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Before Confrontation, Consider This

My friend, Mitchel, has a problem. Every Tuesday afternoon, during a regularly scheduled meeting with his team, a particular coworker of his insists on loudly socializing in the break room next door, drawing focus from his work.

After addressing the issue several times with the coworker in question, absolutely zero progress has been made. At this point, Mitchel is ready to involve his supervisor – but that opens him up to even more potential fallout with his peers… #snitch

Mitchel is at a crossroads. One of those super fun “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situations. All of us encounter these interpersonal dilemmas, at one point or another, where we must decide whether to engage their “opponent” or let things lie. The former can get awfully messy and feel rather uncomfortable, whereas the latter can lead to festering feelings of resentment that eventually seep out in a snide remark or regrettable behavior.

So how do you move forward? A first step might be to take a beat. In-the-moment reactions rarely go well, so taking some space (maybe over a weekend) is essential to gain some perspective.

Next, Mitchel chose to seek advice from select individuals, with caution – venting to certain friends over some beers or glasses of wine usually serves to fuel the fires of frustration rather than offer objective insights toward healthy solutions. In this process, he was challenged to consider some valuable questions: what is the outcome he’s really looking to achieve? What measures can he take to gain back some control over the situation? What will he do if his coworker doesn’t change his ways, even after a confrontation?

On the surface, Mitchel wants his hour-long weekly meeting to go smoothly, free of outside distractions. He wants to feel like a respected member of his company, and the persistent spurning of his coworkers makes him feel anything but. Digging deeper, he also wants to contribute to a cooperative ongoing relationship with them, in which both sides feel respected and supported.

In the end, my friend decided to ask his coworker to lunch, aiming to get to know him better and, if possible, address the noise problem. For now, he feels it isn’t worth the added measures of involving management, considering the lasting effect that might have on the relationship. What YOU might choose to do in such a situation – with a neighbor, a family member, or coworker – may be wildly different, depending on the specific factors and history.

Whatever your choice, before making your first move, take some time to get very clear on this: what is your ultimate goal? To maintain the relationship? Get your way? Win? Because your approach will be shaped by that determination. And if you don’t know exactly what outcome you’re aiming toward, you may end up somewhere you never intended to be, with all the good, sturdy bridges back to the starting point burned to a crisp.

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