The Art of Supportive Confrontation with Flip Brown
“You can’t grow your business without growing yourself.” – Flip Brown
I had the opportunity to speak with Flip Brown, founder of Business Culture Consultants – certified B Corp since 2012. Flip’s work is based on the belief that our work can serve to unlock our human potential and produce greater meaning and fulfillment.
- Defining supportive confrontation
- Why confrontation can be positive
- What people look for within business culture
Defining supportive confrontation in the workplace
We’ve all felt it. That sinking, dread-filled weight of a looming confrontation. Our minds run wild with speculations and preparations, determining within ourselves why we’re right and the other person is wrong.
The solution is not to eliminate confrontation across the board but to use it as an opportunity to communicate.
“I used to think that the best relationships were conflict-free relationships.” Flip shares, “But of course, that's not realistic. However, one of the dictionary definitions of confrontation is to present you with information.”
Supportive confrontation is when we bring information forward. When there’s confrontation, that means something is out of alignment—values, emotions, etc. In a work setting, supportive confrontation could mean bringing an unrealized behavior to the surface. If it’s a disrespectful act, such as a co-worker interrupting you consistently without realizing it, you can use supportive confrontation to bring it to their attention.
Why confrontation can be positive
Many of us grow up with the idea that we should avoid doing or saying anything that will cause someone to feel bad. And to be sure, there’s nothing wrong with considering the emotions of others. However, the fact remains that no one can “make” someone else feel something.
“We have our own natural emotions and our reactions. So part of supportive confrontation is learning how to check in with your own emotions, and how to focus on the value or principle at hand.” Flip explains, “And then, how to find the courage to take an appropriate risk.”
A typical situation looks like us preparing to have what we perceive as a difficult conversation, and to come up with all our logical and rational reasons why our point of view is the correct one.
“The problem with that is that we're asking someone else to completely accept our version of reality. And that's an invitation for them to convince us ‘no, no, no, you have it all wrong. My version of reality is the correct one.'” Flip continues, “And that's how arguments start.”
Supportive confrontation cannot be planned. We must respect the unfolding process that accompanies valuable, open confrontation. “No one changes their mind unless or until they feel understood.” Flip points out.
If we get emotionally triggered or defensive, we distort the meaning of what someone is attempting to communicate to us.
Part of supportive confrontation is recognizing our activated emotions and objectively focusing on what's being said. “We need to remind ourselves that in virtually all cases, the person we're interacting with has positive intent.” Flip shares, “They're wanting to be helpful, they may not be extremely skillful in that, and we may not be extremely skillful in our ability to receive it. But that's a great opportunity for both of us.”
What people look for within business culture
Nowadays, culture is everything. More and more companies are embracing transparency and compassion. However, with that warmth and welcoming atmosphere must come the chance for supportive confrontation, or growth will suffer.
“We want to have a reasonable level of authenticity with each other.” Flip explains, “In the workplace, we want this sense of belonging, meaning, and fulfillment. But there are no perfect businesses. There are no perfect human beings.”
In the workplace—virtual or otherwise—it’s inevitable that we'll encounter different experiences, expectations, assumptions, styles, and personalities.
“Each one of those is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and what it means to interact and engage with other humans in the workplace, with some level of empathy and compassion, but also with some level of efficiency and effectiveness.” Flip continues, “And that balance changes from day to day, from situation to situation.”
You can’t grow a business without growing yourself. When people in positions of power admit their mistakes and can demonstrate their efforts to change, and are open to feedback and supportive confrontation, that sets the tone for everyone else.
When it comes down to the core, the great resignation is the search for meaning and fulfillment, a sense of connection with a deeper purpose. Supportive confrontation helps pave the way for viable improvement and sustainable professional relationships.
When was the last time you used confrontation for the betterment of a relationship?