What Do You Do When a Confrontation Doesn’t Go Well? – 3 Powerful Questions to Ask Ourselves

Danny Silk

Last week’s blog on the 4 Parts of a Successful Confrontation prompted many people to ask the questions I hear most when I bring up this subject:

  • What do you do when a confrontation doesn’t go well?

  • Specifically, what if the other person won’t listen and/or acts powerless?

Don’t get me wrong—I empathize with these questions. None of us enjoys having confrontations with people who decide to show us their worst. However, I want to suggest that if we are going to increase our chances of having successful confrontations, we need to ask some different, better questions.

Question #1: Am I Thinking Like a Powerful Person?

At face value, if we’re asking the questions above, it implies two things —first, that we do not yet have a great plan to respond to someone acting powerless around us, and second, that we tend to be more focused on the other person’s behavior than our own. Both suggest that there could be room to grow in building our own powerful mindset and behavior in approaching confrontation. No judgment here—that’s true for all of us. But owning this is the first step we must take if we hope to actually grow.

Since it’s always good to review these, let’s remember three truths that shape the mindset of every powerful person who wants to have healthy relationships:

  • I do not control you. On a good day, I tell me what to do and do it.

  • You do not control me. I am responsible for the way I respond to you.

  • My goal with you is connection, and I am responsible for pursuing that goal.

Thinking from this mindset requires us to have a plan for what to do when someone starts demonstrating powerless behavior (passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive communication, blame-shifting, etc.), and that plan has to be about how we are going to manage us.

At the center of this plan must be a clear commitment not to come under fear. Powerless behavior is always an invitation to come into agreement with fear and enter an escalating exchange of disrespect, and this is what we must not do. Remember, we get to choose whether we will engage in a disrespectful conversation. The minute we become disrespectful is the minute we start contributing to a bad outcome.

If you’re approaching someone else with a relational issue, then your plan going in should include the following:

  1. Understand the Issue: Have I taken the time to clearly identify the behavior or dynamic, my emotions, and what I need? (Practicing writing out “I messages” is very helpful here.)

  2. Take Responsibility: Have I identified the ways that I have contributed to this issue or relational dynamic? Are there any adjustments I need to make or messes I need to clean up before I confront the other person?

  3. Check My Heart/Goal: Is my goal in approaching the other person to restore connection? Am I ready to be vulnerable and show them a sad/broken heart about this issue? Am I approaching this humbly, aware that I may not have all the information yet, ready to listen and seek understanding?

  4. Boundaries: Am I committed to doing my part to keep the conversation respectful and keep my love on?

Question #2: How Did I Manage Myself in the Confrontation?

With confrontation, practice makes better and better. Learning to execute our plan with emotional maturity, wise discernment, trained responses, and good motives is a process that requires repeated effort like any learned skill.

So, after a confrontation—even ones that go well, but especially ones that didn’t—we should look honestly at how we managed ourselves and identify where we have room to grow. Here are some great questions to ask ourselves, whether we initiated the confrontation or not:

  • How did I do when I was communicating? Did I stick to telling the other person about me? Was I vulnerable and courageous in telling the truth in a respectful way?

  • How did I do when I was listening? Was I listening to understand? Was I able to help the other person clarify what they were feeling and needing?

  • How did I do when the other person brought disrespect or powerlessness to the exchange? Did I respond respectfully? Was I able to invite the person to be powerful or help to calm their anxiety? Was I able to set a boundary in the conversation to keep it respectful, or even walk away if necessary?

Going through this list can be revealing. We may see something we need to apologize for, or forgive ourselves or the other person for. We may see where we can better communicate the issue in a later conversation. We may gain understanding we couldn’t in the moment about what the other person was trying to say. All of these can help us move forward productively.

Question #3: How Do I Want to Do Better in the Next Confrontation?

As powerful people, we need to accept that confrontation is a healthy, essential skill that we must master to build healthy relationships. We must be willing to learn from even the most painful confrontations and keep getting back on the horse to try to manage our emotions, communicate honestly, listen well, serve generously, and stay true to the goal of connection.

Will there be confrontations where we are as gracious, honest, kind, safe, and respectful as possible and the other person chooses not to listen, respond, and repair connection? It certainly happens, and it is heartbreaking. These are the moments where we must dive deep into the heart of Jesus to receive His comfort, healing, and grace to keep loving like He does in the face of rejection and sin.

For no matter what the other person does, our responsibility is the same—to forgive offenses, keep our love on, and keep growing in our skill and ability to pursue and build connection.

PS-Our new eCourse, Successful Confrontation, launches August 14 on the Life Academy! Sign up for the waitlist here to be notified when it is available!

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  1. What if U do everything on the list to the dot but the other person’s response is always to attack and being hurtful. I don’t know any other way of communicating than what u teach and still never ever works with my boyfriend. It’s been 2 years and the situation is not changing. I have never been able to communicate, talk about us or address any issues in our relationship he always pushes me away. I’m trying but nothing changes is there a solution or should I just give up It’s exhausting

    1. It’s tough when you care about someone and are unable to resolve issues. The biggest question you have to ask yourself is, do I want to commit for life to a person who has this level of difficulty with resolving conflict? Your mate is supposed to be your best friend. That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect, but it does mean you have two people who are looking out for what is best for each other. Since you are not married to this person, first I would give thanks to the Lord, then I would count the cost of staying with a person who is so closed off.

  2. I am thankful for these messages and believe healthy confrontation with two powerful people can increase trust and intimacy in that relationship. Currently, I am seeking wisdom on what to do when the other person uses the silent treatment, criticism, withdrawl of love or communication, or even threatens to leave relationship whenever I bring up something that is causing distress. Could you talk about ways to navigate respectfully while guarding heart to keep love on?

  3. This is great! A few years ago for me confrontation was an exit ticket, but my heart was so intrigued by it. I asked God to help me grow in this area! Well here HE is! Now my dilemma is I wanted to take the relationship class, cause I believe that it will help me with understanding or do I place my name on the wait list for this class? Can’t afford both.

  4. Wow wow wow!! Danny this blog has been one of the most profound ideas i’ve remembered on this topic. I’ve been in a situation with my family in the past months and just the fact of identifying that my emotions drive from feeling powerless in this is monumental! I will be referring to this very applicable message often!!! Thank you for being in a life journey of growing in Christ. This focus on becoming powerful from the unchanging source is revolutionary.

  5. I love this…Thanks Danny. A power framework helps me keep really good control over me. When I blow it in a confrontation, this gives me the frame I need to recorder, own my part and remain personally powerful. I love that you give us amazing framework and then let us figure it out! It’s in the figuring it out that we become owners 🙂 Blessings to the entire Silk Tribe

  6. Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. Proverbs 9:7. How does this verse effect confrontation?

  7. So last week while I was away from home on a business trip, I got a call from a guy I once worked with asking if I was at home as flowers and candles were to be delivered to my house, this was shocking of course because I didn’t order flowers and candles, the guy who called me recognised my address so he decided to confirm if I was home, I told him no, I didn’t order flowers but my girlfriend could have, so I asked him to go ahead and deliver the flowers and candles to my house, to my shock he called back an hour later and said another dude signed for the flowers and candles and that he was sure that was my house. I began to wonder why another guy would sign for flowers and candles in my own house but I never called my girlfriend to ask.
    I got back home five days ago and I did not notice any flowers or new candles around, I stylishly asked my girlfriend if she would like to get candles for the room but she said she didn’t like candles, it was right there I knew something was wrong. I went back to work the next day and told my friend about it and he suggested that I should hire a private investigator, I was reluctant at first but the issue was eating me up, I needed to know what had happened, I got a recommendation for a professional investigator who could trace calls, mails and texts, so I hired the guy. I often contacted the investigator through mail, His mail is ziyevhack At gee mail dot com. He is really good and extremely professional.
    To cut the story short my girlfriend had been seeing this other guy for weeks, they would make out in my house anytime I was away, they see almost every day, once I go to work, they turn my house to a sex club and try all sorts of things, I was also able to get a receipt for sex toys and other stuff, the private investigator really did thorough Job, and I’m glad now that I know the truth. I sent her packing and now I am a free man. No more deceit in my life.

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