Just like everyone, when I was in uni, there were classes that I loved and classes I probably skipped a few too many times because I did not love them (sorry mom and dad!)
One of the prerequisites I took just so happened to be public speaking. And while this class is typically one of the most loathed, I loved it. It’s the reason I decided to minor in communications. I love talking to others. I love talking in front of of groups of people. I love deep long chats. I love quick catch ups. Sometimes when I am with Dan, I actually have a conversation where I am the only one who says anything!
I like to think that my life experiences and my studies in communications has made me, well, a good communicator. I don’t say it to be cocky, I say it because conversation comes naturally for me, and it makes up a part of who I am. Put me in a room with most people, and I’ll be able to hold a conversation.
Over the last several years, one aspect of communication that I have had to work on has been confrontation. I can only imagine the pit feeling some of you must have when you hear that word. It’s a pretty divisive word in the sense of most people are confrontational or they’re not. The number of people who actually acknowledge that they are “non confrontational” always surprises me.
I used to be one of those people who knew I needed to have a confrontational conversation but all I would do was avoid… not healthy. It was a fear based driver because of my tendency to want to make sure everyone stays happy with me.
As I have gained understanding, my perspective of confrontation has changed dramatically. I used to associate it with disagreement and fighting. I would go on in situations I knew I needed to speak up in just because it was easier and more comfortable than having a hard conversation.
After my fair share of practice of having conversations like this, I have learned SO much. And I have no doubt I will continue to for the rest of my life. I am not saying I am a pro, but I have come to a point where I can recognise when I need to confront someone and am able to do it without extreme fear. It’s going to sound odd, but I even had one a month or so ago that I looked forward to, and it’s because my perspective and approach to them has completely changed.
This is what rocked me and has changed my approach…
When the goal of confrontation is connection, rather than defence, it changes everything. Whoa… let that sink in.
I found that I would get so nervous about confrontations for lots of reasons: fear of getting hurt, fear of losing something/someone, fear of what the other person would think, fear of not being understood, fear of the worse possible scenario, so on. I found that I would work myself up in my head, and let me tell ya, this head goes 100 km/min. It would be so easy to make an assumption about a situation because I was only thinking about the worse case possible. From this place I automatically went into defence mode and the desperate need for the person to hear my side.
When the goal of the conversation turns into listening and understanding instead of being heard and understood, it’s a lot easier to come in without reservations or walls. These tools help work towards connection, which is what the focus of these conversations should be. I am not saying that I think you have to agree even, but I have found that creating an open space to ask questions that help bring understanding and clarity create a space for both sides to feel valued. I realised that if at the end of the day, I respect this person, I want to be on good terms with them, or I value them, it’s the least I can do for the sake of the relationship.
I have learned in these conversations, how important it is to be clear and direct (not read as rude and overly blunt.) This helps avoid any further miscommunication. I have definitely had times where I was too scared to confront when I had intentions to do so, and I walk away feeling even more confused and frustrated. Clarity coupled with kindness and a willingness to listen is a winning combo. The times that I have had to be very upfront and could have been the most uncomfortable have turned out o be some of the most relieving conversations. I have had friends who confront me straight up and because I know their heart is for connection and to see our friendship grow, I have so appreciated… as uncomfortable as it may feel. I always find myself surprised at how good it feels walking out the other side and wishing I had not waited so long or worked it up so much.
If anything is taken away in this post, please hear that I am not saying I am perfect and know how to always have hard conversations. Just ask Dan. Almost every time we know we need to talk about something confronting, Dan asks… “Well I suppose we should talk about XYZ…”
Me: “No thanks. Not right now.”
This is a continued practice for me, and let’s be real, 99% of the population. But I hope next time you’re walking into a conversation like this, you think about this shift of choosing connection amidst the confrontation.