How to Confront Someone: 3 Ways to Handle Tough Situations

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The 50th Law" by 50 Cent and Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Want to know how to confront someone when you’re not used to confrontation? How can you get better at handling challenging situations?

According to The 50th Law, sometimes it’s necessary to use confrontation, otherwise, people could underestimate or take advantage of you. In the book, the authors explain how to confront someone by describing three uncomfortable situations and how they suggest you react.

Read on to learn how to confront someone, according to the techniques in The 50th Law.

Learn How to Confront Someone

In Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) and Robert Greene’s book The 50th Law, they explain how to adopt a fearless mindset to enjoy more power and success in life. The fourth rule in the book explains how to confront someone even when you’re not used to showing aggression. Jackson and Greene argue that to be fearless, you must show your teeth—be aggressive when aggression is needed. Otherwise, people will underestimate or take advantage of you.

Many people struggle to follow this rule because they want to be liked and accepted by others, so they’re passive and avoid confrontation. However, Jackson and Greene believe that confrontation is crucial to progressing toward any goal. If you don’t learn how to confront someone, you’ll never gain power and success—there’ll always be someone or something holding you back—the authors say.

(Shortform note: Greene first explored the concept of using aggression to gain power in The 48 Laws of Power. While Greene and Jackson heavily emphasize being fiercely and dramatically aggressive in The 50th Law, in 48 Laws, Greene discusses a crucial caveat to this rule: If you rely too heavily on aggression, you’ll likely end up weakening rather than strengthening your power by tiring yourself out and creating numerous enemies on all fronts. To avoid this outcome, keep your emotions (and aggression) contained while luring your enemy to attack first. You’ll reserve your energy while they deplete theirs, and you won’t create unnecessary enemies.)

Jackson and Greene present three techniques to help you learn how to confront someone during problematic, aggressive situations.

#1: Respond to Outward Aggression by Acting Cool

To confront someone who is being outwardly aggressive, act cool. Don’t return outward aggression with outward aggression of your own—you might overcome your competition, but you’ll look just as bad as them in the process. Instead, remain calm and plant obstacles in the other person’s way that will increase their aggression. Then, you can either expose their aggression to the public or wait until they sabotage themselves.

(Shortform note: While Jackon and Greene’s recommendation might be an effective tactic to gain power over the other person, it can arguably cause more harm than good. First, psychologists explicitly warn not to escalate difficult situations (for example, by planting obstacles that will increase the other person’s anger) because the other person might lash out and harm you or others. Further, while causing an aggressive person to self-destruct might benefit you, it arguably lacks compassion. It could also mentally and emotionally devastate someone who has uncontrollable, underlying issues: Issues such as pathological anger, PTSD, brain trauma, and life crises often trigger aggression.)

#2: Respond to Passive Aggression by Increasing Your Power

To confront someone who is passive-aggressive, increase your power over them to scare them away. The best way to do this, according to Jackson and Greene, is to make powerful allies that this person respects or fears. If they see you as an authority (or adjacent to an authority), they’ll be less likely to try and mess with you. In contrast, if you try to confront this person, they’ll likely gaslight you into thinking you’ve invented or created the problem yourself. 

(Shortform note: While Jackson and Greene recommend responding to passive aggressors by increasing your power over them, they don’t provide specific advice on how to identify passive-aggressive behavior in the first place. Experts explain that someone might be a passive aggressor when they do things like intentionally leave you out in social situations, behave as if something minor harmed them greatly, or purposefully bring up topics they know upset you.)

#3: Respond to Injustice With Bold Aggression or Undercover Manipulation

To confront someone who is acting unjustly toward you, either act with bold aggression or undercover manipulation. According to Jackson and Greene, acting with bold aggression will make you look like the righteous party to many, but it’s also likely to attract haters. If you want to be viewed as universally just, you’ll have to be manipulative in turning the tides—say whatever you must to gain supporters, and engineer situations that will expose the opposing party’s injustice.

(Shortform note: Psychologists warn that retaliating against perceived ”unfairness” (by doing things like acting aggressively or being manipulative) might have negative repercussions. They suggest that before deciding whether you should act against the other person, you should consider whether the other person actually did something wrong—while they might have acted out according to the rules of your beliefs and background, their actions might have been innocent from their or others’ perspectives. In this case, acting against them might paint you as the unjust person and decrease your power rather than strengthen it.)

How to Confront Someone: 3 Ways to Handle Tough Situations

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  • Rapper 50 Cent and Robert Greene's perspectives on overcoming fear
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Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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