by Olessia Kantor
My friend, Jane, was mad. Okay, maybe mad was an understatement. She was furious, and with good reason. Wedding planning is stressful enough without having to do deal with rogue bridesmaids. Her oldest friend, let’s call her Mia, was making a fuss about every decision the bridesmaids had made, most recently calling the florist to request a different bouquet than the other bridesmaids that better matched her hair. She was consistently out of line, always the loudest mouth in the room, and yet, Jane couldn’t bring herself to confront Mia about it.
The fear of confrontation is a common one, but one that will affect many areas of your life if you let it. Jane wouldn’t stick up to her friend, but it wasn’t the first time I’d seen her cower at the possibility of confrontation. She’d get mistreated by bosses, friends, and anyone who could pick up on her nice, quiet girl personality. There’s nothing wrong with being that type of person, of course, but you do need to stick up for yourself when it counts. This is what I told Jane as she recapped her latest tale of bridesmaid discord.
If you struggle with confrontation, you might also be wondering how you can go about facing your fear. Here are my tips:
- Determine if you’re okay with keeping quiet. It may seem to be the path of least resistance, but it takes it’s toll on you all the same. You carry around the things you didn’t say with you, along with all the feelings that brought you to that point. Ironically, it takes just as much energy to let something go as it does to argue it out, so weigh your options.
- Recognize that silence is harmful to all parties involved. Often we put off confrontation, expecting that with time, people may change and the behavior that bothers us will as well. This is inaccurate. By keeping to yourself what’s bothering you, you are giving this person a green light to behave this way. They will rationalize that if it was bothering you, you’d say something. It is bothering you, so say something.
- Start small. If you feel that your fear of confrontation is part of a bigger issue, such as social anxiety, don’t throw yourself in too quickly. Face-to-face discussions might be intimidating to start off with. Try talking to someone on the phone or via email. Note that you’ll have to be much clearer with your points, as someone can’t take your facial expressions or body language into account.
- Stay Conversational. Where many people go wrong with confrontation is the belief that you have to approach it with a certain amount of aggression. A confrontation should just be a conversation. No need for yelling, playground taunting, personal attacks; simply sticking to the facts and dealing with the matter at hand. Remember that the person being confronted is going to be on edge. They’re looking to you to set the tone and will pick up on whatever energy you’re putting out there.
- Communicate why the behavior is a problem. When you state what the problem is, you may be met with excuses or explanations for the behavior. Regardless of the validity of these and their potential as solutions, make sure to explain why you find the behavior or incident you’re discussing to be problematic. In explaining why, you close the possibility of similar but still problematic behaviors from arising, and make it significantly less likely you’ll have to engage the person on the same issue again.
- Don’t overdo it. You may find yourself tempted to air many grievances in your pursuit of overcoming this fear. Don’t go overboard. Having a healthy relationship with confrontation is, in part, understanding that confrontation is not a place to jump to, but a resolution when more casual options have failed you. Stick to what’s necessary.
Having a comfortable relationship with confrontation isn’t just about being able to stick up for yourself in an argument. It’s about ensuring that people are respectful of you, be it in a professional setting or a personal one. Jane eventually realized what it was she had to. She was relieved to have solved the issue and rid of her reputation as a pushover. Now, you can do the same.