For a healthy relationship to survive, confrontation is often necessary. However, it is one of those words that seem to evoke negative emotions and responses.
Many couples do their best to avoid any confrontation. What you don’t say if often the very thing that can drive a wedge between couples that can be difficult to move past. We often perceive confrontation as conflict. It is not. Conflict and confrontation are not really synonyms, but we do behave and speak as if they are. Some people will tolerate almost anything, personally or professionally, to avoid the interpersonal discomfort and the conflict too often associated with confrontation.
Undelivered communication is often meant to avoid confrontation, which, I might add, is unavoidable. As difficult as it may be, not communicating about something that annoys you will invariably show its ugly head again until you muster up the courage to openly and honestly express – in the most loving way you can – how you truly feel.
“There may be no single thing more important in our efforts to achieve meaningful work and fulfilling relationships than to learn and practice the art of communication. Confrontations are communication events that enable us to learn what else is needed to have a desired result happen and for us to use our breakdowns as as a natural part of the organizational learning process.” ~ Max DePree
Confrontation is one of those scary words most of us like to avoid. In order to handle confrontation successfully we must be able to bring ourselves into the conversation as honestly as possible. When issues arise in relationships, it’s important to be upfront and open about your part in any conflict as well as your true feelings about it. Never jump to conclusions. Instead of assuming something and allowing resentment to build, when you discover something that upsets you, go straight to the source and ask for clarification.
But first… Take a look at what you are committed to that has the issue be a problem. The purpose of confrontation or feedback must always be restorative, not punitive. To lash out in anger never works. Confrontation becomes the opportunity to gently admonish, support, and encourage your partner toward actions that will restore the relationship. Confrontation doesn’t work by texting or e-mail. Find a time to sit down privately with your partner and talk with them face-to-face about your concerns.
“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” ~ Spencer Johnson
It may be that you are committed to having an open and honest relationship and you’ve discovered that your partner is doing something you don’t approve of and has been hiding it from you. This involves how you both feel about trust in the relationship. In this case, confrontation cannot be denied or avoided. It’s time to negotiate a recommitment. If your partner acknowledges that their behavior was a breach of integrity and that they should have told you, you can accept their apology and move forward to negotiate a recommitment. It order to do this, confrontation is inevitable. That is, confrontation without aggression or anger.
“The words we choose to begin our conversation with the recipient of feedback set the tone for the remainder of the interaction. Since we are approaching another in an attitude of love, to teach, support and promote communication, then we choose wisely when our words demonstrate our awareness of the individual’s accomplishments and/or understanding of his or her situation.” ~ Julie McDonald
That is why I say you must look at what you are committed to that has the issue be a problem before you initiate confrontation. Speaking honestly to your partner about behaviors that may be hurting the relationship is your obligation as an equal partner. Partners are not always willing to hear, let alone work on the issues you have presented. I repeat… you must choose your words wisely. Know what you are going to say in advance. Be honest and straightforward. There’s no need to drag up previous incidents; they are not relevant here. Focus on precisely what has happened that has you upset and explain your reasoning. When it comes to relationships, the stakes are simply too high to use confrontation without caution. Think before you speak. Pray for wisdom. Then speak using the most loving words you can.
One way might be to say, “When you do __(fill in the blank)__, I feel __(express how it causes you to feel)__.” Don’t sugar coat it. Be honest about how you feel. Saying it this way, focuses not so much on how what they have done, but how it causes you to feel. It can help defuse the issue and calls more attention to your feelings. Most partners are more receptive to listening to the fact that they have cause you to feel a certain way and may be more willing to make a new commitment to change their behavior.
Remember, making an issue out of every little thing will only create unnecessary tension in the relationship. All relationships are bound to experience conflict from time to time. Pick your battles. It is often more important to allow the minor events to slide. Save your energy for real problems. However, if something annoys you more than 3 or 4 times, my own personal rule is to not withhold any communication about it.
Copyright © 2014 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” Larry James is a professional speaker, author, relationship coach and an award winning nondenominational Wedding Officiant. He performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere. Something NEW about relationships is posted every 4th day on this Relationships BLOG.
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