Leslie came into room thirty-two fuming. "I can't believe it. My teaching partner stole my language arts lesson and presented it in front of the principal. I'm so angry I could hit her!" Mrs. Patterson gently touched Leslie's shoulder. "Whaaaat's going on? said Mrs. Patterson in a calm voice" "
My partner has finally broken the camel's back." Leslie explained the months of offensive behavior that Rhonda exhibited --her drug use, her messiness, and her emotional instabiltiy in front of her students.
Mrs. Patterson inquired,"Have you spoken to her about these things?" Leslie hung her head."No. I wanted to keep the peace between us so I just overlooked it... I hoped the problems would go away..."
There is a high cost to pay when we remain passive and silent. Stress mounts and spews over like an erupting volcano when we fail to speak up about behaviors, attitudes and problematic situations that should be addressed with other people.
Oftentimes, problems grow more complex because we failed to address them speedily. This can result in lost money and time, ruptured relationships and low productivity.
Moreover, we tend to create the situations we've tried to avoid.
People often disrespect passive people because they fail to communicate their likes and dislikes, limitations and values.
Passive people appear not to respect themselves, and this gives permission to abusive people to continue their irresponsible and destructive behavior.
As I began to work with Leslie, she began to see how her "nice girl" encouraged Leslie's dishonesty, disrespect and addictive behavior.
"Leslie", I suggested, first you might want to consider addressing the most offensive behavior first. Then we can talk about how to have that difficult conversation with Rhonda." However, as we peeled back the layers of the situation , it became apparent that at the heart of Leslie's passivity was fear---- extreme fear of confrontation. We needed to address this before going any further.
Three Ways to Overcome Fear of Confrontation
1. Role play
Many of us have not had the opportunity to learn how
negotiate problems we have between ourselves and
others. Find a mentor in this area. Do you know someone
who has problem solving skills? Can they clearly state
problems, site examples, and listen to the other party
without over reacting? Ask this person to play the role
of the party you wish to address. Learn from your mistakes
and keep practicing. Learning how to have a confrontational
conversation takes practice but you will build your
confidence and diminish fear as you actually
2. Watch your thoughts
At the basis of most fears is illogical thinking patterns.
Keep a journal. When fearful thoughts arise about
confrontation write them down. You'll be surprised at the
thoughts that swim in your head. For example, you might
write: "If I speak up to Rhonda she might start yelling at
me." Counter fearful, irrational thoughts with the truth:
"Yes, she may yell at me, but I don't have to listen to it.
I can leave the room or ask her to leave and come back to the
discussion when she has calmed down." As you persist in
countering your negative thoughts with the truth, you'll
find fearful thoughts diminishing.
3. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!
While it is true that your hands may shake and beads of
sweat might run down your forehead, have the problem solving
Does your problem solving conversation have to be
communicated perfectly?No. If it'a new skill for you, it
will be like riding a bicycle without training wheels--
you'll fall and get back on and try again. Besides, you have
rehearsed your problem solving conversation with your
mentor, and you'll present your points better than you
We need to address problems that arise everyday. If other's hurtful attitudes, addictions, dishonesty, messiness, insensitivity and unfaithfulness offend you--speak up! By doing so, you are communicating to others how you want to be treated--- with respect.
Rosalind Henderson is a speaker, author and Peak Performance expert. She is the director and founder of Life Keys Inc., a college student resource dedicated to empowering college students to live life on purpose and with meaning. To book her for a speaking event contact her through www.rosalindhenderson.com