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Shambhala Communication Skills:
Constructive Confrontation

Knowing how to create a joyful, high Integrity life means knowing how to confront yourself and others in a constructive, open manner. If you do not know how to confront yourself and others openly and constructively you will either find yourself in constant discord or you will have to continually submit to the whims of others. Both options violate your Integrity and compromise the quality of your life.


Rarely do you talk openly to yourself or others about your reactions to your own behavior. And even less frequently do you talk to others about your reactions to their behavior. Most of you withhold your feelings, even from yourselves, because you don’t know how to be constructively open. Consequently, you remain isolated from yourself. Your relationships with others flounder and sink under a load of tiny annoyances, hurt feelings and misunderstandings that were never talked about and dealt with openly because you fear hurting the other, making them angry, or being rejected.

  1. Constructive Openness will improve your relationship with yourself and with others rather than harming either if you practice the following principles:Your openness must originate from a desire to improve your relationship with yourself and with others. Openness is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end. When you are attempting to create a constructive discussion, make it known that you value your relationship and wish to improve it because it is so important.

  2. Aim at creating mutual understandings of your relationship. Make it known that you wish to understand how the other person perceives and feels about your actions also. Each of you must understand the relationship from the viewpoint of the other person.

  3. Recognize that openness involves risk. You cannot receive a maximum benefit with minimum risk. Your willingness to risk being vulnerable, being rejected or hurt will be the foundation for constructive communication. Likewise, you cannot guarantee that others will not feel hurt or angry by your disclosures.

  4. Although the discussion may become intense, spirited, angry, or tearful, it should not be coercive. Do not try to change the other person. The approach is not “Who’s wrong and who’s right?” but it needs to be “What can each of us learn from this discussion that will make our relationship more productive and more satisfying?” As a result of the discussion, one, both, or neither of you may act differently in the future. Each, however, will act with fuller awareness of the effect of her/her actions on the other as well as with more understanding of the other’s intentions. Any change must be self-chosen rather than a forced placation or submission to the other.

  5. Timing is important. Reactions should be discussed as close to the behavior that initiated them as possible so that the behavior and the reactions can be accurately remembered and understood in context.

  6. Do not gunny sack. Frustrations and irritations should be discussed as they occur rather than saving up hurt feelings and annoyances and dumping them all at one time.

  7. Paraphrase and repeat the other person’s comments about you to make sure you understand them as they were intended. Check to make sure the other understands your comments in the way you intended them.

  8. Statements and Disclosures you make are more helpful if they are …

    Specific rather than general. For example, “I am really upset right now.” Rather than “You always make me so angry.”

    Tentative rather than absolute. For example, “I guess we’re feeling confused right now.” Rather than “We have never understood each other.”

    Informing rather than ordering. For example, “I hadn’t finished yet.” Rather than “Stop interrupting me.”

  9. Use perception-checking responses to ensure that you are not making false assumptions about the other’s feelings. For example, “I thought you weren’t interested in trying to understand my idea. Was I wrong?” or “Did my last statement bother you?”

  10. The least helpful kinds of statements are those that sound as if they are information about the other person but are really expressions of your own feelings, such as …

    Judgments. For example,” You never pay attention.”

    Name Calling and Trait Labeling. For example, “You’re a phony.” “You’re too rude.

    Accusations or Inputting Undesirable Motives. For example, “You enjoy putting people down.” “You always have to be the center of attention.

    Commands and Orders. For example, “Stop laughing.” “Don’t talk so much.

    Sarcasm. For example, “You always look on the bright side of things, don’t you?” (when the opposite is meant)

  11. The most helpful kinds of information about yourself and your reactions are …

    Behavior descriptions: reporting the specific acts of the other that affect you.

    Describing your own feelings. For example, “I feel blue.” “I like what you just said.” Describe your feelings in such a way that they are understood to be temporary and capable of change rather than as permanent. For example, “Right now I’m very annoyed with you.” Rather than “I hate you and I always have and I always will.”

*This material is a collection of many peoples wisdom the original author is unknown.