This blog post is one of the tip's from this week's LinkedIn series Quit or Confront. Every day this week, I've been posting on LinkedIn about the mindful improv perspectives that can be helpful for those of you considering leaving your job, reinventing your career entirely, or staying at a job knowing that confrontation is in store.
In improv, everything you say to your scene partner is offered as a gift. You're not trying to steal the show, or "save the scene" - you're simply contributing, and supporting your scene partner through the offerings of new information, a new perspective and an authentic response.
If your current evaluation of your situation is that a confrontation is in order, it's especially important to go into that conversation remembering that the "confrontee" is your trusted and respected scene partner. (If you don't trust your scene partner, I urge you to go back to Day #1's piece of advice about re-evaluating your cons list, and exploring those items through a lens of curiosity. Trust is a non-negotiable part of improv and effective workplace dynamic.)
Confrontation is a gift, just like everything else you offer your scene partner. It's a gift of information. It's a vote of confidence that the situation can improve. It's an investment in a relationship. Where workplace confrontation often goes off the rails is when it starts tiptoeing into the realm of intervention or attack.
This happens at the hands of well-meaning, passionate people all the time. What causes this is when reactive anger clouds curiosity -- when the confronter has already made up his mind about the state of the union, and enters the scene with an ultimatum ("This needs to change, or else...") or a sense of self-righteous heroism ("I'm here to save the day!"). It's understandable! Of course you think you're right. If you didn't think you were right, you'd have a different opinion.
It's easy to accidentally start an intervention or an attack when you offer difficult feedback. This is something I care a lot about - I understand completely the good intentions of those who often bulldoze, avoid or evangelize their agenda in confrontation. In the video, I mention the online class I created that teaches 6 weeks worth of improv skills for improving outcomes in workplace confrontation. It's called The Art of Confrontation™, and there's a spot for you if it behooves you to build skill in this area.
In the mean time, there are three sub-points to helping confrontation take on a more natural feeling of being a gift:
1) Set aside "correctness" and pick up curiosity instead. In improv we bring a brick instead of a cathedral; we build whatever it's going to be alongside our scene partner. If you walk into your confrontation with a cathedral instead of one offering - you'll crush your scene partner under the weight of your preconceived notions and expectations.
2) All you can need from a confrontation is more information. You need to KNOW that you're okay, and that your safety and success as a professional are not tied to the outcome of that conversation. If you need a full scale culture change, or even just validation or an apology - you could be sorely disappointed. Confrontation is not the tool that does that -- confrontation is one tool in a larger process of intervention that may yield some of those results.
3) Forgiveness is a pre-requisite for confrontation. Walking into a hard conversation already having forgiven the others involved and yourself allows you to step into the room in full alignment; in full knowing that you are enough and so are your scene partners.
I'll be back tomorrow with another mindful improv tip as you consider your next professional steps. This is a link where you can register for a recap of all 5 tips for determining your next steps. The recap will be sent out on Saturday morning.