by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 2nd October, 2018
We all come across confrontation at some point in our lives. You could be the most likeable, passive person ever and you would still have to confront someone, or be confronted by someone, at some point in your life. It can be as simple as a crabby commuter on the morning train, or as serious as an accusation from a loved one. Whatever it is, make sure you're prepared to handle what comes your way with grace and ease. Confrontation isn't easy, and keeping your emotions and behavior in check can be really difficult. In fact, it's estimated that around 90% of a confrontation takes place outside of our rational awareness, or in other words - in our subconscious. Ultimately though, you have the power to control your words and actions, and this can drastically effect the outcome of the confrontation.
Whether you're guilty or not, or angry or not, confrontation naturally brings up feelings of defensiveness, making us tense and more likely to stiffen up - which starts generating negative emotions in the brain and leads to a downward spiral. Breathwork is your number one tool to helping regulate your emotions, restore your body back to a resting state and remain cool calm and collected whether you're the confronter or the confronted.
If at all possible, take some time out to really think about how you feel, and how you want to communicate your views. This isn't always possible, but the more serious the situation, the more important this step is. If you're about to go and confront someone, take some time and write down exactly what it is you want to say, and why you want to say it. Examine your emotions and deal with any anger or negativity that may be coming up. This is essentially your time to prepare and calm yourself. The last thing you want in any confrontation is anger to come up, and this will help you to get rid of it or prepare for it before you actually enter into the confrontation.
Language is very powerful, and it's power is amplified in a high-stress situation like a confrontation. Be very wary of how you wield that power, it can make or break the confrontation. If you are the one being confronted, make an effort to listen and respond to the person rather than talking over them or trying to divert the attention, especially if you are in the wrong. Try to explain your point of view calmly and without placing blame on anyone or making harsh accusations. If you are the one confronting someone else, make sure to keep the focus on yourself and your emotions, don't use language such as "you did this and it made me feel x" and instead aim to center your language on the issue at hand, without making accusations or blaming anyone. This may at first seem counter-productive, but people are much more likely to fess up and apologize when they don't feel like they're being attacked. For example, if you are confronting a friend about potentially having stolen one of your possessions, saying "I'm angry at you because you stole x" is going to be a lot less effective than "I'm feeling upset because I think you may have stolen x" this takes a lot of the direct accusation out of the sentence and centers it around the confronters emotions.
It's natural for confrontations to get heated, especially if they're about something serious. However, you should be making every effort to avoid things getting too heated - and raised voices is a serious sign that things are making a turn for the worse. The minute you notice that you or another person is starting to raise their voice, it's time to make a concerted effort to calm things down. On your part, you can lower your voice considerably when responding to the other person, and typically they will lower their voice as well. Subconsciously we notice when there is a disparity between how loud each person in a conversation is talking, and we adjust our own voices to match the other persons.
Sometimes, no matter how much we prepare for a confrontation, or think we are calm and collected, something just sets us off. These little events that spark a flame of anger are known as "triggers" and it's vital that you get to know your own so that you can deal with them when in confrontation. Common anger triggers include being accused, being talked over, being insulted or being ignored or patronized. While it can be incredibly infuriating to deal with someone treating you like this, it's important that we all learn to recognize and deal with our anger triggers. The last thing you want in a confrontation is for the other person to incite an anger response from you and gain the upper hand. Practice thinking about your triggers or times when you have felt very angry because of a certain trigger, and then using your breath to calm you down and think of ways you could deal with a situation like that, should it ever arise.
It may not feel like it when you've just been hurt, but try to remember that there is no right or wrong in a confrontation. Your aim (whether you're the one confronting or the one being confronted) should always be to try and solve the problem collaboratively, rather than prove one person as right and the other wrong. When you treat a confrontation as a problem both of you need to solve, your much more likely to not only get a positive response from the other person, but actually deal with the problem. When you treat a confrontation as a right vs wrong scenario, inevitably someone gets hurt and it's unlikely that the situation will truly be solved. Try to enter the situation under the assumption that the other person means you no harm, and with an optimistic outlook on how they will treat the situation. Even if it all ends up going terribly, having a positive outlook before you go in will never hurt.