ASK COLETTE: How to Handle an Uncomfortable Confrontation

Here, Zoomer guru Colette Baron-Reid on how to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation.


Dear Colette,

I don’t think I’m alone in this but I definitely feel less prepared than the people around me. My struggle is in dealing with confrontation. I won’t speak my mind. I won’t confront people who are passive-aggressive or outright aggressive with me and I am filled with regret and fear in doing something about it. How do I finally step into my own power without feeling as though I will hurt people’s feelings or be known as a “b-tch” when I finally say something?  —Afraid to Confront



Dear Afraid to Confront,

Let’s take a look at the core issue here: dealing with uncomfortable confrontation. Seems a little redundant, doesn’t it?

Well, who wants to voluntarily step into what could be emotional quicksand? Not me and not most people, so yes, you are not alone, but you also don’t have to continue your fear of the worse-case-scenario thinking.

In my book, Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much, I share strategies for releasing the weight of the world (and the emotions of other people).

The key “action” for when you are confronted with someone’s anger, frustration or fear is non-reactivity and neutrality.  

Breathe calmly and outright ask the other person what is bothering him. Let’s say the person isn’t interested in finding common ground and in resolving the conflict but just starts to dump his garbage on you. Saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” (without sarcasm) acknowledges and honours his feelings without taking responsibility for them.

“I’m sorry” doesn’t mean “I’m sorry, it’s all my fault. You should be angry with me! How horrible I am! Oh, I feel like dirt!”

It just means, “I feel compassion for you because you are upset and I’d like to express that to you.”

Once you’ve expressed “I’m sorry you feel that way,” then you can make your decision. Are you going to remain in place, being dumped on? Are you going to politely excuse yourself or change the subject? It’s okay to cut him off. He can come back to you and talk to you again at some point when he’s dumped his garbage and ready to be sensitive to your feelings.

The choice of what to do when someone is being cruel to you is yours now. You’re no longer going to be automatically sucked into the vortex of other people’s strong emotions. There is a breath, a moment, in which you access your neutrality, observe what’s happening and make a nonreactive choice not to engage with the negativity. You do not have to be in his emotional space.

What if you confront someone and the other person denies there is anything wrong and pouts? Again, you can try to get more information – maybe she is afraid to tell you why she is upset – or you can ignore it. It’s up to you to decide what to do.

You’re not responsible for passive-aggressive behavior. For instance, the response, “Oh, I’m not upset. Why would I be upset?” delivered with teeth clenched and a glare is passive-aggressive. If you want to be assertive, you might say, “Then why are your teeth clenched and why are you looking at me like that?”

Sometimes, it feels good to shine a big light on the social lie. Other times, it feels good to let it go and let that person figure out how she wants to handle her emotional response. You are not a garbage dump anymore and you don’t get paid to be everyone’s personal psychologist and social worker. Let her work through her tangle of emotions on her own. Then you can step back and cleanse your emotional field.

Do you get the picture? Do you want to step into it? It’s possible, but be patient with yourself during this awkward stage. Just as there is no quick-fix diet, there’s no quick fix to your habit of bending over backward for people and forgetting where you end and they begin.

Love and blessings,
Colette Baron-Reid
Intuitive Counselor

If you have a question you would like to ask Colette, write to her at [email protected]All published questions and answers will be anonymous – we honour and protect your privacy. (Please, Colette respectfully asks that you do not submit requests for readings to this email address.)