Confrontation. The mere mention of the word immediately conjures up a charged or hostile situation, doesn’t it? Little wonder then that so many people are uncomfortable about – and even afraid of – confronting someone or something that unsettles them. In fact, the fear of confrontation is one of the most commonly cited reasons for why people choose not to question and review unhappy or inequitable relationships and situations. But it strikes me as an illogical fear that renders us mute and powerless to make things right or better for ourselves. So, why are we reluctant to speak up about our thoughts and feelings? When I pose this question to people who have trouble with confrontation they invariably list one or more of the following reasons for choosing not to break the silence :
- I’m afraid that what I have to say will cause tension or strain things
- I’m worried that I might use the wrong words or it will come out all wrong and I’ll end up hurting the other person’s feelings
- I don’t want the hassle of the repercussions or the unpleasantness of potential recriminations
- The person I wish to confront is intimidating, bossy and/or close-minded, so I’ll just be wasting my time anyway
- I’m hoping it will get better or resolve itself or go away altogether
To me, all but the last one are valid and understandable, but I feel that there is such a danger with this kind of reticence. We all know that when negative thoughts and feelings are internalised and left unexpressed they tend to fester and grow in intensity. They can eventually lead to resentment, bitterness, anger or even rage. And it’s my personal belief that most of it is actually anger towards self for not speaking up and therefore allowing an unhappy set of circumstances to continue.
It’s been my experience that feelings have a funny way of surfacing, despite our best efforts to keep them contained and well hidden. Wouldn’t you rather that they were expressed in a composed, adult manner instead of an unbridled outburst or having to resort to childishly passive aggressive game-playing to make your displeasure felt? I think I know what you’re thinking… How do we honour our right to express how we feel and still avoid the risk of hurting the people we care about or possibly incurring the wrath of the people we hold in high esteem?
Over the years I found that I had to learn how to make myself heard and understood in many of my relationships with family members, partners, colleagues and friends – and I can assure you of one thing: There’s always going to be the risk that what you have to say will ruffle some feathers. In fact, I’d say it’s a given! But you mustn’t allow that to daunt you… Life is a constant negotiation, Dear Young Person. This applies to every person on the planet, no matter how rich or powerful. Embrace that if you haven’t already done so – it’ll help you to not take everything to heart.
There are, however, certain ‘tools’ you can employ during a face-off that can bring about a healthy dialogue and help minimise the potential fallout. I would love to know if this is a subject that interests you, so please feel free to leave your comments below…