Why Confrontation is Good

How to properly handle conflict

A.J. Deveaux
May 23, 2019 · 7 min read
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Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Interpersonal conflict is one of the most unavoidable facts of life. Despite how nice we are, how hard we try, or how good of a person others may lead us to believe we are — there comes a point when we crash into one another.

The conflict could be a result of a mutual misunderstanding, or stem from something as simple as a miscommunication.

Whatever the cause of such strife may be, simply ruminating on the issue — or deliberately engaging in conflict avoidance tactics (i.e. people-pleasing), will do nothing to resolve said contention. The fact of the matter is, confrontation is necessary, and if done properly can dramatically increase the quality of our lives — in addition to that of our relationships.

While confrontation is an integral part of life, it is in fact difficult, and takes much practice to achieve mastery.

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Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

The primary hurdle with the c-word is that we have been led to believe it has an inherently negative connotation.

When we think of someone who is confrontational, we often imagine a person who routinely causes trouble — someone who seems to wreak trails of havoc and discord every where they go. While a confrontational person can use such tactic in unhealthy ways, the flip side of confrontation better resembles that of a person with an assertive personality.

An assertive person, like that of a confrontational person, yields a disposition commonly misconstrued by many.

Although assertiveness is often associated with aggression, an assertive personality is that of a individual who possesses a sense of confidence and self-assurance in their communication skills. Assertive people find a healthy balance between both passivity and aggression, never engulfing one particular entity over another.

For example, an assertive person would calmly explain to the Starbucks Barista that their order is incorrect, and would politely ask for it to be remade. An aggressive person in contrast, would grow irate at the individual, and proceed to cuss them out in full view of the entire cafe.

When confrontation is handled correctly, it provides for more positive outcomes in our communications with others. It establishes clear lines of thought and allows for an unequivocal dialogue to take place between yourself and the other person. While confrontation bears a tricky terrain, here are some of the reasons for how and why you should go about it.

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Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

1. It Allows for Honesty

“Say what you mean, mean what you say”

As children, we were all taught that if we do not ask for something, we cannot expect it to be given to us. The same school of thought can be applied when we plan on discussing our true thoughts and feelings with that of another person.

Confrontation allows for honesty and transparency in our relationships — things of particular importance when we experience conflict. When you confront someone, you are being honest with your feelings and allowing yourself to express vulnerability. Although many find it uncomfortable, biting our tongues for the sake of being polite or simply flashing a poker face isn’t fair to ourselves in the long run, or to the other person.

When someone hurts you, or does something which you find offensive or unnerving, be sure to tell them how you feel. By neglecting to confront negative emotionality, you build up a subconscious resentment towards the other person, which inevitably begins to cause strain in the relationship. While confronting someone may not always end with the outcome we had in mind, people will always value your honesty, and will respect you for coming forward with your concerns.

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Photo by Romain V on Unsplash

2. Its a Sign of Maturity

As adults, confrontation is a necessary skill we must grow accustomed to. Despite popular belief, the appropriate way to deal with problems you may have with another person is to approach them directly. While celebrities may be able to get away with putting one another on blast via social media, this is not the mature way to handle yourself, especially when it comes to business.

If you ever want to be taken seriously in the business world, you must master the art of confrontation. You need to be able to formulate a cohesive argument while also making sure to advocate on behalf of yourself and others. People’s level of respect for you often ends at the level of respect you have for yourself — a fact you should keep in mind the next time you ignore an off-color comment by a coworker.

The truth is, simply being able to look another person in the eye and calmly communicate your concerns with them is the adult thing to do. If you have a problem with someone, be sure to talk to THEM about it, not five other people who have nothing to do with the situation.

While gossip and other forms of underhanded behavior serve their purpose in high school, once you become an adult it is your responsibility to make sure you handle conflict with maturity and integrity. The idiom “loose lips sink ships” also applies here — if you end up bitching about your boss to the wrong people, don’t be surprised if you’re cleaning out your desk Monday morning.

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3. People Will Respect You

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” — Dale Carnegie

The biggest advantage of being confrontational in times of conflict is that even if things cannot get resolved, the other person will appreciate your approach, and will most likely respect you more than they had prior. The respect you garner stems from a combination of the honesty and maturity you evoke by tackling things head on.

Confrontation need not have to be used only in conflict however, as it can also be used to request clarification on words exchanged, as well as the expectations two people may have of each other. For example, having the wherewithal to approach your boss about a discrepancy in your performance review shows not only courage, but an exceptional attention to detail.

Being forthright proves especially advantageous in business, as transparency is often a deal-breaker between you and potential clients. Whether we like it or not, the business world is a very, very shady place. As such, having a sense of integrity in your professional demeanor — coupled with a willingness to question things — is often a breath of fresh air to prospective clients, partners, investors, and so on.

If you have concerns over a project you’re working on, discuss it with your boss and make them aware of your concerns. Is a coworker constantly cutting you off during a meeting? Calmly verbalize your grievances in private once you’ve cooled down. Does an acquaintance you know through a mutual friend constantly make backhanded compliments towards you? Address your feelings about their behavior in a civil manner — and hope that an understanding can be reached.

Believe me, I’m aware of the fact we live an age where reality television provides one of the most dominating social scripts — and while such media can provide viable entertainment, it does not portray proper conflict resolution skills. Gossip, intimidation, and self-victimization are not healthy means of addressing tension — and above all should be not normalized anytime soon. In spite of this pressure to opt for the dramatic route, its up to us to do the right thing, always making sure we handle things with tact and civility.

Bonus Tip:

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4. Pick your Battles

While confrontation can be a good thing, and standing up for ourselves and others is an important part of life, make sure to pick your battles wisely.

Life is short, and while some things may seem important in the moment, a small few will likely have an impact on your life five years from now. People aren’t perfect, and expecting everyone in your life to behave statically across all planes of circumstance will inevitably lead you to disappointment.

Although gauging what’s important in life is not easy, it gets easier the more you experience conflict.

Will ratting out a coworker who doesn’t do their job make you appear more favorable to your boss or simply annoy them? Is chastising your best friend for not responding to a text fast enough worth risking the integrity of a ten year friendship? Is the fact that the barista forgot to specifically put a “light” dash whip cream on your Frappuccino really worth being an asshole? *(Hint: it really fucking isn’t)

Time is a resource more important than money. Sure losing money is bad, but you can always earn it back; time on the other hand, is immutably finite. Do fight your battles, as some battles always need to be fought (equality, civil-rights, etc.), but make sure you only leave room for the important ones.

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A.J. Deveaux

Written by

Freelance writer, college student, professional overthinker. I strive to craft stories that are thought provoking and meaningful. B.A. Psychology (halfway done)

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

A.J. Deveaux

Written by

Freelance writer, college student, professional overthinker. I strive to craft stories that are thought provoking and meaningful. B.A. Psychology (halfway done)

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

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