The message of this blog post is the exact opposite of the title, just FYI. Thought I’d keep you on your toes.
Deliberate, rational confrontation is almost as scary as sudden, emotionally-charged confrontation. They’re nerve-wracking in different ways, but the deliberate kind involves a pre-planned meeting…and that means you’ll probably be anxious about the outcome until the moment finally arrives.
I try to live a life without tension, which means striving to be at peace with my actions (the only thing I can actually control) in any situation. My old mentor used to always define tension in our lives as the feeling you get from trying on a pair of pants that no longer fit because you’ve been eating too much. You feel a bit frustrated or disappointed, but the feeling isn’t enough to keep you from going about your day. Nonetheless, it’s on the back of your mind, keeping you from feeling 100% confident, happy, and light-hearted.
Aside from your pants not fitting, tension can arise when you find out someone said something mean about you, or perhaps in the guilty aftermath of doing something not-so-nice, yourself. It can flare from making a poor decision with your finances or choosing to wander away from your moral compass. Tension can even be in little things, like knowing you should call your grandmother, or never following through with sending a baby shower gift. Anything that hangs over your head, causes anger or stress when you think about it, or makes you uneasy = tension.
I’m trying to get rid of all of it. This means not only dealing with things in my life that I’m in sole control over, but also doing my part to address the tension that involves other people. Gulp.
On a positive note, there are only two people in my life with whom I feel tension. Not a bad number, all things considered! And one of those “people” isn’t actually a person, it’s an organization. I’ve decided to speak with one of the leaders of that organization to bring a few things to their attention that have been causing tension in my heart, and also put out an offer to get together with the other individual with whom I need some resolution.
The good news is that when your tension involves other people, you don’t necessarily need them to respond in order for that the strain to be relieved. As long as you’ve done all you can by reaching out, apologizing if need be, and expressing your hope to move forward, you can feel at peace with how you’ve handled yourself. You know you’ve taken ownership of the parts you can: Confronting the situation (kindly), and removing the stress of dissonance by offering up a resolution. You can’t be responsible for how other people react to the opportunity you create for harmony, but you are responsible for approaching a situation in love and humility…no matter how hard that might feel.
If the person involved with your tension is willing to talk, there are a few things to keep in mind as you enter the conversation, and those are the things I want to expand upon in today’s post.
1. Be willing to listen more than you speak
The instinct may be to “get everything off your chest” to feel like you’ve “said everything you need to say to get closure.” But that approach will likely result in a defensive second party and lead to an argument instead of a resolution. Instead of starting with, “Here’s why I’m hurt/mad/upset/annoyed,” start with a question. “When you did or said _____ to me, what was your reasoning? How were you feeling, and why did that lead to xy & z behavior?” The more you let them explain where they were coming from, the more you’ll come to find that they probably had a good reason– whether you think the reason is particularly “good” or not. Either way, learning their perspective is crucial for easing the tension.
Asking questions also gives you the opportunity to apologize for anything you could have handled better…and if you’re going into the conversation thinking you have nothing to apologize for, then you probably won’t get anywhere. Trust me, when there’s an issue between two people, there’s always something for which you can apologize. Humility can be tough, but it’s absolutely key in organized confrontation.
2. Come prepared with what you want to say
When it is your time to speak, make sure you’ve “picked your battles,” so-to-speak. Don’t vent about every little thing they may have done to create tension in your life, because it’ll become an emotional, long-winded, and unproductive rant. Choose the main issues you want to address, and do so in a calm, non-biting way. Instead of saying, “I can’t believe you did _____,” say “I wanted to bring up ______, because it made me feel _____.” This sort of unthreatening syntax is a well-known form of communication that is encouraged in counseling sessions and mediations, but it really works.
The less you make things about the other person’s shortcomings, the more progress you’ll make. And choosing which topics are necessary for you to address will make for a conversation that is far less spastic and temperamental.
3. Know that this conversation may not yield the results you want
You cannot press someone for a response they’re not willing or ready to give. Similar to initiating the meeting, you have to be satisfied with no response, or not the one you’re hoping for. Planned confrontations are about you doing what you can to rid your life from bad blood, so the other person’s reaction holds little to no value in your newfound contentment. If during the conversation they’re harsh or unresponsive, that should hold no bearing on your tone. In the event that things aren’t going anywhere, simply say what you came prepared to say (#2), then head on home. Pressing them for an apology or admission is absolutely pointless.
As long as you’ve done all you can to smooth things over in a loving, patient, and humble manner, then your hands are clean, and you can feel great about what you’ve put into the world. Anything they do or say from that point forth is a reflection of them, not you, because you took the time to make things right. You are responsible for your actions, and yours alone. Bye, bye tension!
Reaching out to someone that has wronged you (and/or vice versa) sounds really scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Few people will respond poorly or completely ignore an invitation that is said or sent in a kind, non-attacking manner. And even if they do, wouldn’t it feel good to know that you’ve done all you can to put positivity into this world? I know, for me, I’m certainly sleeping more soundly these days.