Knowing how to handle confrontation is an important part of the RA experience.  Whether you’re confronting an issue on your own behalf, working on the behalf of another resident, or approaching a violation of campus or community standards, all confrontation can be handled by keeping a few basic principles in mind.

Confrontation is…

  • An intervention.

  • Allowing ourselves to grow, change, and learn who we are and what we value.

  • Feedback about an individual’s behavior (not their personality traits).

  • Not necessarily negative!

 Confrontation is important because…

  • It helps build and maintain a community.

  • It allows students to share their needs and assert their rights.

  • It makes each person take responsibility and not putting it all on the RA.
  • It provides you with important skills for working with a variety of people and situations.

Use Confrontation…

  • When the needs and rights of an individual are being violated.

  • When the community needs healing.
  • When a student is involved in a policy violation.

  • When you feel that someone is involved in a type of behavior that, if changed, would benefit them, yourself as well as the community as a whole.

Confrontation has steps to ensure you are prepared and thorough. Let's review what to do when deciding to confront someone about problematic behavior.

Pre-Confrontation

  • Always be prepared.

    • Have a pen/ paper or phone ready.

    • Know the basic facts regarding the behavior you are confronting.

    • Have an immediate goal.
    • Know who your back-up is if you need them.
  • Get your head into the game

    • Check your posture.

    • Watch your tone.

    • Remain calm.

Actual Confrontation Guidelines

  • Remove any distractions and ask for their attention. "Can you turn down the music?"

  • Identify yourself by stating your name and position.

  • Clearly explain why you are confronting the situation. "I noticed that you've been missing all the floor dinners."

  • Advise them of any policies that have been violated.

  • Be honest and direct. Do not over explain, don't ramble.

  • Be polite but assertive. "I understand your concern about this policy, however it must be followed as long as it is a policy."

  • Keep conversation focused on the situation at hand. "Freedom of speech is an important topic, and so is the freedom from harassment on our floor."

  • Let them know you’ll be documenting the situation. "I am writing down notes so I can accurately document this interaction as part of my  job."

  • Ask for identification. "Can I see your student ID? You don't have it? Do you have any other form of government ID?"

  • Ask students who don’t live in the room to leave. "I need to speak to them alone, please."

  • See if students have any questions before concluding the confrontation. "The last thing I would want is for this process to be unclear or scary for you. Do you have any questions about anything I've said so far?"

  • Remember you are confronting the issue not the person. "Please don't think I am targeting you, I am just responding to this disruptive behavior."

  • Don’t apologize for doing your job. If you don't, a roommate or a whole floor may suffer from these behaviors continuing. Avoid saying, "I'm sorry, but I have to document you."

Things that Could Happen During a Confrontation

  • Avoid becoming angry and worked up. Maintain professionalism and composure at all times. The person may try to point out another person's behavior or even your own in defense of them being able to do the same thing. "I will follow up on that, but right now I need to address the issue at hand."

  • Focus on the person’s positive points as well as the negative behaviors. "I am noting here that you have been very cooperative."

  • Avoid, “I told you so…” comments that make the person feel inferior.

  • Realize and convey that the confrontation need only be an initial contact and that helpful referral service, time, and understanding can and will follow for appropriate situations

After Confrontation

  • Always be willing to discuss the confrontation with your supervisor for support, resources, and guidance.

  • Submit the incident report, remembering to only use facts. "RA So and So smelled alcohol before knocking on the door" vs "RA knew they were drinking inside so they busted up the party."

  • When possible and appropriate be sure to follow-up, especially if those involved are your residents.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The resident will not open their room door after knocking ?

    • Knock and announce yourself again and that you are aware residents are in the room. If they do not open the door, announce that you will have to get Campus Safety involved if they do not open the door. Wait for a moment for compliance. If they still don't open the door, follow through with your escalation.
  • Resident runs away or attacks?

    • If they run away let them. Other residents present can provide information.
    • If you feel a resident is going to attack, remove yourself from the situation immediately and contact Campus Safety.

RA Best Practices

  • Best RAs know the policies and ask when one is unclear.

  • Best RAs are consistent when confronting situations.

  • Best RAs call for back-up when needed. That can be another RA, supervisor, or Campus Safety.

  • Best RAs have all the important phone numbers already in their phone like Campus Safety, their supervisor, the RA On-Call phone, etc.

  • Best RAs don't take rude behavior or negative attitudes personally.

  • Best RAs don’t disrespect or threaten a resident.