Let’s not get emotional – Dealing with confrontation

woman checking email on phone

Sometimes I take things too seriously. I tend to over think and sometimes I let my emotions get in the way. I’m a woman, it’s what we do. But does it have to be?

I’ve read a lot lately about women letting their emotions or their desire to appear ‘nice’ interfere with their ambitions. As women we’re taught that being assertive and standing up for yourself equates to being unfeminine, arrogant or cold. Men on the other hand, have no issues when it comes to assertiveness. They don’t let a lack of confidence or a fear of how others may perceive them get in the way of what they want. They’re also not particularly bothered when faced with confrontation, something that’s akin to kryptonite for many women. Until very recently, I would’ve said I don’t have a problem with confrontation. I identify the issue, expect it to be dealt with and I don’t let emotion interfere. Or so I thought…

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The incident
I recently employed a business to supply me with a specific product and service. I chose this particular supplier because I was impressed with their previous work and thought they’d be a good fit for me and my business. I was confident of being supplied with a high quality product, commensurate with the high standards I set for my own business. I was wrong. The quality of the product I received was far below my expectations, particularly considering how much I’d paid for it. I wasn’t happy, I wanted what I’d paid for and was going to say so. Or was I?

Don’t rock the boat

The very first thing I did was to ask very nicely whether the problem was because of the way I was looking at the product or if it was part of the product itself. I didn’t come straight out and say ‘This xyz is wrong, it’s not acceptable and I want it fixed’. I didn’t want to rock the boat, create a confrontation, start a fight, make things uncomfortable – you get the idea.Be polite but firm, make it clear you’re unsatisfied and what you expect to be done about it

Lesson #1 You’re completely within your rights to complain about not getting what you paid for. You’re also completely within your rights to demand that you be supplied with the quality you were promised. Be polite but firm, make it clear you’re unsatisfied and what you expect to be done about it. Don’t waste time worrying about a potential argument – if you’re dealing with a professional, they’ll get on with it and do as you’ve asked.

But I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings
It was clear I’d been given a sub-standard product. But could I come right out and say that? No, of course not – I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings! Reading that statement I know how absolutely ridiculous it is – I’m running a business myself and if someone doesn’t like what I supply I suck it up, I make changes and I do my best to make the client happy. I don’t for a second expect them to consider my feelings – it’s just business. So why did I write and re-write my email, over thinking my language and tone?

Lesson #2 Always remember you’re entitled to your opinion when you’re paying for something. Don’t assume a business owner will take your dissatisfaction personally. If they care about their business, they’ll be focused on making you happy and preserving their professional reputation, not crying themselves to sleep at night because you hurt their feelings.

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Get over it
I slept badly the night I sent that email. I kept thinking about whether I’d written the right thing, if the problem was ‘fixable’ (not my problem) and if I could live with things as they were (no – and why should I?). What should I have done and what will I do in the future? Send the email, go to sleep and follow it up the next day. I will not waste time worrying about other people’s feelings or rocking anyone’s boat. I will communicate, be clear about my expectations and demand they be met. I’ll do this like a strong woman (not a man). I will get what I want and I won’t be apologetic about it.

How do you deal with confrontation in your professional life? Does it make you anxious, do you avoid it when you should face it head on? Read our guide on management styles and when best to use them.

Shauna Maguire
Shauna Maguire is the owner of Take my word for it, a Brisbane based freelance copywriting and web content business.

Image credit: epSos.de