Courage Is Not the Absence of Fear

I don’t like conflict. In fact, sometimes I think I am conflictaphobic. (I just made that word up.) I will do almost anything to avoid it.

Why Courage Is Not the Absence of Fear

Photo courtesy of ©

As a result, especially early in my career, I would keep my real opinions to myself. I didn’t want to get in trouble. I thought that if I just complied with the system and kept my mouth shut, I would get ahead.

This was a pretty good strategy for a while. But it didn’t really work once people were counting on me to lead.

Why didn’t I want to speak up? I could feign altruism by saying, “I didn’t want to hurt other people’s feelings.” But that would be a lie. The truth is that I was afraid. It was all about me.

  • I didn’t want to be embarrassed.
  • I didn’t want to lose face.
  • I didn’t want to be wrong.
  • I didn’t want others to think less of me.

So, I kept quiet. Funny thing is I kept finding myself in situations where I had to speak up. If I didn’t, someone would pay an awful price for my personal comfort.

Years ago, soon after I became head of one of our publishing divisions, I had to confront one of my authors. He was pleasant and cooperative when I spoke with him. But he was demanding, uncooperative, and downright nasty to my staff. Finally, one of them came to me in tears and said, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t take it any more.”

I had to make a choice.

I could let it go, hoping he would improve without intervention … or I could speak up. I wrestled with it all night. I tossed and turned. I got sick to my stomach. I played out every scenario.

Finally, things came into focus: I could either be brave and call him on it, or I could be a coward and stop growing as a leader.

Thankfully, I decided to confront him. The next morning I called his cell phone. I was shaking so much, I could barely hold the phone.

I went over the facts. I told him that his behavior was unacceptable. I explained that he would call each of my staff and apologize. He would then send flowers to the person he had offended the most. And if he didn’t? I would stop publication of his book and send him packing.

I was dead serious, and he knew it. To my surprise, he did exactly what I had asked.

I learned an important lesson that day. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.

My people also learned an important lesson. They learned that I was willing to stand up for them, even at the expense of my own comfort. It drew us closer together as a team.

Frankly, I still find it difficult to be brave. I don’t consider myself to be a courageous person. But now having several of these experiences under my belt, it is a little easier. Now I just notice the fear, pull up my big boy pants, and lean into the situation.

If I can do it, you can, too.

Question: Where do you need to find the courage to speak up? What’s holding you back? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Caleb

    Michael, this is an interesting post because I find that I also struggle with avoiding confrontation.  However, I’ve found that the longer I avoid it the bigger it gets and that by avoiding it I really create more confrontation for myself.  

    I also realized that I married someone who is not nearly as afraid of confrontation as I am.  I didn’t realized this until a year or two into our marriage and while you might think that this would cause problems in our marriage, it actually has had the opposite effect.  Thanks to my wife’s courage to confront confrontation head on I have also become much better at it.

    Nevertheless I still struggle from time to time. I find that the area I struggle most is in the relationships closest to me.  I don’t have a problem with confronting someone I hardly know but when it comes to confronting a person I have know and worked with closely for 10-20 years, that’s a different story!

    • Michael Hyatt

      You’re not alone, Caleb. This is pretty common. I struggle too. I agree with you, though—the longer you wait, the bigger it gets. This motivates me to step up now.

    • BenHolbrook1

      Hi Caleb, I can relate. Like you I married someone who is a bit better at confrontation, this has also rubbed off on me. I too find it more difficult to be direct with closer friends… it feels like it should be the opposite! engaging in conflict is an area for me to keep aware of, as is giving myself Grace when I realise maybe I didn’t speak up

      • Caleb

        Ben, I always say that marriage is the best possible tool God gave us for personal growth! 

    • Hunter Hodge

      I totally agree, Caleb! It is easier for me to confront people I don’t know but I just can’t bear to confront loved ones! Any recommendations from your experience or things you’ve learned from your wife? That’s awesome that she makes you better – that’s how marriage should be!

      • Caleb

        Hunter, I think the thing that stands out to me is that she doesn’t wait. I always want to give things a little more time in hopes that it will go away or some how get better.  There have been many circumstances when she felt that the situation needed to be addressed immediately and I thought otherwise.  I’d say that most of the time she was right! Deal with it while it’s still little and you don’t have to deal with it when it’s big!

        I think one of the biggest reasons I avoid the conflict is because I am afraid that it will push the person away from me.  However, I have noticed that about 95% of the time when I confront a problem it actually strengthens my relationship with that person.  Of course there is that 5% but you’re probably going to loose that person no matter what!

        I hope that was helpful Hunter!

    • Shelley Hess

      AMEN, Caleb!  The closer, and longer term the relationship, the more difficult, it seems, in my experience!  Michael provides great perspective here to help with that challenge!

      • Caleb

        Thanks for the Amen Shelley, you’re a blessing!

  • Joe Lalonde

    I could use it in our current situation at work. There’s a lot of things going on and a real lack of communication. It’s driving me crazy and coworkers crazy.

    It’s difficult and scary because that would mean talking to the owner and letting him know the feelings of those in the company. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      What would you do if you were brave, Joe? (That’s the question I ask myself.)

      • Michael Nichols

        Great thought, Mike.

    • Justin Buck

      As a business leader, let me encourage you to speak up. For years, we missed the insight of a key player in our organization because he was afraid or unwilling to bring problems over the head of our management team. Now that he speaks more freely, our company is more efficient and effective.

  • Eric Dingler

    I’m at the point of one of these conversations.

    Last summer as camp ended, our Chef wasn’t going to be able to return for this summer.  Which made our food and beverage director happy.  She mentioned, she was really struggling with the idea of returning next summer if “he” was coming back.  Normally, I wouldn’t let a comment like that go.  But, summer was over, the Chef wasn’t coming back and I just didn’t want to deal with it.  So I said, “I understand, but you don’t have to worry about it, he isn’t coming back.” 

    On his way out of camp, the Chef shared, “Even though I can’t come back next year, I don’t think I would want to if she was going to still be the food and beverage director”. I just agreed and let it go.

    Last week, guess who submits a returning staff application?  The Chef and the F&B Director.  The issue is, I want them both back for lots of reasons.  They make a perfect team.  He is the most talented and passionate whole-foods Chef we’ve had.  She is the most organized and budget conscience F&B Director I’ve had.   

    But, since I didn’t deal with this issue last summer, I have to deal with it now.  It’s going to require a tough and uncomfortable conversation.  But, I’m leaning toward, if they both can’t agree to fix their issues, I’ll rehire neither of them.  The main issue is a power-struggle and we can fix it.  

    I’m afraid though of not getting either of these two back on staff.  It would be easier to pass this on to my assistant director, just rehire both without consulting the other, making the F&B Director feel guilty and “bullying” her into working with this guy, or many other ideas I’ve had. But none of that is the right way to handle this. 

    I’m really not looking forward to this conversation.  I’ve whined all weekend about this to my wife, thanks for reminding me that I need to just accept it, “pull up my big boy pants” and deal with the issue.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for this story, Eric. It is such a great opportunity to grow your own leadership—and theirs. You can take yourself and your camp to a whole new level.

  • Steve Woodruff

    Wonderful story. I can relate – I dislike confrontation. When we look at the lives of the prophets in the Scriptures, it’s astounding what level of confrontation they had to go through – with leaders and entire nations. Talk about sleepless nights! But the same courage to face down a king is what we need to lead our kids, or deal with bad behavior in the workplace.

    • Tim Peters

      Good thought Steve on bringing it back to scripture.  

  • Matt McWilliams

    I’ll bet it’s 10 times easier now for you Michael. Or at least a little easier. 

    It probably became instantly easier the very next time.

    That’s the way it has been for me. 

    I don’t know that I ever FOUND the courage to confront someone the first time. I can remember back to a specific time years ago with a direct report who was having some issues with other team members. He was also older than me and very valuable. But he was toxic. Like you, I tossed and turned the night before and tried to back out multiple times. 

    Finally it was almost 5:00pm when I talked to him. I certainly wasn’t strong, but I did it. I told him what he needed to know. I told him that his behavior was unacceptable, needed to change and that if it didn’t the consequences were _____ (not working here anymore was one of them).

    The next time it was a little easier. 

    And the next time.

    So now I find courage in the fact that I have done it before. 

    I find courage in experience.

    But I had do it the first time.

    • Michael Hyatt

      So true, Matt. It does get easier—never easy, but easier. The opposite is also true. If you don’t confront it, that get’s easier too. That’s why I am intent to act. I want to re-enforce who I want to become.

      • Matt McWilliams

        I never thought of it that way but it is so true.

        It’s similar to sleeping in or not exercising. Every time you wake up early and workout, it gets easier to do them the next time. Every time you don’t…when you sleep in or skip a workout, it gets easier to do that and harder to wake up or run that first 1/10 of a mile.

  • annepeterson

    What holds me back in moments I need to confront? Somehow on my way there I get transported back to a land where I didn’t have a voice. It requires me focusing on the task at hand, reminding myself, I am not the little girl who was to be seen and not heard. 

    Despite obstacles, I was now a woman of dignity, whose opinion mattered. Until I learned this, my attempts at speaking my mind were abrupt and punchy at best. It’s hard to break your way out of a mould. Hard, but possible.Now, when confrontations are necessary, I remember even hard words can be swallowed if generously dipped in grace.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good for you, Anne. Your opinion does matter!

  • DS

    In 2012 I spoke up in a very uncomfortable situation.  I was very much afraid, because I wasn’t sure how those impacted would respond, and because it would impact a person’s job.  

    It was incredibly difficult, even though I knew it was the right thing to do.  After I filed my initial report, several others came in citing the same behavior I had witnessed and reported on.  

    Unfortunately fear caused others to wait and take no action.  However, the situation did allow a growing opportunity for our organization to reaffirm the value of feedback, even if it’s in a difficult space.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Michele Cushatt

       Great story. Courage is contagious.

    • Robinson Mertilus

      Very encouraging to see that a difficult but needed response from you had a good outcome. You’ve helped the organization to grow.

      • DS

        The response could’ve really varied. I felt fortunate that it worked out the w

  • Stu McLaren

    [hand raised]… I’m a “conflictaphobic” as well :P

    With that said, you learn a lot about yourself when you’re in these trick situations and what I’ve found, is that you gain a new level of respect when you take a stand.

    It’s been very strange to me why someone else would have more respect for someone after they stood up to them vs. before but I think it stems from what you said in this post…

    Intuitively, we all know that standing up to someone is scary (and 99% of us will avoid it).  So when we see someone do it, I think we immediately recognize the courage it took and therefore have more respect for that person because they acted despite the fear.

    Great post!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Stu. I think that’s true. When I have been confronted, I am so grateful, knowing how much courage it took for the person to speak up. I try to honor that, even if I don’t agree with everything they say. These moments are rare and a wise leader will extract every bit of learning he can.

      • Michael Nichols

        Good point. A couple of weeks ago I received an email from an individual who was confronting me about a situation they witnessed. I expressed that I was grateful for their courage to speak up.

        • DS

          And that response encourages others to speak out in a constructive way in the future.  Otherwise there is a dark cloud, and under water issues like a festering sore.  A great nugget.

  • Bill Glos

    Rick Warren recently shared a great message on conflict resolution.  
    1.  Take initiative – time heals nothing
    2.  Confess my part of the conflict
    3.  Listen for the hurt
    4.  Consider their perspective
    5.  Tell the truth
    6.  Fix the problem, not the blame
    7.  Focus on reconciliation, not resolution

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great outline, Bill. Rick is always so practical.

    • Tim Peters

      That outline is very helpful.  Thanks Bill. 

  • Marcelino Gauguin

    Thanks Michael, for sharing this beautiful account. It really felt relevant and very helpful.
    A comment on the photo, though. I really don’t like it. There is something terrifying about a disfigured face.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your input. I’m not thrilled with it either.

  • Nike Chillemi

    Funny, I would’ve thought you were the most courageous of people.

    Good article. Thx for sharing something deep.

    • Tim Peters

      I thought the same.  

  • Todd Liles

    I have a client that can be very negative. I’m afraid I will really hurt her feelings, and thatb she might not understand if I told her to stop being so negative.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You might, but you might also take her to an entirely new level and a new future. You might find this post helpful, Todd: Standing for the Greatness of Others.

      • Todd Liles

        Thanks Michael.  I know you are right.  I commit to Standing in the Gap this week if it happens again.  I’ll let you know the outcome.

        Again – thanks for being so generous.

        PS – What Stand-up Desk do you use (off topic – sorry)  I need one!

        • Michael Hyatt

          I actually had mine custom made. It was half the price of the one I found online. I think I paid $1,500. It was exactly what I wanted. (I provide a tour of my office in a segment scheduled for Platform University.)

          • Todd Liles

            I will check out the Platform U segment. I would also pay $1500 for a nice desk. Want to send me the contact? Thanks.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Can you come up with any occasions when she was positive, and your team experienced a positive result? If so, you could start the conversation with “I really love it when you’re positive…” Sometimes reinforcing an instance of success is a good opening.

      • Todd Liles

        That’s great advice too.  And, “yes” I can do that ad well.

        ——– Original message ——–

  • Doug Smith

    Michael, I couldn’t agree more. In the last year, I became a fundraiser for a non-profit. My job is to meet with our major donors and get them to increase their contributions. As a young leader, I am only 27, it can be extremely uncomfortable to be calling and connecting with men and women who are extremely successful, but I have used this principle to push me through the fears that hold me back. Thanks for letting us know that even the most successful people still have fears to overcome.

    • Michele Cushatt

       It’s nice to know we’re not alone in this, isn’t it?

      • Doug Smith

         Sure is Michele!

  • Michael Nichols

    It looks like this one touched on an area of need for a lot of us – lots of interaction. That’s great!

    One of my favorite writings abut conflict is still chapter 3 of Jim Collins book, Good to Great in which he discusses the difference between rigorous and ruthless.Here’s what I have learned about handling conflict responsibly - 

    • Michele Cushatt

      As an executive pastor, I’d imagine you have plenty of opportunities to practice this. :) Great post, by the way. Love the quote you ended with: “It’s better to win the relationship than win the conflict.” Avoiding the conflict is a guaranteed way to lose both.

      • Michael Nichols

        Thanks Michele – love the thought, Avoiding the conflict is a guaranteed way to lose both!

  • Heman Smith

    Michael, I hear you.  I identify, from the hands-shaking fear of confrontation  through the peaceful enjoyment of the resolution once the situation is addressed.

    I have to be careful though once I engage that I do not take on an inappropriate role of aggressor.  Keeping myself focused on the issue, or the behavior – and not the person – can sometimes be a challenge since ‘they hurt me or someone on my team’.  I’ve found it essential to continue to see them as my brother or sister, another child of God who is not acting as they are able.Thanks for sharing, for the courage.

  • Sigbjorn

    I often feel as if we have got it all wrong. In my work with church ministry I had to confront people because of actions, deeds and words from time to time. It always felt like a nightmare and hard, but I knew it had to be done. It is a basic misunderstanding of what love is in the world today. So often we think of love as allowing everything and being tolerant. However the truth is that love takes action when it sees that things are not the way they are to be, and when it sees that the fruit of something is rotten, or will be destructive some time down the road.

    Instead of letting someone spread bad atmosphere in the office or in the church (even though that is easier because then you do not have to confront), it is much more worth to stand up and take a stand against it, even if it hurts. Just quote the word of Michael once more: “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.”

  • Jonathan Harrison

    Thank you sharing in such a very honest way – this authenticity on a personal level goes so far beyond the “act as if fear does not exist” advice that I have always had difficulty applying consistantly. I really appreciate your approach and find it very encouraging.

    • Tim Peters

      Jonathan – I agree the post was full authenticity and made the ready enjoyable and helpful! 

  • lhoenigsberg

    Hi Michael.  Were you writing about you or were you writing about me?  I don’t know…couldn’t tell the difference.  I have been known to hold it all in and then suddenly say something in a stronger way then I meant it too (all that pent up energy coming out) and literally shock the person.  But it’s not because I’m assertive, it’s because I’m terrified.  This is actually coming up today for me, as I have to tell the parent of a client to quit calling me on the weekends for every little thing. I did not set good boundaries right from the get-go, and now I pay.  Today I will be courageous, while my hand shakes as I make the call.  Thanks.

    • Aaron Johnson

       That’s my fear exactly; that I’ll just explode on someone. From experience, I’d just say to have some freedom in failing. Each time, it gets better; you learn something about yourself and take that into the next confrontation. You can do it :)

      • lhoenigsberg

        Thanks Aaron!  You’re an encourager!!

    • Michele Cushatt

      I had that very thing happen once. Because I delayed the conversation for too long (allowing my terror to build), my delivery was much more abrupt than I intended.

      • lhoenigsberg

        LOL.  There’s been a time or two in a meeting where I have sat there and not uttered a word because if I did I would either yell or cry!  It’s a growing thing. BTW. I made the phone call this morning…didn’t shake…came off healthy. I’m proud of myself! Thanks for encouraging!

        • Aaron Johnson

           Nice work! You’re just going to get better every time and that call was the proof :)

          • lhoenigsberg

            Thanks Aaron!  Practice makes perfect…I act, therefore I am.  Have a blessed day!

  • Deanne

    I hate confrontation as well, but like you, have found that as a leader it is unavoidable.

    I find it most difficult to be courageous when it comes to writing. I have things to say and I want to write, but its easy to hide behind safe masks instead of being real, vulnerable and opinionated. 

    I love that you shared your fears. Those are my fears as well. Thanks for encouraging us to stand up and be bold.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Thanks for making the connection to writing. We want our words to matter, but it’s such a challenge to push past comfort and be bold. Because what we write is “out there” forever and ever, I always feel a bit sobered about what I post.

  • Luizfbfs

    Michael, thank you for your post… ¡from a fellow conflitaphobic!

    It doesn’t get easier but fighting for what is right never is.

  • Chris Jeub

    Here’s the kicker line as I see it: “And I meant it.” When you laid down the ultimatum for this author, I bet you had every intention of following through with whichever path he took. It’s great to hear this author went in the right and humble direction, but the alternative would have probably been just as much a blessing to you and your staff.

    Great post, Michael.

    • Tim Peters

      Chris, I too think the “And I meant it” line was helpful in getting point across! 

  • Jim Ryan

    Nice post Michael. Comes at a good time. I’m going to use this as part of supervisor training I’m developing around giving feedback.

    • Michele Cushatt

       Let us know how it goes!

  • Pierre M

    Hi Michael,
    Interesting topic.
    I’m interested to know how your relationship – with the author – was with afterwards?

    • Pierre M

      … was afterwards ?

    • Michael Hyatt

      It was better for a while, but ultimately didn’t workout. He reverted to his old ways and we parted company.

  • Rene Ferret

    Michael you’re totally correct. I’ve struggled all my life with this topic. My worst weakness is to let down my parents, by doing so I was following them in every step of the way which meant that I was not following my own path.
    My job, school, and girlfriend were also a big issue in my life.They did not make me happy. I was working in an enviroment that I could easily change, I was studying a career that did not interest me and my girlfriend did not exactly meet my expectation in terms of love, mindset, or attitude.
    I took my a great deal of time to finally face every single one of them and make the change.
    Started by my parents, told them all i felt and the way i wanted to drive myself in life, after that i quit my job and work on my own career, drop school and started fresh in a different more spiritual rewarding career and had no choice but to end my relationship.
    As you see i had to make massive changes, and do them in a small period of time but all it takes it realize what you really want, who you really are and take a stand.
    I always say “Something that worries me more than what others say, it’s what i am going to say to myself about all the things I regret not doing”

  • Jen McDonough “The Iron Jen”

    LOVED the wonderful honesty in your posts Michael. I find being upfront with folks on expectations and feedback has helped in getting things done quicker, saves on hard feelings, and leaves the “yuck” feeling of avoiding things in the long run. My husband says he loves the frankness as it saves on miscommunication issues…he never has to guess what I am thinking. There is a huge area where I have not had the courage to speak up with a verbally abusive blustery close family member. Rather than confront this person honestly on his past actions, I have chosen to put firm boundaries around our relationship. It still bugs the heck out of me that at age 42, this person still strikes fear in me when he gets mad. I don’t take crap from anyone else, yet him I let ooze his negativity on my family for years. I can’t say I am proud of this, but happy we have the strict boundaries in place that dictates he no longer has contact with us.

  • Shannon

    I recently let things get very bad before I confronted the situation — but that actually cost everyone more in the end, and that included the individuals who needed to change their behaviour. I’ve tended to think I am being ‘nice’ instead of thinking of it as ‘afraid.’ Now that I think about it, it is the latter. Thanks for the insight.  

    • Michele Cushatt

      Ah, you used the “nice” word. I’ve often made the same mistake … thinking my silence was an effort to be “nice” to someone. But then I think of those times I had broccoli in my teeth and my friends let me walk around all day without a word. There was nothing “nice” about that. :) How much more so when we’re talking about bad actions and attitudes in our life and work.

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  • Monica

    I believe after reading your post that I can self diagnose – I am a “conflictaphobic”. However, I want to grow as a leader.  With this in mind I will act in spite of my fears.
    I appreciate that courage is not the absence of fear.  I kept waiting for the “fear” to subside so that I could act.  After reading this post, I will go ahead today and handle what I need to handle.  I will speak up despite my fear.

    Perhaps, I will be rebuffed.  Perhaps, what I have to say won’t be received.  Nonetheless, I am the leader and I need to act.  I need to do what’s right regardless of how it turns out.

    The post was very needed today.  Thank you.

  • masa (やったるで!2013)

    This post was Good timing for me  since i also felt afraid of knowing the real ,, I try to use the courage without confronting my friends .

    • Tim Peters

      Glad it was helpful.  

  • masa (やったるで!2013)

    This post was Good timing for me  since i also felt afraid of knowing
    the real ,, I try to use the courage without confronting my friends .

  • Cole

    Mike:  I’ve had several occasions like that myself and you’re right.  I told my children when they were growing up that the right thing doesn’t always have to feel good; it just has to feel right.  I can’t remember who originally said that.

    • Tim Peters

      Cole -

      Great feedback. Helps me as a dad of three young children. 

  • Don Key

    Hello Michael,
    Thank you so much for this post.  When you said it was all about you, I saw myself in the same situation and realized that many times (most of the time) it has been about me.  Thank you for having the courage to share and help me see the truth about myself.  I pray that I will have the courage to confront when necessary.  Thanks again for your willingness to bring value to others lives by sharing what you are learning.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Don. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  • Dan Erickson

    I’ve been fairly quiet in voicing my opinion in life.  When I was younger I did not speak out much.  I learned to open up more when I returned to college in my 30s.  Now I am willing to speak up and have the courage to do so.  But I’ve also learned to choose my battles carefully.  Often, in academia people get caught up in petty political battles.  I refuse.  I only speak out when I’ve thought carefully about my views and am ready to lay them on the table using a balance of logic and passion.  Otherwise, I take the advice of an old professor of mine: “transcend the b.s.”

    • Aaron Johnson

       Dan, knowing a bit of your story of growing up, I would think that learning how to confront was really significant. Was there a particular experience or truth that caused this shift for you?

      • Dan Erickson

        Aaron, I think there were two improtant points. 

        1. My expereince in my 20s to find peace and forgivness concerning my past, which is what my book covers. 

        2.  And more recently, starting a blog.  It was starting a blog in April of 2011 that got me writing my story in a format where I could share it with others.  A few people motivated me to keep writing and sharing.  This led to my opening up more fully about my childhood experiences, which in turn seems to be leading to blessing others.   

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good advice. ;-)

  • John Richardson

    Boy Michael, can I relate to this post. Conflict is hard. I’m not an in-your-face kind of person. I often find myself  as a go between. With my easy going personality, I’m often asked to talk with others and confront situations that have blown up. To act as a mediator. While mediation can be tough, I find it is the solution to many problems. The secret is to find common ground. But it is not easy. One of the best ways to solve problems is to get people together face to face. Put aside e-mail and phone calls. Put the cards on the table. When I’ve been able to do that, things usually work out well. Fighting prolonged battles via email usually turn out badly. If I can’t meet in person, talking by phone is usually effective.

    That’s why, in my own life, I like using a middle man. Whether it’s a real estate agent, property manager, or financial planner, having a professional as a go-between helps me sleep at night. People who are good at conflict resolution and negotiation are often critical to making a good deal. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree with getting together face-to-face. E-mail is the wrong venue! I like professional go-betweens too.

  • Tracy

    It has been more difficult for me to speak up in a current role I’m serving as a board member at my kids’ elementary school. Two factors make it a challenge personally: 1) It’s a volunteer position, and 2) I’m working with friends rather than professional colleagues.

    Those circumstances make me hesitate in situations I would otherwise speak up with confidence. I’ve had to get over it when I see opportunities to make improvements and get things done, but it definitely takes me longer to put my big girl pants on.

    Thanks for the post, Michael. Great encouragement!

  • Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

    Michael, as is true for most of your posts, this topic resonates with me.  Your statement that courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear is similar to the signature I normally employ:  It takes courage to overtake fear; fear is an emotion
    appropriate to perceived risk.  Therefore, to exhibit courage, one must
    both perceive a risk AND proceed in spite of same.

    As I write in the copies of your book that I proffer my friends and clients, you and I seem to follow the same goals and methods.  It’s just our paths that seem to differ.
    Thanks for voicing this important fact.  For, if we do not act, then those critical items we must achieve are left undone.  And, it is up to us to leave this world better than when we arrived.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Lis

    I really enjoy when you share your personal stories!

    • Tim Peters

      Me too. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lis. I like doing that.

      • Lis

        I always wondered how people reply to one another in blog comments. I just realized I could check Disqus to follow replies. Wow! Anyways, thanks for replying to my comment!

  • Steve Jarrett

     As a nuclear submarine office I had flooding in the engine room. I took the immediate actions to stop the flooding but it also disabled our propulsion. We are like that when we face conflict. We act against the conflict but are stopped from moving ahead. Joshua 1:9 has always been by life verse. Be strong and courageous, don’t be afraid or discouraged. The Lord is with us even in the depths of the sea.

  • Cherry Odelberg

    I feel so affirmed that you put fear of embarrassment first on the list. Once having plucked up my courage and overcome the fear of embarrassment and self focus, it is difficult to know when and how to speak up.  I have tried it a few times with disastrous results where I was never able to pick up the pieces, that is, achieve the final result I desired. It is encouraging to read a scenario that ended with all living happily ever after.

  • Mike Veny

    Great article Michael. I need to find the courage to speak up to myself sometimes. That’s an area that I am growing in at this point in my life..

  • Aaron Johnson

    Instead of confronting, I’ve often decided to to solve problems myself. The results are always the same – I end up reinforcing the other person’s behavior, turning things into a real mess. Something changed for me a little over a year ago when I had the chance to work with the former CFO of a fortune 500 company. He’s a soft-spoken guy, a listener, and really wise. When we hit a situation where a company we hired wasn’t pulling their weight on the project, he was firm and clear in his confrontation. I think watching him helped me to understand what confrontation looks like, and that you can still be a kind person and be confrontational.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. It helps to have it modeled.

  • Impunchingin

    I typically don’t have a problem with confrontation if I know the solution. It’s when I see the need for confrontation but not the solution that scares me the most.
    I know no other way than to say, “I want to table something. I don’t know the solution but maybe we can find it together.”

  • Dscannon


    Elegantly simple and straightforward. I needed to be reminded of this. Thanks.


  • Rob Trenckmann

    Michael, this is so helpful to me. Thanks! One of the most difficult parts of confrontation is the fear of hypocrisy. I always fear that I missed something, that it is still somehow my fault. How do you deal with that fear?

    • Michele Cushatt

      Me, too. I just remind myself that if I end up being wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Knowing how to confront starts with knowing how to be confronted … accepting I’m just as fallible as everyone else.

      • Rob Trenckmann

        Thanks Michelle! (BTW–I really enjoy your blog!)

        • Michele Cushatt

          Thank you, Rob. Appreciate it. :)

    • Michael Hyatt

      In a subtle way, this still makes it about you. You have to find a reason to act that makes it about others.

      • Rob Trenckmann

        Ahh, that’s really, really helpful. Remembering that will give me the courage to act. Thanks.

  • Carina Pilar

    Very good, I see myself in this post! The most difficult to control for me is when I start to stutter. The good thing is the feeling after you do what you had to be done, a little step and growth to improve the leadership behavior.
    I made an interchange and I had to confront different things by myself, and when I came back I noticed that I totally changed on this point, but I still have a lot to learn and improve!
    Awesome words, as usual! Thanks!

  • Hunter Hodge

    I couldn’t have said it better myself! Thank you for articulating what I could not. I am so afraid of making the wrong decision in a conflict situation that many times I let my fear of those things you mentioned drive me to avoiding conflict even though I know it will be worse later. 

    Anyone in similar situations have any thoughts about how to get yourself in the mindset to approach a problem head on rather than avoiding it?

  • Ernest Dempsey

    Thanks for sharing this.  What a terrific glimpse inside the the person you were before.  Gives a great insight at who you are now.  
    I would also add that without fear, courage can’t exist.  It’s through those little moments where we force ourselves to do something uncomfortable, new, or dangerous that we grow the most as human beings and as leaders.  
    Again, thank you for sharing this look at your beginnings.  

  • CS Heinz

    Good agreement, Michael! I wrote about the same thing today. God must want us to get this. Thank you. How to Increase Your Courage: 

  • Tessa

    I, too, avoid confrontation like the plague. I cannot stand to upset someone. I’m afraid of what they might think about me. If I’m going to be a leader, then I have to put my big girl pants on and deal with it. Great thoughts Michael. 

  • Bethany Jett

    Great post!!!  I understand the conflictaphobia and appreciated knowing that someone I respect overcame the same fear. Tweeting this post!