Adult ADD Guide to Healthy Confrontation

Use these conflict-resolution and management skills to communicate your difference of opinion with a trusted friend, loved one, or colleague, without fighting, losing confidence, and without letting an upset tone of voice or short fuse cause confusion or hurt feelings.
ADHD Coach Blog | posted by Beth Main

"Bad feelings end up coming out sideways in the form of snide comments and sarcasm if we don’t deal with them constructively." 

Beth Main, ADHD Coach Blogger

It seems like people with adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) either seek conflict or try to avoid it at all costs (perhaps as a result of some painful encounter in the past).  I suppose the same can be said for the general population -- most people just aren’t adept at confrontation.  But I do believe this is a skill most of us ADHDers could benefit from acquiring.

Have you ever heard the phrase “care enough to confront”?  When I first heard it, I thought it was an oxymoron.  Why would I want to argue with someone I care about?  Wouldn’t it be better to keep the peace and spare her any discomfort my disagreement might bring?   This line of thinking reflects a false belief that raising a debate has to be ugly.  I have since learned that confrontation is healthy if you do it right.

Confrontation isn’t yelling or fighting.  If practiced in a constructive manner, you'll simply acknowledge that your viewpoint is different than the other person’s and then try to work together to seek a resolution.

Healthy confrontation is synonymous with caring because it helps us...

  • Get things out in the open and remove the tension and bad feelings that can build up between people when they don't speak what's on their minds.  These bad feelings end up coming out sideways in the form of snide comments and sarcasm if we don’t deal with them constructively.   
  • Problem-solve together. We tend to obsess over things that are upsetting to us. Confronting the source of the problem will stop these ruminations, allowing us to focus on more important things in life.  Or sleep.
  • Help a loved one meet our needs. Sometimes you have to ask a friend, partner, or co-worker for what you want, or you won’t get it.  It’s not healthy, for you, or the person you care about (or have to work with), to have your needs continue to go unmet.  They don’t want you to be cranky any more than you do.
  • Build trust.  By confronting someone about something that’s not copacetic, you’re indicating that you’re willing to take a bit of temporary discomfort for the sake of the saving and strengthening the relationship in the long run.
Here are some healthy ways to initiate a confrontation:

  • Ask permission.  Make sure it’s a good time for the other person to talk.  If it’s not a good time, ask when would be better.
  • State your problem in a calm, non-threatening manner.  For example, “I am concerned about the loose ends in this contract,” instead of “What the heck where you thinking when you wrote this piece of crap?!” Plan your opening lines in advance.
  • Ask the other person’s viewpoint.  For example, “Does this seem unclear to you?”

Here are some successful strategies to use while you’re in the midst of a confrontation:

  • Be very aware of your tone at all times.  Focus on it as much as your actual words.  Confrontations can escalate into arguments the second one person raises his voice or speeds up his pace, even if he doesn’t realize it.
  • Use “I” messages.  For example, “I am concerned about…” rather than “You should…” 
  • Give the other person a chance to speak.  Monopolizing the conversation might make you feel better temporarily, but it won’t accomplish your ultimate goal of resolving the issue. Practice active listening.
  • Brainstorm together.  Be prepared with at least one possible solution to the problem, and also solicit ideas from the other person.

What’s your confrontation style?  Do you tend to fight or take flight?  Regardless of whether you’re drawn to conflict or shy away from it, these strategies should go a long way towards improving your personal and professional relationships.

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