The power of confrontation
“I have, several times, made a poor choice by avoiding a necessary confrontation.”
– John Cleese
It sure is a tough and torturous feeling once someone you are close to upsets or hurts you, isn’t it?
Not necessarily physically, but more where it is a much deeper, graver scarring. The kind of affront that eats at you daily, chewing away at your resolve, gnawing away at your conscience.
Letting go of those feelings becomes akin to a colossal deadweight that we tend to drag around like a shackle attached to a pyramid.
Once you are emotionally and psychologically invested in someone or something that truly disappoints you, simply getting over it doesn’t always work in our favour, no? In fact, the more we try to deal with it, the more we end up thinking about it, and then the next thing we know it has spiralled into something equal to a grievous grudge or tenebrific remorse.
Be it a person you thought was a close friend who suddenly distances themselves for no apparent reason, a peer or colleague who no longer includes you in social rendezvous, or a family member who has deeply wounded you emotionally, you just tuck away your feelings until it grows into resentment.
I am as guilty of this as anyone else, and I’ve often wondered how much of precious moments and our valuable time we could invest elsewhere instead of doddering back and forth into some never-ending chasm that takes us in circles.
It’s not easy to take the higher road and the path less traversed when it’s a personal sleight.
They do say time heals all wounds. Yet reality teaches us that some wounds never truly heal.
How, where, and why?
Having work problems? Is one of your managers constantly picking a bone with you and demotivating you?
Having relationship issues? Does your partner mean well and have supposedly good intentions but tend to embarrass you in front of others and gaslight you?
How about social trouble? Are you finding it increasingly difficult to be in the company of those who are passive aggressive and tend to humiliate you in social circles?
These are day-to-day incidents and some of them cannot be avoided. Consider them to be hurdles along our path.
Yet if you do think about us having the ability to choose the situations and scenarios we end up in, then allowing pent up feelings of insult, emotional injury, or harm to fester can result in immensely damaging consequences. Some, where there’s no coming back from.
How many of us leave unresolved issues to accumulate?
How often do we choose to ignore a problem until it escalates and snowballs into a much grander calamity?
When you are nervous in a situation of feeling overly self-conscious, it’s second nature to us to nearly always choose flight over fight – especially if it’s involving someone that is particularly intimate, close, or valuable to us.
Professor Jordan Peterson says that we ought to pay more attention to the people and situation you are in, instead of focusing too much on ourselves and our insecurities at that point in time. Meaning to attend outwardly to the situation at hand instead of just coiling up inwardly and not facing the things that’s stressing you out.
It’s a very Sri Lankan thing to be irked with someone and instead of addressing the problem and bringing it up with them, to just avoid that person and gossip about them with others. This is terribly unhealthy overall.
It’s also a very Sri Lankan thing to have strong opinions on everyone else and everything but to not like being called out for your own faeces being stinky and reeking of self-importance.
Yet this is a human attribute at large is it not? To shy away from things that we should confront. To pretend that a problem doesn’t exist hoping it will evaporate and go away.
It takes one to know one
We’ve often gone wax lyrical and used this phrase on someone as a diatribe at some point, right?
Yet have you ever paused to wonder how true this statement rings?
In these situations, where one lets discontent and disdain stew, I’ve started trying to look at not just the bigger picture but the entire frame and whatever is beyond that.
I have come to gauge that slipping into someone else’s feet (mind you: 1. standing in someone else’s shoes alone isn’t enough and 2. you’ll only begin to understand where someone else is coming from if you walk on the soles of their feet) is uncomfortable but it gives me a very different perspective to things.
For example, you come to realise that not everyone is built and wired the same way, even and especially when it comes to being attuned to themselves or those around them. Very few people are plugged into the matrix of another person’s rabbit hole. For most people, their own personal demons and peripheral issues are more than they can handle or care to tackle.
Then, problems are problems regardless of size, scale, shape, hue, nature, essence, and volume. Another human being’s problem might be insignificant and mundane in your eyes, but consider that the burden of it weighs the same as the problems you are carrying and hauling around.
Some people sure do need constant reminders and consistent influence or inspiration, but remember that others will and can only change once they change their own mindset, attitude, beliefs, and life mantra. It is a fundamental crisis of existence that we keep trying to rub our ideals, beliefs and opinions on others because we assume what’s best for us, is what’s best for them. We see this frequently with parents projecting their expectations, misspent dreams, wasted ambitions and unfulfilled objectives on their children – under the infallible defensive stance of “we only want what’s best for them”.
The subtle art of confrontation
Yes, there is a time and place for everything. We will only know to pick a suitable moment in time to recognise when a situation arises to confront someone, if, and I do mean IF we first begin to listen to, understand, and grow in confidence and emotional stature with ourselves. Before we point out another person’s loopholes and misdemeanours – we really need to deal with our own self-conceited pandemonium.
In life, to progress, we need to have confrontation. We cannot always let things slide and elude our grasp, hoping problems will jolly well fix themselves.
Confrontation doesn’t need to be abusive, aggressive, violent, or vindictive. It can be positive reinforcement, therapeutic, and even a discussion raising a dialog and narrative that’s not argumentative, but rather sensible, informative and even helpful.
Here are nine steps to master confrontation that I hope might help.
- Confront yourself: Didn’t see that one coming, did you? We are our own worst enemy. The only way self-awareness and self-actualisation can exist is if you confront your own darkest self
- How much does the other person mean to you? If it’s about confronting another person then you need to establish that talking to them and trying to set things right will be meaningful and worth the effort. Life’s too damned short and people of value are rare
- Think long and hard what you will say and how you will say it: You can’t solve problems by belittling, bullying, and chastising others. I’ve learned this in life being on both ends of that spectrum
- Decency and due diligence: Be respectful, be calm, be patient, and remember quite often that which you project will be reflected back at you
- Find the right time and place: Timing is everything. Clarity and sobriety as well. The setting and atmosphere is also important. If you aren’t in the right head space then you won’t be able to connect with the person you are trying to talk to
- Don’t let problems evolve: Issues are like opinions. Everyone has one and sometimes they grow like cancerous weeds and multiply if you let them. Nip it in the bud before it takes root and spreads
- Listen as much as you are willing to talk: Sometimes you might only need to hear the other person’s side of what has transpired and their version of it might add some context. Whether it’s true or not, always listen, and then share your views
- It’s okay to admit something is your fault first: Admit, accept, and apologise first if it’s a small misunderstanding or some silly friction caused by something not worth holding onto. Take the first step in humbleness and take the step to make amends
- If it’s beyond your control, let go: Finally, and this is tough. If you’ve tried everything and nothing works, and there is no silver lining or even an effort made to reciprocate your own efforts at making amends, then you may just need to respectfully bow out. Sometimes cutting ties is necessary for yourself and for others to grow. A time may come in the future where you cross paths with different life experiences having changed perceptions and feelings. Or not. Get over it and move on
(The writer is the frontman and lyricist of Stigmata, a creative consultant and brand strategist by profession, a self-published author and poet, thespian, animal rescuer, podcaster, and fitness enthusiast)
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.