6 Steps for Confrontation

One of my friends posted this question on Facebook:

“When exactly do you have to hold your tongue and not say just what u feel? I think I need a class in this. Anyone???”


I responded briefly to her status and decided it would be a good blog post, because she is right: a lot of people “need a class in this.” So here is a primer.

Generally, if something needs to be said you should say it.  Too many people overlook this and simply stuff their anger, dismay, hurt, recognition of idiocy, etc.  What happens if you hold your tongue too often is that you collect anger which generally leads to an over-reaction when you collect too much.  Obviously discernment is necessary because sometimes you should hold your tongue.

Maybe what needs to happen is we all need to learn to say things more effectively.

The short course would be:

  1. Always say these things privately.  There are a few instances when public confrontation is called for, but the majority of the time confrontation should be done one on one and in private.  (Matthew 18:15)
  2. The tone of your voice and your selection of words should be soft .  Take care in the words that you select.  Soft words are words that you would use speaking to your mother, a small child, a judge or police officer.  Trash talk, smart-aleck sarcasm, toe-to-toe shock language, cursing would be hard language. If you are looking for the appropriate result (see point 6), then  suit your language for your goal.  If you just want to “put someone in their place” or humiliate, then hard language will suffice. (Proverbs 15:1)
  3. Your words should be true.  Maybe this goes without saying, but test the value of your words with truth. Accuracy is key, especially if you are responding to a “report” and not first hand. This is not as easy as it sounds – sometimes truth is elusive when surrounded by emotions. (Ephesians 4:15, 25)
  4. Your attitude should be humble.  People are more receptive to a message covered in humility. Attitude is a form of communication and is often expressed non-verbally.  Even if your tone is soft, you might still be able to communicate arrogantly. Humility communicates that I am not any better than you, I am not trying to put you down or humiliate you, I just want to bring something to your attention. (Galatians 6:3)
  5. Your demeanor should be gentle and meek. Everyone wants to be confronted gently.  The last thing you want to do is give someone room to not receive a good message of confrontation.  If they walk away saying: “what a jerk” then you have undermined the message – no matter how necessary or true it might be. (Galatians 6:1)
  6. Your goal is to win over the person you are confronting, that is, it should be done with their well-being in mind – not just to get it off your chest. Typically confrontation has the potential to divide even the closest of friends and relationships.  When you confront, if you think of the other person first, you can turn a potentially bad situation into a win for both you and your friend.  (Proverbs 17:17; 27:6)

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