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Stage confrontations that pay off

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

A colleague has offended you, and you’re not going to let it pass. Before you confront the rude person, devise a sound strategy. Beware of acting impulsively. Instead, ask yourself three questions to help you weigh how to proceed:

Do I feel safe talking with this individual?

Was the behavior intentional?

Was it the only instance of such behavior by this person?

If you answered no to any of these questions, skip the confrontation. Prepare for future interactions with this person by following these four steps: be brief, informative, friendly and firm.

If you answered yes to all three questions, a confrontation may make sense. To maximize your effectiveness, rehearse so that you come across as calm, controlled and mature when it counts.

Ask a trusted ally to provide honest input. Better yet, have your friend play the role of the offender and act out accordingly.

During the rehearsal, note your body language and voice tone. You want your nonverbal cues—including your posture, facial expressions and gestures—to reflect your poise and assuredness. If you’re riddled with fear or doubt, your slouching or weak vocal inflection can work against you.

Expect the perpetrator to vent or unleash negative emotions—and take it in stride. Say, “I hear you” or “I get that.” Listen without interrupting to signal that you’re willing to stay attentive without turning defensive.

Even if the other person makes a personal attack, take the high road. Focus on the issue at hand and how that specific offending behavior undermines performance. By concentrating on the central issue that you seek to resolve, you steer clear of denigrating the individual.

— Adapted from “An Antidote to Incivility,” Christine Porath, www.hbr.org.

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