The Art of Confrontation

by Deborah Collins Stephens, Michealene Cristini Risley, Jackie Speier and Jan Yanehiro
You can do one of two things: just shut up, which is something I don’t find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast and stand up for yourself! – Jane Fonda, Actress (1937 – )

Peggy Klaus, a workplace communication expert who previously coached entertainers for the Tonight Show, says there are two things she hears from women that she never hears from men: “I’ve been humiliated,” and “I’ve been betrayed.”

Peggy says she has seen men scream at each other, stare each other down, and almost come to blows in a meeting. “Yet when the meeting ends, they slap each other on the back and go play golf. It would take two decades for women to forgive each other after something like that,” says Peggy. “If I could find a pill that would not let us take things so personally, I would do it immediately and retire to an island.”

Aversion to conflict and a tendency to take most things personally are all too common mistakes made by women. Confronting the people and the things in our life that we need to resolve in order to move on, move up, or move out can be uncomfortable. Yet avoiding those issues only makes us weak. By facing those issues head-on, we become stronger and more in control of our lives.

Many of us fear confrontation because of the unfair labels women seem to end up with: “she a bitch,” “she’s a real ball-buster,” “she’s the ice queen,” “she’s the iron lady.” Maybe men are able to use confrontation more effectively because they don’t get stuck with these labels?

We’re not advocating that we become like men, who shout and swear. Nor do we believe confrontation has to happen in loud, uncaring, and hostile ways. Yet we do advocate that every woman develop a set of tools for confronting people. We also need to be comfortable being on the receiving end of confrontation. Conflict resolution tools need to be a part of our organizational DNA.

We need to fully understand that disagreements are part of life and are to be expected when we’re in any kind of relationship, from a marriage to a corporate merger. If we run from a disagreement, pretend it doesn’t exist, or hide from it, we only hurt ourselves.

Reprinted with permission by Red Wheel/Weiser LLC, This Is Not the Life I Ordered by Deborah Collins Stephens, Michealene Cristini Risley, Jackie Speier and Jan Yanehiro is available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher at 1-800-423-7087 or

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