It can happen to anyone. We go through our day, and BAM! Someone misbehaves with us. They say or do something that hurts our feelings. Or heck, sometimes they don’t even need to say ANYTHING — we can just sense the negativity or judging or whatever.
Whether or not the other person is AWARE of what they are doing — we can really feel hurt. Your feelings are real. Don’t let anyone say otherwise. Emotional scars from a single moment can last hours, days, weeks, decades, even lifetimes.
But rather than speak up – we stay silent. Instead of letting out our hurt, we bottle it in.
What’s worse is – we feel afraid to speak up in the moment and afraid to speak up after the moment too!
If we can learn to not be afraid — to confront others we can let go of baggage. We can be “lighter” when we walk around. We can stop carrying around with us so much hurt and pain. And we can learn how to communicate in a way that the other person gets our boundaries. We develop more self-respect and self-confidence.
This article is going to help you learn WHEN to speak up and HOW to speak up so that confronting others isn’t so scary.
Why Confrontation is Good
When you don’t confront others you end up reinforcing your feelings of helplessness and inadequacy. Essentially, you undermine your self-respect.
Furthermore, those emotions have to go somewhere right? What tends to happen is that we take it out on our spouse, kids, or others.
So it’s very very important to stand up for yourself.
What You Need to Do
In order to even SPEAK UP – you need to go through a series of internal processes.
There’s a wonderful book called Toxic Parents that I borrowed some of the following ideas from.
1. You must feel strong enough to handle the other person’s rejection, denial, blame, anger, or any other negative consequences of confrontation.
This one is key since your conversation may not go well AT ALL. The other person could have NO CLUE what-so-ever what you are talking about – and refuse to acknowledge you. They could even start attacking you.
Once you get clear that it is worth it – and you can handle any response – you can confront others.
2. You must have some support group that can help encourage you to confront others and helps you at all stages of the confrontation – the anticipation, the confrontation, and the aftermath.
3. You must not put the other person down and attack the other person. Practicing before you confront others helps a lot. You have to be assertive – yet not waver between passive (feeling bad, feeling guilty, not sharing everything thats on your mind, etc.) and aggressive (attacking the other person, getting upset, blowing up, etc).
4. You must be able to talk about your secret hurts and pains. A lot of what you are sharing is about how YOU feel based on how that person treated you. This is difficult to admit, so one needs to have a strong vulnerability. A sincere openness – while at the same time.
5. You must keep the conversation focused and be clear on what you want. Don’t confront just to confront. I mean, that is a good step forward – but you should be clear on what you really want from the conversation and the relationship.
There are a number of ways to do it. Each one has pros and cons.
- Face to face. In this scenario, it may be best to have someone present if things get out of hand.
- On the phone. This is not recommended – since the other person could hang up on you.
- Text. Also not recommend. There is no way to convey the emotion, the expressions on your face (no emoticons dont count) via text. It comes off wrong. Better to hold off and meet the person face to face.
- Letter. This is a good way since you can write out all your thoughts and revise it to get it right. Make sure to write a letter to each person you are confronting – even if you need to confront two people with overlapping issues.
What to Expect
Here’s the thing. People can get very defensive and can counterattack. And you MUST know that is a strong possibility.
To have the other person just admit they made a mistake – is rare. Afterall, if they were sensitive to begin with – there wouldn’t be a problem!
So you need to be aware of how the other person can react:
- They may counterattack.
- They may feel what you are saying is a personal attack.
- They may fall back to “hot button” tactics and defense measure they have used for years
- They may deny what you are saying.
- They may tell you that you needed to speak up then and not now (denying the validity of what you’re saying)
- They may undermine you confronting them – saying it’s unacceptable (challenging your challenge)
- They may try and guilt you.
- They may get angry and blame you.
Just know all of these tactics are so that they can preserve status quo and return you to submissive status. Your goal and intention is for understanding – not labelling and judging.
You MUST be aware of your emotions when you do confront others. You cannot let them bully you or shift the focus and distract you — this is about YOU.
This is not a battle between “right and wrong” (I’m wrong, you’re wrong!) – no. This is about YOU asserting yourself and asking the other person to be kind enough to acknowledge your hurt feelings as real.
I once had a coach who defined intimacy as this:
Intimacy is when you can reveal and show your weaknesses to others — and rather than the other person judge or label those weaknesses as bad — they understand the weaknesses. They comfort you.
Your “closeness” or intimacy with the other person – depends on them understanding you. That being said, we can only control ourselves (see my article on Proactivity if confused). When we are confronting others, we need to understand that the process isn’t about what happened in the past so much as it is about
- Being understood and acknowledge
- If that isn’t possible, then it’s about speaking up and not be helpless and passive.
If the other person doesn’t receive what you have to say well – SO WHAT? At least you are standing up finally – and not sitting down. That should be your attitude.
How to Confront Others
There are a number of ways to confront others. Find a style that works for you. The key thing is to avoid putting the other person down – but instead, focus on how they made you feel based on their actions.
- First, find a friend to talk to BEFORE you talk to the person you want to confront. Practice with them the DESC technique (described below) before you go and confront someone else. Your friend will play the person you are confronting and you play you. 🙂 Your friend should go through the list of “What to Expect” we mentioned earlier. The point is to learn how to not be afraid, to stand up for yourself, keep the conversation focused, and how not to be affected by any counter attacks.
- Learn how to blurt. I wrote an article on this. Speaking up in the moment is better than saying NOTHING. Get into that habit. Do the blurt.
- Learn to not speak like a victim. It’s important to say what you need to say – but also look at your contribution. I wrote an article on this recently.
- Next, use the the DESC technique to assert yourself. DESC stands for Describe, Express, Specify, and Consequences.
- During the conversation – remain focused on your outcome. You want to be heard and stand up for yourself. So what if the other person doesn’t get it? This is about your self-respect and sharing how the other person made you feel.
- If the person starts fighting with you – it might be helpful to set some rules for fighting.
What do you think of the above? Are you afraid of confronting someone? Share below your thoughts about this article! Would love to hear from you.
Lead Life Assertively,