Confronting Confrontation


Confrontation. Some of us avoid it. Some of us are good at it. However, does anyone actually enjoy it? Of course not. Confrontation is an unavoidable and necessary skill. Whether we need to address the issue of dirty dishes with our roommates or approach an employer about unethical behavior in the workplace, we will always need the skills to handle our emotions… and others… in order to effectively communicate in any situation.

Let’s think back on a time when we were involved in a confrontational moment. Maybe a friend owed you money. Maybe you found out a lab partner was cheating. How did you resolve the issue? Did it end positively? Or was it simply ignored out of fear of reaction from the other person? The fact is confrontation takes practice. It’s important for us to know our limits and how and when to say no. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • Does this align with my values?
  • Can I really take on this extra project?
  • Should I really hang out with my friend or do I just need some time to myself?
  • Will anyone be put into danger if I don’t confront the situation?

We need to be our own advocates. Being assertive in a way that is respectful to ourselves and to others should not make us feel guilty. In this way, confrontation can be healthy and even improve our confidence.

When trying to confront an issue, it’s easy to worry about upsetting someone. After all, our emotions are what make us human. To help alleviate this, use “I” statements such as, “I feel hurt when you act in this way,” or, “I think that it would be better if…” And try to avoid using “You” statements such as “You could care less,” or, “You only do this when…” By using “I” statements instead of “You” statements, the other person will generally be less defensive and will be more open to hearing what you have to say.

Also, avoid being passive or a people pleaser and don’t assume that someone will automatically know what you need. Be intentional but honest and respectful as well, for there could also be an honest explanation. And lastly, while this can be difficult, we need to make sure that our own emotions stay in check. We need to focus on the real issue and avoid any minute details. If needed, take some time to think on the issue at hand before confronting the person so that you can let off some steam.

Practicing with confrontation, no matter how small the issue, will only build confidence and help with future situations. Challenge yourself to be more bold and face conflict in a positive manner. By confronting confrontation, we can confront ourselves and personally grow because of it.

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