[ kon-fruh n-tey-shuh n, -fruhn- ]
- an act of confronting.
- the state of being confronted.
- a meeting of persons face to face.
- an open conflict of opposing ideas, forces, etc.
- a bringing together of ideas, themes, etc., for comparison.
- a technique used in group therapy, as in encounter groups, in which one is forced to recognize one’s shortcomings and their possible consequences.
Confrontation has been given a very bad rap in our culture. Confrontation has such a bad rap that people tend to avoid it all together. This can be very dangerous. To explain the dangers of confrontation, we must first fully understand what it means and put it in context. Contrary to popular belief, CONFRONTATION ≠ FIGHT. In layman’s terms, confrontation is a meeting of the minds that hold opposing views, it’s not a fight/argument. It can be a debate… but it’s not necessarily that either.
“Can a confrontation turn into a fight?”
Absolutely! In fact, it is a common occurrence for a number of reasons but the square root of all confrontations giving way to fights is simply because of lack of communication. Confrontation, is a form of communication where one party is expressing their point of view to another party who has an opposing point of view.
When one party suppresses their point of view in hopes the other party will “come around,” the relationship is set on a collision course. One party becomes continually disappointed by the other party’s ambivalence or indifference. It’s like putting all your junk in the junk closet and closing the door until finally that last bit of junk causes the door to bust open and all the junk comes tumbling out. At that point everything (emotionally) including the kitchen sink comes out and causes significant and sometimes permanent damage or irreparable damage to the relationship dynamic. So…
“How do we avoid a fight?”
The best way to avoid a fight, is to engage in confrontation within a reasonable amount of time. Expressing your point of view (respectfully) in the moment or within a reasonable amount of time lets all parties know where you stand. Assumption during a confrontation is like throwing water on a grease fire, so it’s best to avoid assuming anything. See something, say something! State the facts.
“When you do _____, I feel like _____ and I don’t like it.”
Making a simple declaration of your point of view sets the tone, it sets boundaries, and it also leaves very little room for the other party to continue on oblivious to where you stand on the issue at hand. It also starts a dialogue which is an avenue to understanding.
Naturally what we are discussing here is not (unfortunately) a cure all, but weeding out what causes a molehill to become a mountain yields healthier relationship dynamics and a more positive life experience. It’s easier to call something out as it is happening than to indict a party with a list of repeat offenses that they were not even aware were offenses because if you call someone out on “always doing _____” they will feel blindsided and get defensive which increases the chances of causing a fight.
“Be Prepared to Disagree”
Fear of confrontation also stems from a fear of rejection. Will they still like me? We cannot convince everyone to see things our way. Everyone is different. Everyone processes things differently: values, priorities, beliefs, and philosophies. Sometimes after a confrontation we have to accept that we will have to agree to disagree. Confrontation is not about convincing someone to agree with you. It’s about stating your point of view and defining your values and boundaries in the process. This is important because a gauge of conduct is created. If both parties mutually respect each other’s point of view, they learn how to work through their opposing views respectfully thus keeping the relationship dynamic intact. Agreeing to disagree forges mutual respect because both parties feel valued when their points of view are heard despite the opposition: that is what we want in a relationship dynamic. We want to feel valued and to feel heard. Unfortunately, feeling valued and heard does not mean that everyone will agree. But is that really such a bad thing?
Confrontation can be healthy and successful without fighting if we get enough courage to communicate and not sweep it under the rug. Also, a resolution is possible, so long as both parties understand that the confrontation is not about persuasion. Confrontation is about expression of opposing point of views. When all the cards are on the table, it is easier for both parties to navigate through the relationship dynamic without damaging it.
Are you comfortable with confrontation? If not, don’t worry. It’s a skill, like learning how to write. You don’t have to be the best at it, but it is a vital and effective communication tool. Would you like to learn more? I’d love to hear from you! Be Well!