10 Tips for Confronting Someone Who’s in the Wrong

10 Tips for Confronting Someone Who’s in the Wrong

During a pandemic, you’re in an elevator, the door opens, and someone steps in wearing no mask, stands right next to you, and starts pressing the buttons with their naked fingers. What do you do?

You see your coworker in the break room grab a roll of paper towels and stuff it in their backpack. When they turn around and see you standing there, do you tell them what’s on your mind?

At the grocery store, someone cuts in line in front of an elderly person. Do you say something or just let it slide?

On a near-daily basis, we’re faced with situations that we know are wrong, but saying something might make us or others feel uncomfortable, might cause a confrontation, or in a worst-case scenario might even lead to violence. It can happen. For example, at a Waffle House in Aurora, Colorado, a man was arrested for attempted murder after opening fire on an employee who refused to serve him because he wasn’t wearing a mask.

Some people have no problem piping up when they seem someone doing something that’s wrong. But for others, especially people with anxiety who are conflict-avoidant, it’s a real challenge to work up the nerve to speak up.

Here are ways to get your point across effectively without creating a confrontation.

10 Tips for Difficult Conversations

Is it worth it?

Weigh the pros and cons of saying anything. Is the infraction trivial? Is there little to gain from confronting the person? Or is it an important safety issue? Put your energy into things that really matter.

Ask a question.

Rather than accosting someone by telling them what they’re doing wrong, give them the benefit of the doubt by asking them if they’re aware what they’re doing is not allowed, is unsafe, or is inappropriate. Consider something along the lines of, “Hey, did you know you’re not allowed to [use your cell phone, ride a scooter, or bring your dog] in here?” The person may genuinely be unaware that what they’re doing is wrong, and it gives them an opportunity to correct their behavior without feeling like they’ve been reprimanded. 

Stick to the facts.

If someone is doing something that violates a store or company policy, don’t make it personal. Simply state the policy or point to a posted sign where the policy is in writing.

Keep a pleasant tone of voice.

Screaming, yelling, or raising your voice can quickly escalate matters.


After you’ve said your piece, listen to what they have to say. There may be an explanation for their behavior. Give them the courtesy of responding to you.

Focus on problem-solving.

Rather than trying to prove that you’re “right,” think of the interaction as a way to find a mutually beneficial solution. When you focus on making someone feel like they are wrong, it’s more likely to escalate into an unpleasant confrontation.

Don’t make threats.

Acting aggressively, wagging your finger in someone’s face, or threatening them in any way is the quickest way to invite trouble. When a person feels like they’re being attacked, they are likely to retaliate. Remaining even-tempered and maintaining a relaxed posture helps keep things civil.

Skip the insults.

Avoid put-downs and name-calling—“Hey, jerk!” “What are you, stupid?” “Hey, dummy!”—which immediately puts the other person on the defensive.

Be firm.

If the person responds to you with something rude or menacing, stand your ground but continue to stay calm. This shows them that you won’t be bullied but also that you aren’t interested in engaging in a heated argument or violent confrontation.

Know when to walk away.

If you’ve made your point and the other person is now threatening you or getting physical, it’s time to move on.

Anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting to get treatment until the pandemic is over is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples, as well as in-clinic brain scanning to help our patients. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.


  1. I would like to respectfully ask you to notice some details in the use of an example of someone in a pandemic entering an elevator, wearing no mask, stands right next to you, and presses buttons with bare fingers. Really?

    First of all, during an actual pandemic, doubtfully two people should be in an elevator at a time.

    Second, what kind of mask should the other person be wearing? One because that person himself is sick or tested positive? Then he should stay out of elevators.

    Third, what good does wearing gloves do if someone is going around pushing elevator buttons with them on? Or for that matter, just wearing them going about their day? This is ignorance, plain and simple.

    I hope you see the underhanded directive in this example. It is to shame others for not participating in collective, mob, mentality. People need to do their research on this. How is this even coming from a group of PhDs?

    If I were the person in the elevator and someone came in as you describe, I would check myself first. Am I wearing a mask that would actually protect me from an airborn or otherwise unknown virus? Those masks are not the ubiquitous cloth or simple droplet stopping coverings with which people are quelling their own fears. I would check my own hands. Am I stupidly wearing gloves that I’ve had on and touched several surfaces with? Did I myself press the buttons with those contaminated gloves? Am I adjusting my mask with those contaminated gloves fingers?

    You are correct that we are in a pandemic of fear. Please check facts or at least address the fallacy in this example. If this kind of accounting had taken place with the regular flu in every season of the past, it would have shown even greater spread with the same or higher numbers of deaths. We need to prepare for this as the mechanisms for just that kind of publishing will keep people paralyzed.

    Please don’t add to the fear with this type of subversive tactic.

    Thank you and God bless your work. You help more people than you know. I am a Biblical Counselor and the amount of fear in people from this season of disinformation, overstating conflicting information, and numerical accounting that can’t be verified is damaging our society. We are turning against each other out of fear of many types.

    The real reasons for this created “pandemic” are just now coming to light. God help us.

    Comment by Cristy — June 12, 2020 @ 5:07 AM

  2. you forgot to mention that if the situation does not make a difference in your life or threaten you, invoke the 11th commandment…”Mind Your Own Business”

    Comment by Terry Novak — June 12, 2020 @ 5:46 AM

  3. I am a retired nurse 76 years old and am trying to avoid covid19 the same way I avoided getting AIDS or any other communicable disease in my years of nursing, with a surgical mask and gloves. When I finish in one place, I use a surface sterilizing cloth to wipe down the gloves before entering each new place and when finished, I wipe down all of the parts of the car and properly discarding the gloves into a ziplock bag for disposal. I place the mask in our level 9 sun for a few hours and then leave it idle for two weeks, using a different mask if I have to venture out again. This protocol kept me safe for over 20 years of nursing and I’m counting on it now. It actually lessens my fear greatly because it has worked for so long. I don’t consider it too much, especially when there are so many foolish people running around with no protection and over 100,000 deaths and over 2.000.000 cases, far more than any other country because you have decided to live in fantasyland. I wear mask and gloves to protect you and me as I always have and I’m still here. Yes, it is that bad and that dangerous and we all should be doing the same thing. Please have some common sense. This IS a very good reason to be very careful, and the medical people know this because they’ve lost too many of their own because there were times when they had to work all days in wards with very sick people withou the proper protection. Why don’t you listen?

    Comment by Patricia Marcott — June 12, 2020 @ 10:52 AM

  4. Cristy,
    Thank you for your comment. I, too, was taken aback by this article’s “elevator example” and feel it is inappropriate on so many levels. I am surprised and disappointed that this example was published under the title “Confronting Someone Who’s Is In the Wrong” when this elevator example is not a right or wrong issue, as you clearly pointed out in your response. Thank you for politely confronting someone who is in the wrong – even a highly respected organization that you would think would be more in tune with science and the importance of respecting people’s choices.

    With regards,
    A. Diercks

    Comment by A. Diercks — June 12, 2020 @ 11:49 AM

  5. Lighten up people. It was just an example that might make someone (not all people) want to say something. It wasn’t even answered specifically.

    Comment by Barbara Leap — June 12, 2020 @ 3:53 PM

  6. I “don’t listen” because I have heard so many different stories from the “scientists and their studies!” First, this pandemic –this virus–has not had the enormous threat it originally claimed. By now, millions of deaths in ALL age groups were supposedly going to be effected. IT HAS NOT HAPPENED!! Yes, it is a bad virus, about as bad, or maybe a little worse than other pandemics. Senior adults absolutely should take precautions and others whose health is compromised. I live in Oklahoma and less than a tenth of 1% of people have come down with COVID-19, yet we shut down our businesses for 2 months??? Of course, there are those who would say, “The numbers are lower because of shutting down.” There are countries who didn’t shut down and their numbers essentially the same. Earlier this week, a leading lady scientist reported that at least 4 other countries had discovered that chances of “asymptomatic people with COVID-19 spreading the virus is ‘very low'” which she was glad to report. I thought, “Oh, you just wait, she will be walking that statement back.” She did so the next day because 100,000’s of thousands of businesses closed and millions of people were told to stay home because of this dreadful virus that is going to kill so many of our children. They were not going to contradict the reason for stupid infringement on our right to self-determine what we need to do. Your are a front line caregiver and I thank you for your life service and many ours of work. I applaud the steps toward self-protection you have taken (even though AIDS was not the best example given how it is transmitted). And, you are right–we do need some common sense. But please, don’t assume that because I don’t wear a mask or gloves, I don’t have common sense. I am 65 and have health issues and ability to protect myself in my situation have proven quite successful. If I lived in New York or New Orleans, I might would have done something different–but at this point–I doubt it. Social distancing seems to work well. Since 99% (according to the scientist) of COVID-19 is transmitted by hands touching our faces–guess what–I don’t touch my face and I wash my hands and use hand sanitizer frequently. Another dose of common sense? Hope so–but everyone else needs to do what is best for them.

    Comment by John Mc — June 12, 2020 @ 4:43 PM

  7. Thank you Cristy for replying to this garbage. There is no fear in Jesus and thanks a lot, Amen Clinics, for promoting such virtue signalling behavior and the epidemic of the Nazi type, snitch society! Unbelievable! Just wondering about your claim to be “Christian”. I don’t think we need any more advise from you. Please take me off your email list. I don’t want to hear anymore from you. I’ve heard enough.

    I will be sure to speak up when someone mentions that they are thinking about reading one of your books or going to you for help. I will respectfully ask them not to , ask them if its worth it, I will keep a pleasant tone of voice as I explain to them that they should instead try giving it up to God and letting Him be their Savior instead of you. Anybody knows that you don’t make threats, keep calm and the rest of the obvious answers you gave. I think that this entire article was written for that first ridiculous sentence,

    “During a pandemic, you’re in an elevator, the door opens, and someone steps in wearing no mask, stands right next to you, and starts pressing the buttons with their naked fingers. What do you do?”

    It was simply to show your solidarity with the new world regime. Anyone who did some critical thinking would see that this “pandemic” is just a way to instill fear into a population, take away their rights, and stick a vaccine in them. This “pandemic” is a way to control people. Are you suggesting that we should just fall in line with the official narrative and NOT do something brain healthy by asking questions ?! Good bye Amen Clinics and I will now be leading others away from you too. Thank you.

    Comment by Annalisa — June 12, 2020 @ 7:39 PM

  8. Christy, I don’t believe they mentioned gloves. So they are mentioning what is the situation, and they are not mentioning all the solutions, but I know for myself what I would do is use a napkin on hand to push buttons and open doors, use at atms, etc. (I carry a bunch to use through out the day.

    Comment by Sonja A Gjokas — June 13, 2020 @ 2:58 AM

  9. righteous anger.
    glad u received accurate face mask type and useage training
    when did gloves become believeable? in your profession vs. hsndcare only?
    and shortages of PPE happened to yoy then? and now.
    That aside, I salute you
    for your years of service

    Comment by Jeff Archambeault — June 13, 2020 @ 4:00 AM

  10. So now we get to be lectured on morality (right vs wrong) on yet another business platform? May I offer up a suggestion? Please consider the language you use – your elevator example I would argue is NOT about right vs wrong but maybe about choices that are personal.

    Some individuals have choosen to be paralyzed by fear. Having a healthy respect for what is happening in the world yes, but this has not been anywhere near what they predicted .
    For those individuals who failed to wash their hands frequently before, or maybe went to work or sent kids to school knowing they were sick prior to Covid, maybe now are thinking twice about others and their previous behaviors? Any number of things.

    Each of us is making the decisions that best inform our own lives in the context of the whole. Stop the judging articles and proclamations because it doesn’t follow what you want.

    I would argue that the long term consequences of healthy individuals wearing masks will be many down the road and to our overall determent, especially now in warm /hot months when colds and flu are less. The brain clinic, I would have hoped had more sense to look at the science of oxygen and pathogens we are breathing with long term mask wearing of healthy individuals, especially children. Maybe yes Masks in cold and flu season during the winter months?

    We can follow the rules set up by businesses but also maybe acknowledge that the science is inconsistent and daily changing? There are now political motivations to keep people at home and fearful- what is that doing to people’s brains and overall health? As well as each state, county and municipality has varying takes on the science and thus has made different rules.

    But —Right vs wrong-??? poor and charged language. How about “optimal” decisions or minding your own business people.
    If someone is being abused, harmed in a way that intervention would be optimal yes, speak up for those who can’t, but the promoting of “shaming” others into your decisions and thought patterns seems counter to the brain development work this organization stand for.

    Do better.

    Comment by Lisa — June 13, 2020 @ 4:16 AM

  11. I too am a RN. In 45yrs working in health care I have never experienced an illness that has caused so much death, fear, anxiety and controversy. This organism is real, it can cause physical suffering and death. It is easily transmitted in close congregate situations. We have a responsibility to protect others by protecting ourselves and using reliable resources, not the news, to arm ourselves with facts.

    Comment by Tamara — June 13, 2020 @ 4:16 AM

  12. This article was a perfect way to bring our difficult people. A big deal was made out of the elevator example. I would have gotten off when they got on with “excuse me,” …..end of problem.

    Comment by Fay — June 13, 2020 @ 6:23 AM

  13. I couldn’t agree more Christy…I thought the same thing upon reading this! You obviously already have the above skills and the ability to articulate them beautifully. This is proving to be nothing more than a ‘pandemic of fear’ and it was disappointing to see it being promulgated here!

    Comment by Carolyn — June 13, 2020 @ 6:46 AM

  14. I agree the mask was a poor example. This issue of mask shaming is exactly what they want, division. People have been living for 1000s of years without masks around people that have all kinds of viruses. All you people afraid of COVID19 do you realize that probably 80% of people are walking around with EBV which is highly contagious and very debilitating. So tired of seeing people trying to shame people into wearing them. Shame on you Dr. Amen for participating in covertly exerting the mask agenda.

    Comment by Ela — June 13, 2020 @ 7:04 AM

  15. When given the real facts, people have the ability to make good choices. Unfortunately, our “experts” have been spreading misinformation about Covid-19 and issuing ridiculous decrees since the beginning of this pandemic for political reasons, power, and pride. They seem to like having people in a state of fear and docility, following their every conflicting proclamation while disregarding science, common sense, and our constitutional rights. These U.S. haters have almost destroyed small business owners and our country’s economy in a power grab and desperate attempt to destroy Trump.

    In addition, while scaring everyone to death, our leaders failed to protect the most vulnerable among us––seniors in nursing homes. They deliberately placed covid positive seniors on the same floors and in the same rooms as non-infected seniors, in essence, murdering them. Perhaps it was intentional? The state sure saves a lot of money when they don’t have to take care of the elderly. I do not respect nor trust our leaders or their lack of common sense and manipulation of “science”.

    As a healthy 50-something I choose to go about my day minus a mask or gloves unless visiting my elderly parents or will be around other elders. I observe social distancing and go to parks and attend family gatherings. I even go to the cabin! (Horrors). I figure that if our (some covid positive) leaders can go to their hairdressers, cabins, boating and out in public mask-less, glove-less, and not observing social distancing (like Cuomo, who was Covid positive at the time) then all their horror stories must not be true. When I occasionally run into someone who freaks out over my mask-less and glove-less state, I politely state that, last I knew, I still had a choice, which I am exercising. When the lady in Target who was in line in front of me, asked me to step further back, I looked at the 12 feet between us and stated that I was well over 6 feet from her and she was still nervous, she was free to move further away from me. I see no need to pander to those who are controlled by fear or feelings of moral superiority.

    As far as the elevator example, if someone felt the need to criticize my choice, I would feel the need to politely let them know that I have a right to make that choice, as this is still a free country, and suggest they exercise their right to choice and choose an empty elevator or the stairs the next time.

    Comment by Carolyn — June 13, 2020 @ 11:02 AM

  16. In some situations that response is appropriate. In situations when someone of lessened ability, is being taken advantage of by someone else, I feel It is the duty of the witness to speak up and confront the bully. Each situation is different.

    Comment by Elizabeth Crissey Bateman — June 13, 2020 @ 11:53 AM

  17. I personally saw the elevator example as just that.. an example.. not as if it were the writer’s belief.

    Comment by Joan — June 13, 2020 @ 3:01 PM

  18. Honestly, I’ve noticed on a regular basis, the individuals most militant about wearing masks on my NextDoor App, don’t walk their dogs on leashes in my neighborhood -a law in the entire county, unless in your yard or in designated off-parks. They even continue to do so after being asked, because, although a law, it is never enforced. Generally speaking, people are hypocrites.

    Comment by Carolyn — June 13, 2020 @ 3:06 PM

  19. The Covid mask wearing criteria has nothing to do with the intention of destroying Trump or control. That has never been my intention when I wear a mask. This is not a political issue but one of health though it seems it has evolved into one. I wear a mask out of respect and concern for others and yes myself. And it is not about taking one’s rights away. Erring on the side of caution is smart in a Pandemic. That is what this is about as we still do not much about this disease.

    Comment by Adina — June 13, 2020 @ 5:56 PM

  20. So many people these days tend to see nearly everything through lenses of power and control. Which then leads to the topic of governmental power and control. Which then leads to divisive speech about politics, with religion often included. There is more to understanding the thinking of others than the power vs. control route. Before judging someone else’ s thinking, motives, values, and behavior, it would be beneficial to step outside of that extremely limited power vs. control box and find the other ways of thinking that are out there. This article was, primarily about communicating with another person in a manner that is respectful to both parties. ( I agree word choices were not well thought out.) Ask yourself if there could be other/different reasons of explanation. Or, possibly, multiple reasons. Ask yourself if perhaps you are took quick to judge. Ask yourself if you are fighting your power and control battles with the wrong people? Wouldn’t it be more noble to calm down a bit and focus on expending your energy in the direction it belongs instead of laying condemnation on anyone who appears, in your own mind, to deserve condemnation? Can you justify condemning anyone you do not really know or understand? Try a little tenderness. Be humble and not contentious. Learn how to respectfully confront people. “Confront” does not have to mean an ugly “confrontation”. It means having the courage to care enough to speak up appropriately. Most of us could use some guidance on how to do that.

    Comment by Sharon — June 15, 2020 @ 2:16 PM

  21. Good grief. Cristy seems to have replicated herself to chastise over and over again. Can not follow all the outrage over an article about simple communication tips. Suggestions that are easily transferrable to various situations.

    Fake outrage.

    Comment by Good Grief — June 15, 2020 @ 6:55 PM

  22. Wow, so many ignorant people that have commented in this article. “mind your business”. Dude, it IS MY BUSINESS if you are near me and not wearing a mask, or smoking anywhere near me where I can smell your nasty smoke that has been inhaled through your lungs (That is for all you rude people that smoke in public or near anyone else). You follow rules that are only convenient for yourself, this is “selfishhhhh”. I do not understand why people just are not getting the point. They are welcome to put their own lives in danger, but how are they really surprised and even offended if someone points out to them that they are infringing on someone else’s right to breathe clean air or not catch a deadly virus. WAKE UP.

    Comment by Arlene Breau — June 16, 2020 @ 6:56 AM

  23. “When given the real facts, people have the ability to make good choices.”

    I know many people who don’t, including multiple medical workers dealing with vulnerable populations.

    “As far as the elevator example, if someone felt the need to criticize my choice, I would feel the need to politely let them know that I have a right to make that choice, as this is still a free country, and suggest they exercise their right to choice and choose an empty elevator or the stairs the next time.”

    What if the other elevators are full, too? What if someone is in a hurry and doesn’t have time to look for another elevator or take the stairs? It’s this kind of self-centered and myopic thinking that leads to government deciding to restrict rights, because they know many people will refuse to do the right thing if asked, citing “free choice” as an excuse. It’s not true freedom if someone else has to potentially pay the consequences of your “choice.” If you don’t want to wear a mask, then YOU should take the stairs, as there will likely be fewer people there and they will not need to be near you as long.

    I know people who have caught COVID-19, and one of them caught it from people who were symptomatic and visited her home. She didn’t want to wear a mask because she felt uncomfortable, even though she also happened to work in a nursing home, meaning she could potentially spread it to vulnerable seniors. Long story short, she wound up in a hospital for about three weeks, where she was neglected and abused by the nurses and staff there.

    You may not think this is relevant to your “choice,” but this can potentially happen to someone else if you are asymptomatic and happen to spread the disease to someone else. Political or ideological reasons are not an excuse to be careless and endanger others just so YOU can feel more comfortable.

    Comment by Mike — June 19, 2020 @ 6:21 PM

  24. Obviously, most people who read this article and felt compelled to respond don’t fall into the category of people the article was intended to help. They should re-read it to learn who to comment without being confrontational. There is something to be learned.

    Comment by Barb — June 22, 2020 @ 9:09 AM

  25. Amen to Cristy.

    Comment by Kim Bare — June 22, 2020 @ 12:47 PM

  26. My comprehension of the response to the coronavirus was to lessen the cases so as not to overwhelm the 1st responders, because if they’re sick who is available to respond to basic emergencies? Law enforcement has numerous contact points with many variables, vehicle accidents, domestic violence, would you want to remove someone from a vehicle without PPE? Are you willing to eat in a dining room frequented by the public with potential infection? You want to go to the emergency room?

    My household appears to be asymptomatic, we limit our exposure and wear masks and wash our hands out of common decency, part of the social contract and it is a TEENY inconvenience while we gather the facts and manufacture a proven safe vaccine.

    Comment by Natalie Kranjcevich — June 22, 2020 @ 12:57 PM

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