How To Call Someone Out On Their BS — Without Burning Bridges

by . February 4th, 2016

There are times clients, suppliers, team members, and employees will dump a huge pile of BS your way.

Here are some guidelines on handling this with tact.

There will always be people who will try to take advantage of you or give you less than what was promised. When things come to a head, it often becomes necessary to call these out, if only to send the message that you understand what the real score is.

While this is often necessary, it’s always a good idea for any enterprise to keep relationships constructive and mutually beneficial whenever possible.

While these guidelines won’t always work for all situations, they’re a solid place to start and should help reduce the chances of rendering a relationship unsalvageable .

Don’t confront the person when you’re angry.

In a previous post, we discussed why following your passions isn’t always a good thing. It works at a baser level as well.

Anger isn’t always a bad thing. If you’re lucky it might even work in your favor. But lasting success in any venture isn’t built on luck — it’s built on steady, rational, repeatable process that leave everyone a winner.

Anger can make you prone to irrational decisions and can ruin relationships, no matter how justified you may be. Worse still, confronting the other party when you’re angry might make them more defensive and less receptive to a solution.

Always try to wait until you are reasonably calm before you make a response.

Identify what exactly you disagree with; ask questions if needed.

You can’t make a good argument if you can’t even pin down what it is exactly you object to. You can always try asking questions to clarify point. Who knows? It might just come down to simple miscommunication.

You might not even be disagreeing at all!

Hint: acknowledge your own understanding might be flawed by starting questions with “If I understand your point correctly…”

Break down your objections into specific points.

Making a strong case is only possible when you have specific talking points. “I just don’t like what you’re saying” doesn’t cut it. If you can only voice your objections in general terms, it might be best not to saying anything yet.

Another effect of this is it steers the conversation towards something more definite and transparent — making it more likely the results will be something you can all work with.

Be honest about your motives.

Before you confront other people for their BS, you should confront your own. Why do you want to call the other person out? Let’s be real here. Chances are you haven’t even actively considered if your ego might be at play.

Most of us talk way more than we listen. And when we listen, it’s so we can talk back, not because we want to solve anything. It’s part of the human condition to not care about the other side as much as we care about ourselves. Many of us even talk for the sake of it.

Are you utterly in love with yourself? Can’t you stand the din of existential silence? Do we just straight up hate the other person? Once you identify your motive, it should be easier to take a more appropriate action.

But first…

See if it’s worth calling out.

Sometimes, it’s best to just let things go. It might be better for team unity to let someone else win in a small way than it is to actually defend a point to the death. Sometimes, the point of contention it might not even matter for production or anything else important. In some cultures, any kind of direct argument is frowned upon – for better or worse.

On the other hand, keep note if the undesired behavior is part of a larger pattern, and adjust your interactions accordingly.

Control the discussion so it’s about solutions.

Avoid making the discussion about the other person. This can make anyone defensive and less receptive to different points of view. Always steer it towards specific items or behaviors. Be constructive, and try to avoid “I’s” and “you’s” in your phrasing and go for “we’s” so the other person understands that you want to work together.

Choose the best place to discuss it.

The “best place” always differs depending on the context, but you will generally want it face-to-face, whenever possible.

Yeah, e-mails and chat can give you the ability to actually get specific statements, but the disconnect also makes it easy to dehumanize others — and for others to dehumanize you. Do you think people who are toxic on YouTube and Facebook comments sections are as vile and ornery in real life?  Of course not.

Depending on what you want to happen, you may want to do your calling out in front of other people who have a stake in things. Generally though, try to see if you can arrange for a one-on-one meeting so it’s clear you aren’t calling the other person out to humiliate them.  Publicly shaming others — yes, even deadbeat clients — can backfire if you don’t use your head.

Tell Art why he’s wrong! Comment below!




Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.