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  • Writer's pictureBob Prentice


Have you ever had to confront someone about an issue that could potentially upset or offend them? Let's say you really want to help someone. You really care for and love that person and you do not want them to feel bad, but you do want to encourage them to change. Perhaps it’s a habit that needs changing, or a simple correction in their behavior that if heeded, will bring them greater success. Maybe it’s something small, or it could be something not so small. Whatever it is, you know there’s a chance they are going to react badly, no matter how you broach the subject with them. Yet an assertive and confident person will be willing to take the risk to address the issue knowing it’s the right thing to do. They will do their best to assure that no one loses and that all parties involved will experience a “win-win” in the matter.

None of us wants to purposely offend or upset anyone. And we certainly don’t want to end up feeling rejected as a result of sticking our neck out there to say what we feel needs to be said. In my speaking and writing, I often bare my soul because I want to be real and honest with myself and my audience. As a leader and a coach, my desire is to help people, and I believe my openness causes others to be more honest with themselves.

My purpose in addressing this difficult subject with you today is to equip you with some key tools to minimize the potential explosion that may occur if not handled properly. Please read this closely and then adopt, adapt and apply this as a process. Let me caution you: If you do not confront others with the PROPER MENTAL ATTITUDE, you will fail.

People often do not see their need to change. Therefore, it is imperative that you handle the situation in such a way that in the end, they will not only see their need to change, but will actually be hungry to change. Whenever I desire to create in another an eager want to change, I do my best to...

  • Choose the right timing for discussing sensitive issues.

  • Assure the other person trusts me enough to hear what I am saying.

  • Listen much more than I speak, showing my respect by not interrupting.

  • Refrain from making assumptions, stereotyping or putting the other in a box.

  • Seek to find the good in the other person and expose what I like about them.

  • Avoid being dismissive or speaking in a condescending, pious or self-righteous manner, knowing that I am not better than the other person no matter what my job or position or role in life is or assuming my time and needs are more important than the time and needs of others.

  • Make sure I have the facts about the subject, refraining from criticizing things that I haven't taken the time to familiarize myself with beforehand.

  • Be courteous and pleasant, using "please", "thank you" and "excuse me" as much as possible

  • Make my point as quickly as possible, rather than going on and on. (Sometimes less words are better. Lectures are definitely not helpful!)

  • Treat others the way I want to be treated.

There will always be people who are easily offended (and they’re usually pretty good at letting everyone know it), however with some sensitivity and creativity, we can confront others confidently and assertively in ways that minimize offense while creating an eager want in them to change.

Keep in mind, speaking directly to someone may not always be the best way to communicate. In those cases, you might consider writing them a letter. You might also decide to try a less direct approach, perhaps sharing this list and praying that they will see themselves in it and see their need to make some improvements.

In the end, don’t be shocked if the changes you suggest are not readily made. After all, change and growth is never easy for any of us. So offer your support and encouragement in helping them to make the necessary change. Change takes time, so be patient.

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