By Joe Weston
Mastering Respectful Confrontation
Photo by Steve Barett
The once common hierarchical approach to leadership is giving way to a more circular, inclusive model where the insights and unique skills of employees are honored. People are the building blocks of every organization, and their interactions form the cement. Doing business differently requires dealing with one another differently.
At the heart of my book, “Mastering Respectful Confrontation,” is the belief that it is possible to stand in your power, speak your truth, hear the truth of others, and get your needs met in a way that won’t harm you or others.
Many of us have negative associations with confrontation; we think it is the same as conflict. However, by exploring the principles and exercises of Respectful Confrontation®, you will discover that confrontation is nothing more than openhearted engagement and ultimately the most effective way to avoid and resolve conflict.
Respectful Confrontation® fosters communicating with others from a place of self-respect and transparency while tapping into your own assertiveness and vulnerabilities, yet respecting others’ points of view.
It teaches you to communicate in terms of what you need instead of what you think others should be doing. It provides new perspectives on and examines the differences between aggression and assertiveness, brute force and true power, and conflict and confrontation.
There is a direct connection with personal power and how you view yourself in the world, your level of comfort in engaging with others, and your ability to assert your needs. In order for you to open fully to your own potential and to other people, a distinction needs to be made between true power and brute force.
Most of human history has been shaped by a false belief that power is limited to something outside of us. Using brute force to obtain power and resources became commonplace.
And in personal and professional relationships, we see the same dynamic played out with manipulation, gossip, deceit, financial scandals, and secrets. The old-fashioned view of power is not what I would call true power, but rather a strategy to use brute force to impose one’s will and ensure one’s success at the expense of others.
If true power is not just brute force, what is it?
Yes, strength is an important aspect of power, but what else is involved?
I looked to martial arts to find my answer. I thought about the different ways my teachers trained me to develop my technique and improve my form. I thought about the masters who, in their 80s, can still defeat opponents half their age or younger. How do they do it?
I concluded that to be truly in your power, strength must be balanced with grounding, focus, and flexibility. Although they are developed separately, they support and enhance each other. Strength is one of the Four Pillars of True Power, but it is not necessarily the most important.
Let’s take a closer look at The Four Pillars of True Power.
- Grounding: Grounding provides a connection to the Earth, to others, and to a part of you that transcends your everyday view of yourself. By developing the power of grounding, you develop a sensitivity and sharper awareness of yourself and your surroundings, as well as a self-confidence that makes you less likely to be persuaded by others. You may be thinking: How is sensitivity a sign of strength? Well, think about the times when you “felt” something that couldn’t be explained, acted on it, and then in hindsight realized you made the right choice. That is the strength of sensitivity that comes from grounding.
- Focus: Focus ensures that all your power and efforts have the impact you would like, as well as overcome all the distractions. It requires concentration, diligence, and precision. What is the benefit of developing strength, intelligence, or talents if you can’t find a way to channel it into something productive? How effective are you if you can’t zero in on your target or goal? How many times have you been misunderstood by others, even though you thought you were perfectly clear? When you explore focus in this way, you discover that it has an energy of its own that can enhance all your efforts, as well as save time, energy, and money by decreasing misunderstanding and errors.
- Strength: Let’s not forget strength, also essential for establishing authentic power. This does not only include physical strength, but also courage. Courage to face fear, to persevere even when it gets tough, to dare to reach out to others for help and real connection, to speak your truth, and—more courageously—to hear others’ truths.
- Flexibility: A Taoist saying asks, “Which is stronger, a mighty oak tree or a blade of grass?” The answer is, “In a monsoon, the tree will break like a twig, but the blade of grass will yield and remain standing.” The force of flexibility results in swiftness, agility, receptivity, cunning, wisdom, and “street smarts.” Those who have mastered flexibility have the ability to stretch and bend, and to overcome any obstacle, and positively influence all situations with ease and conservation of energy. Flexibility allows you to yield to, and cooperate with, a constantly changing world. If you look at nature and all things in it, you will notice that the only species that survive are those that are able to adapt to their environment, seek support, alliance, or cooperation, and develop new ways to persevere. As long as we hold onto an idea that adapting is weak, things will never change.
To be in your true power, you must have an equal mastery of all four qualities.
Without this, you will be out of balance and have challenges accomplishing your goals.
Think of the legs of a four-legged table. It doesn’t matter how long the legs of the table are as long as the legs are all the same length. If they’re not, the table will tip and teeter. The same is true for us. We are truly powerful in body, mind, and spirit when we have developed an equal level of skill in focus, grounding, strength, and flexibility.
Actually, someone with a moderate yet equal development of all four qualities is ultimately more powerful than someone who is only physically strong.
When you are secure in your grounding, focus, strength, and flexibility, you will walk through life with the confidence needed to achieve anything you choose.
Having talents like physical strength or great focus are valuable assets on your path to fulfillment and reaching your goals, but they can only go so far. Not only do these four qualities improve your performance and how you function in the world, they will help sustain you when you take on challenges and take risks, increasing your probability of success and personal fulfillment.
Mastering the Four Pillars of True Power is essential when communicating with others, especially in challenging confrontations.
With every encounter, you are asked to use certain skillful means unique to that situation. If you are in familiar surroundings, you have an “arsenal” of ways to make that situation work for you.
Each time you find yourself in a new situation, you have to use your creativity and power and increase your skill set; it’s as though you are upgrading your own internal “software.” The larger your skill set, the wiser you become, and the more your true power is revealed.
This is the key to successful leadership!
For more information, visit RespectfulConfrontation.com.