Confrontation & Its Beneficiaries, Pt. 2

Confrontation 2Continued from yesterday, where the author discussed leaving a friendship where confrontation wasn’t possible.

I wanted to sit down with this dear friend of mine and tell him what I felt. I wanted to look him in the eye and tell him that things were not okay and that for things to be okay there was work to be done. But I didn’t have a chance to say those things and because I didn’t have that chance, I left the friendship feeling particularly bitter and upset. I ventured to speculate why I was feeling so down. Well, any quasi-intellectual worth his or her salt has a tendency to take experiences and, let’s say, “spend a little too much time with them in the brain-blender. “ More precisely, things are over-analyzed and eventually acquire a higher degree of importance in one’s hierarchy of emotional importance than they probably should. Sometimes the occasional gem tumbles out before coagulation sets in. In this case, I concluded that I was feeling upset because I wasn’t able to force my friend to experience the recent turn of events as I would like him to experience it. In other words, I wanted him to feel lousy because I felt like he deserved to feel lousy.

That doesn’t sound like I’m trying to solve a problem or actually communicate anything useful to my friend. It sounds like I want to convey dissatisfaction in the 20-ton rock form. That leads to the next question: what exactly is the purpose of that conversation? Whom does it serve? I’m sure you figured it out by now: it serves the speaker! Particularly in situations where someone has concluded that the course is set and that change is highly unlikely. At this point, you’re simply throwing rocks because it feels good to do so, while at the same time potentially providing the recipient of your tirade with a stronger, self-supporting narrative. Your friend or ‘target’ may consider themselves vindicated by your outburst or strong expression of opinion. In addition, there’s a fairly good chance that you won’t feel all that good about the confrontation because it will not result in the desired effect: resolution in the form of a teary-eyed confession or equivalent.

So, with these patterns in mind, consider the following tips: If you are going to confront a friend about something difficult, make sure you know why you’re doing it and what results you may expect. While I have lain out some of the potential pitfalls of an ill-conceived confrontation above, I am in no way condemning an individual’s right to do it anyway. If you feel like trashing someone, that is your right to do so. All I’m saying it that it’s fairly likely that if that is your purpose, you will not be as satisfied with the result as you might think. If you conclude that the confrontation is really more about you than your friend or loved one, consider not doing it at all. If you honestly don’t think there’s going to be change, or if you tried this approach before with little success, consider letting it go. This applies more to confrontations that may result in and end or suspension of relations rather than ongoing relationships. In ongoing relationships, it is my belief that confrontation is a necessary part of the long-term balancing act that allows relationship to survive and that an ill-conceived or unnecessary confrontation action in a healthy relationship will likely help both individuals to learn something (what not to do) and move on.

Most important of all, and the one thing I would humbly submit you take away from this claptrap dear reader is to not shy away from confrontation when you think it is the right thing to do. This is especially important in scenarios and situations where a person’s mental or physical health is at stake and in which that individual may be receiving no candid or honest support or feedback within his or her social structure. If you are mistaken, if things go wrong, so be it. At least you stepped forward in a society in which such dynamic transformative action usually only happens on screen.

Guest post by ericb, mindless drone from Sector 7.

5 thoughts on “Confrontation & Its Beneficiaries, Pt. 2

  1. Stephanie

    I’ve been struggling with similar feelings of wanting to confront a long term friend about the obvious decline of our friendship over the past few months. I have in fact attempted conversations on the subject several times, each time leaving me feel worse than the last. Reading this today is exactly what I needed. I want to scream and shout and see her feel terrible, because I feel terrible. I don’t think a conflict at this point would do anything more than make me want to punch my fist through a wall. Thank you for this, I see that I have the wrong motives and won’t like the outcome. “deep breath” so I am going to move on.

    1. candiduprising

      I’ve definitely wanted to bring people to my level of emotion (whether it be anger, pain, sadness). But I think ericb makes some great points here about examining our motives before acting. Being direct is important, but so is conserving our energy if we’re just going to be shouting into the wind. Thanks for reading!

  2. Kelly G

    “Most important of all…is to not shy away from confrontation when you think it is the right thing to do. This is especially important in scenarios and situations where…that individual may be receiving no candid or honest support or feedback within his or her social structure. If you are mistaken, if things go wrong, so be it.”

    I’m reading this at an interesting time. I, too, have let a friendship decline over the past few months–mainly because I feel as though I’m giving a lot more than I’m receiving. I realize that, for the six years that I’ve known this person, everything has been on her terms. Her self-centered nature continues to become more agregious, and now she’s downright bossy. She was clearly disappointed when I formed a serious relationship with my current partner, as I was less available to hang out with her.

    When I have seen her within the past year or so, it’s all about her. Mind you: there have been some pretty big changes in my life in 2014. She asks about none of them; she just talks about herself. The last time I saw her was a few months ago was at her party. She pretty much sat there and held court, and kept asking my partner to do what SHE as the host should have been doing. She also talked about herself the whole time, asking NO questions of her guests. My boyfriend and I left after only a couple of hours, and I apologized to him. It was one of the worst parties I’ve ever been to…really unfortunate, since the guests were a very interesting, articulate bunch! She was rude, and that was the end of it. I haven’t spoken to her since.

    I’m not sure how to handle this. I feel like she has a lot of “Yes” people around her. She’s very successful in her career. She’s very financially stable. She routinely takes wonderful trips and eats wonderful meals…all of which are posted for her friends on facebook. Constantly posting ALL of this stuff might come off as more showboat-y than she realizes. I’ve now seen several people in her life suddenly drop out. She doesn’t seem to connect the dots; if they don’t realize how fabulous she is, then off with them. She has other people she can talk to.

    Problem is…that group is shrinking. I knew several of the people at her party that night, and they all looked as bored and unimpressed as I was. And the crowd was considerably smaller than it has been at many of her other get-togethers. I expect many of us won’t be there next year; I know I won’t.

    I’m trying to figure out a tactful way to tell her that her narcissistic behavior, and increasing bossiness, is really off-putting. I don’t know how to tell her in a way in which she will listen, though. Should it make our friendship fall apart, so be it. The problem is that we have mutual friends in common, and we see each other at their parties and events. I don’t want to create an awkward scenario.

    I do feel some responsibility for telling this woman how I feel. I’m not usually one that’s at a loss for words, but I really have no idea how to convey this to her. I feel like all the “Yes” people have kind of ruined her ability to take any constructive criticism or honest feedback. I’m sure that if this behavior continues, her friends will continue to rapidly diminish, and she’ll genuinely have no idea why.

    1. candiduprising

      It’s so hard to manage these types of situations. I think the best you can do is be totally honest about the behaviors you see that make the friendship difficult. It may be that narcissism is intrinsic to her personality and therefore immutable; and of course as friends, we’re not responsible for changing people (I need to repeat this to myself almost daily). I do think it’s important to call out what we see, lest someone go through life not knowing why they’ve been all but deserted. What they choose to do with the information is up to them.

      1. Kelly G

        You’re right. I know I need to say something, and I feel a sense of obligation to do so, but I have no idea how to get the conversation going. Acknowledging the awkwardness, then focusing on behaviors, is probably the best way to start…we’ll see how it goes from there. If she’s not having any of it, I guess I have my answer. She can’t say nobody addressed it with her.

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