Confrontation. Many of us sigh deeply and quietly murmur UGH at the thought of confrontation. Why is it so stressful? It just seems most often confrontation isn’t handled well. One or both sides of the equation brings unhealthy habits to the table which make conflict resolution a struggle. Often, the one who chooses to confront important issues is labeled as pushy, controlling or too aggressive. Sometimes, the person doing the confronting has unresolved anger that sabotages the communication from the start. Even loving confrontation is often met with defensiveness or anger. Over time, when our attempts to confront issues in a healthy manner are regularly met with aggression over appreciation, we simply give up on the process. We learn to avoid conflict resolution or confrontation at all costs. It’s just not worth it. Is there really such a thing as healthy confrontation? Is it even possible?
Healthy confrontation is essentially the first step in conflict resolution. It’s the action that begins the discussion about a problem, disagreement, or behavior that needs to be addressed in order for healthy connection within a relationship to begin or be restored. Confrontation can create the opportunity to close gaps between two people in relationship. It can be an invitation to the other person to make changes that will be bring healing to their relationships. Confrontation may be an action step that seeks to correct a wrong. Whatever the reason for the confrontation, it can cause anxiety to those involved with the confrontation. We become fearful of hurting the other person, or of their reaction, of being hurt ourselves. When we aren’t used to standing up for things, it takes a while to build our strength. Sometimes, as we discuss below, it might not be successful or even safe to confront.
When confrontation is done well and openly received it helps to sustain relationships and foster deep connection between two people. Here are a few keys to help you confront someone well:
If you can, remember that you are choosing to be in relationship with them and them with you. Making a healthy connection a priority in your relationship is important. When both people prioritize it and are willing to do the work it takes to resolve conflict well, it will create harmony and deep intimacy between you. Over time as you both learn to deal with conflict well, it will become easier and will not involve the same level of stress it once did.
We all know, however, that despite the best of intentions and no matter how hard you try to communicate in a clear and loving manner, there are people who will never respond well to loving confrontation. Instead, they will become defensive or use any tactic to avoid meaningful confrontation hurting you in the process. For a true avoider and possibly someone who is abusive, they will do anything to resist connection and accountability. In next week’s blog, we will discuss what to do when your attempt at conflict resolution with this type of person spurs gaslighting.