Resolving conflicts in a healthy manner is always the best route to take, but what about when you want to stand up for yourself, but find it intimidating? When you are a conflict-avoidant person, it is can be scary to stand up for yourself, without making a scene.
Many people strive for harmony in relationships. Setting aside personal feelings to avoid discord may be a habit. Yet, withholding emotions for an extended period of time takes a toll. At some point, it is necessary to voice discontent. Doing so in a way that sparks a fruitful exchange helps.
Unfortunately, it is sometimes easier to swallow personal feelings than confront a person who is robustly defensive and extremely reactionary. Yet, it is necessary. A person may repress and suppress their own needs, feelings, and perspectives, but eventually, an implosion feels inevitable.
Despite different approaches to confrontation, there are some personality types who may not receive it constructively. Yet, the individuals who have a more malleable defensive structure, a structure that allows them to be self-aware and self-reflective, may respond to a confrontation in a manner that allows both parties to grow in both personal awareness and conscientiousness.
The theory behind the approach is simple. Disarm the other person’s defense mechanisms by launching the confrontation with a positive sentiment. Next, state how you feel. Then, talk about the issue. For example, “Jane, I really like working with you. You make my day fun. I was surprised and hurt when you presented my idea for the project without me.”
As opposed to, “Jane, you take advantage of me. You only care about yourself.”
The first example is respectful and conveys a desire to preserve the relationship and resolve the conflict without drama. Jane has an opportunity to explain or own her behavior, make things right, and salvage the friendship. The second confrontation is abrasive and seems like an attempt to label Jane as a bad person and call off the friendship. Jane is more likely to be hurt, defensive, and attack back without reflecting on her own behavior.
Additional examples of this approach include:
- “Ray, I like working for you. You are a really good boss. I get frustrated when projects get canceled and I am not notified.”
- “Mom, the dinner was amazing. Thank you. I was worried when you snapped at Ben. Are you okay?”
- “Sally, I love playing on your rec soccer team. I was so disappointed when I realized I’m not on the roster next season.”
The person who is confronted has an opportunity to explain his or her perspective, clarify a miscommunication, or own a misstep. Initially, it is common for an individual to be defensive, but the ability to calm down and authentically take responsibility for themself, convey a sincere understanding of how he or she impacted another, and attempt to repair the situation may be a solid sign of emotional intelligence.
Alternatively, if the person is extremely defensive, they may attempt to deflect accountability, distort the facts, and project blame onto the person who is confronting them. In this case, it may be helpful to refrain from adding fuel to the fire by engaging in a battle of differing realities. Finding a way to politely end the exchange may be necessary. “This discussion doesn’t seem productive. Let’s table it for another day.”
Unfortunately, this personality type may be unable to manage a confrontation. They may appear shocked, enraged, and unconsciously distort the data in order to point the finger back at the other person. Confronting this type of person seems to start an endless drama with no productive resolution.