ASK COLETTE: How to Handle an Uncomfortable Confrontation
Here, Zoomer guru Colette Baron-Reid on how to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation.
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.
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.