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.