack of understanding, and often turn away from me instead of correcting their behavior as I've demanded they do.


Name calling, they are upset by the cursing, negative attitude, and rage. They back off from, avoid, and ignore me.


Put downs, they are extremely put off by my sarcasm and cynicism. They are incensed and either ignore me and avoid future contacts with me or fight back with vigor.


What irrational thinking results in inappropriate confrontation?

  • Say whatever comes to mind; that's the way I do it.
  • Don't hold back anything.
  • It's not important how people react to what I say as long as I say what I am feeling.
  • I'll get an ulcer if I hold in my anger.
  • What's important is to feel my feelings and express them, no matter what others think or feel.
  • Always worrying how people react to what I say blocks me from standing up for myself.
  • I just can't control myself when I get angry.
  • It takes too much effort to try to think before I speak.
  • I'd rather be spontaneous than hold back from saying what I'm thinking.
  • If people get me angry they deserve what they get. They are just begging for it.
  • People deserve what I dish out after they deliberately get me angry.
  • Why show respect for those who don't respect me?
  • People don't respect me if I don't fight back and stick up for myself.
  • People who get me angry are worthless, poor examples of the human race.
  • If I don't react right away I'll never settle things.
  • It's better to make a show of power to prevent people from overtaking me.
  • I've been hurt badly in the past; I deserve to defend myself from future hurts, no matter what it takes.
  • I can't be held responsible for how people react to what I say to them.
  • People who get me angry know better. It's up to them to improve their behavior.
  • I've always blown up in anger. Why should I change now?


What style of confrontation is most effective?

The most productive confrontation I can use is direct, assertive, angry confrontation because it:

  • lets others know I'm angry and how I feel about the event which precipitated the confrontation.
  • identifies the rights I believe are being ignored.
  • directly addresses the person with whom I am angry; it leaves no room for misunderstanding just who is being addressed.
  • doesn't force anyone to become overly defensive, feel offended, or experience devaluing as a person.
  • doesn't put me into the role of an autocratic despot or irrational, raging fool.
  • shows respect to others and lets them know that I am angry with the behavior and not with the person.
  • describes the negative behavior rather than attacking the person.
  • is corrective-action oriented, not punitive.
  • elicits a direct response rather than a generalized one.
  • doesn't shut people down and make them want to run away; it allows for compromise and a win-win solution.

How do I conduct a direct, assertive, angry confrontation?
When someone or something gets me angry, I need to:

Step 1: Identify exactly what gets me angry. What do I feel is a violation of my rights? Which rights have been violated?
I'm ignored by the leader of our group, and this affects my right to be heard.


Step 2: Identify the behavior that is so upsetting. Why do I feel the way I do.
The leader acts all knowing.


Step 3: Tell the person directly how the behavior makes me feel by using an “I” statement, like: When you did (the behavior) it made me angry (or other feeling.)
When you ignored my input last night and you were acting like a know?it?all I was angry, hurt, and upset.


Step 4: Once I've given my “I” statement, I can describe corrective action, like: In the future when you feel like (describe person's feelings) then you have my permission to take the following action: (describe it.) I think that's fair.
In the future if you feel my input is irrelevant, you have permission to tell me and ask me to explain myself.


Step 5: Once I've secured corrective action for the confrontation, I give the person permission to call me on it if I continue to dwell on this episode anytime I get angry in the future.
If I bring up this episode again, please remind me of our agreement.


Step 6: Finally I do healthy anger work-out until I have exhausted my anger over this episode and those involved. This is done in private with an inanimate object.


Steps to improving my use of confrontation

Step 1: I first need to assess my feelings about confrontation. I need to answer these questions in my journal:

  • Do I use confrontation when I am angry?
  • What type of confrontation do I use?
  • What is the typical response to my confrontation?
  • How successful is my use of confrontation?
  • How healthy are my confrontations?
  • Why do I resort to poor confrontation techniques when I am angry?
  • Do I have time when I get angry to prepare my confrontation and be sure it is healthy?
  • What irrational thinking blocks my use of confrontation?
  • What thinking leads me to the use of negative confrontation?
  • How can I correct this irrational thinking?


Step 2: I am now ready to explore a healthy model of direct, assertive, angry confrontation. To do this I need to analyze instances of anger from my past and rescript them for a healthy confrontation.
 To analyze my anger sequences I will look at five incidents of anger during which I was unsuccessful. I'll use the steps of how to conduct a direct, assertive, angry confrontation In the above section to write new scripts and show how the situation could have been improved.


Step 3: Now that I have written five re-scripted confrontations, I need to practice the six step confrontation model in current situations. I'll record my progress.


Step 4: If I am still having problems with confrontation I need to return to Step 1 and begin again.