Janice: Walter, can we talk privately sometime this week? I'm concerned that we aren't working together effectively.
Walter: Look, if you have something to complain about let's hear it right now.
Janice: I'd rather talk Thursday when I've got more time, and you've had a chance to think about anything you'd like to say to me.
Preparing to Confront
In the United States we often advise people to go talk out a problem, to be honest, to stand up for themselves. In reality, most of us do what people in other cultures do: we put off such face-to-face confrontation, either avoiding the person and the problem as best we can, or getting other people to deal with the problem for us. This can be a wise strategy. However if things get worse, you may need to take a deep breath and confront the situation.
The following suggestions can be useful in dealing with interpersonal tensions in cultures where direct discussion is acceptable.
Checklist: How will I confront this person?
- Face: If you want really want to reach a resolution, help the other party save face. This means basic courtesy, even if you can't respect them. Look for ways to make it easier for them to talk and to give you what you need, without feeling embarrassed, weak, or scolded.
- Who should be present?
- What place or atmosphere will make you AND the other person most able to speak frankly, respectfully, and productively.
- Get a trusted person's opinions about what you plan to do. Sometimes it helpful to have a go-between sound out whether the other person is willing to talk with you.
- No surprises! Prepare the person by giving some idea of what you want to talk about. Sound serious, not tentative, timid or attacking (no matter how you feel!).
- Don't get sucked in to responding on the spot.
- Practice out loud what you are going to say. If you write it down, be able to speak without referring to your notes.
- Center yourself for a few minutes before you start.