CONFLICT

5 tips for overcoming confrontation anxiety

Kathryn Wheeler
By Kathryn Wheeler,
updated on May 10, 2024

5 tips for overcoming confrontation anxiety

If the idea of an altercation fills you with dread, you may be experiencing confrontation anxiety. Here, we’re sharing five tips for overcoming it

Most people would describe confrontation as their idea of a good time. But, for some people, the idea of getting into a confrontation is enough to fill them with a deep sense of dread.

While being able to keep the peace can be an admirable attribute, avoiding confrontation entirely can have significant, detrimental consequences – including allowing others to get away with bad behaviour, allowing hurtful or problematic patterns to continue, and a loss of personal autonomy.

So, what steps can you take to overcome confrontation anxiety? We’ve got five tips.

1. Recognise ‘worst case scenario’ thinking

When you picture a confrontation in your mind, does it tend to look like the worst-case scenario? Perhaps the person you are imagining the conflict with blows up at you, or there are severe consequences for you following the confrontation – such as disciplinary action at work or your pattern ending your relationship. But are those kinds of outcomes likely?

In most cases, the worst-case scenario that you have conjured up in your head is a long way from what it would actually be like in reality. Try taking a step back from the situation and evaluating it objectively. If you spoke up in a reasonable way, what would be the most likely reaction?

2. Prepare, but don’t overthink it

Before a confrontation, you may want to spend some time to figure out what your approach will be. You want to be very clear and concise in what you would like to say, so you may wish to spend some time working that out.

Have an idea of what you hope the outcome will be, and communicate that. Be honest and direct, but try not to speak for too long and allow for the other person to have their say as well. You may also wish to consider how and where the conversation should take place. Ideally, it would be somewhere neutral, where both parties feel comfortable and there is space and privacy to talk things through without risk of interruption.

3. Note the difference between healthy confrontation and an argument

Healthy confrontation is about working towards a resolution to an issue in a respectful and calm way. It doesn’t mean that it’s free from any emotion, but it is more about finding solutions than it is trying to argue a point or get someone to admit they are wrong. And you’re not in the wrong for expressing your feelings.

For some people, a fear of confrontation can begin in early childhood, when they have not seen healthy examples of confrontation in action. If someone has grown up in a volatile environment and has made the association between confrontation and threat or fear. Working through these feelings is best done with the support of a mental health professional, but you may also wish to explore them with tools such as journaling or speaking to someone in your life who you trust.

4. Understand your self-worth

Perhaps it’s a friend who keeps on making jokes at your expense or a colleague who has a habit of talking over you in meetings. Whatever it may be, you are worthy of respect and don’t have to accept mistreatment.

Sometimes, a fear of confrontation can lead us to act in passive ways that, in the long term, can mean that we miss out on opportunities or allow others to treat us in unkind ways. Understand that your point of view and your needs matter, and that putting them across to someone else is a healthy and acceptable thing to do.

Again, you may wish to explore this further with a mental health professional such as a counsellor or a life coach.

5. Practice confrontation

Practice really does make perfect, and confrontation is a skill you can gradually build up over time. Using some of the tips here about preparing for and setting up healthy confrontations, take opportunities to stand up for yourself as and when they arise.

With time, you may find that certain ways of approaching things work better for you than others, and you will also develop confidence as you go – each time reinforcing the fact that you are capable of handling confrontation, resilient, and deserving of an agreeable outcome.

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