I admire (and by admire I mean I’m annoyed by) all those people who are really great at it. Police officers. CEO’s. My best friend from high school. They’re so brave. So confident. They don’t get flustered or shaky or self-conscious. They say what needs to be said without hesitation. And without a stomach ache.
Technically, the fear of confrontation falls under a much broader social anxiety called allodoxaphobia (thank you, Google), which also includes the fear of others’ opinions and fear of arguments. Whether it’s a disagreement with a family member, friend, coworker, neighbor, casual acquaintance, or complete stranger, confrontation is an unavoidable part of life. Therefore, there are only two ways of looking at it: my way or the Higher way.
Confrontation, My Way:
Put it off. If I need to talk with someone about something that’s uncomfortable, the easiest way to handle it is to pretend I don’t need to talk with someone about something that’s uncomfortable. You know the old saying, “If you decide not to look, it’s not there.” (Ok, I made that up, but still.)
Fret a lot. Another fabulous approach is to dwell on the situation constantly. Obsess over it, actually. Let it distract you at your job, or when your husband is trying to ask you a question, or when one of the kids needs something. Think about it during the day and let it keep you up at night. Toss. Turn. Repeat.
Expect the worst. Lastly, whenever confrontation looms on the horizon, assume everything will go horribly wrong. Imagine each possible negative outcome and be fully convinced that the worst will happen. Anticipate having to deal with this person and this issue forever and ever. And ever.
Confrontation, The Higher Way:
Follow directions. People have had trouble getting along for a while now. Cain killed his brother. Saul hated David. Jonah got thrown off a boat. God suggests a better plan: Meet with the person and be honest. If that doesn’t help, bring along a third (carefully chosen) party. An outside, impartial, view is a good way to keep things peaceful and make sure the conversation stays on track. “Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone…if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you.” Matthew 18:15-16
Keep your cool. When a difficult conversation is coming up, we usually come prepared for battle. We create a list (mental or written) of prepared remarks, an inventory of grievances, the things we really want to get off our chest. Interestingly, God says to try the opposite. Decide beforehand to be more quiet than wordy, to do more listening than speaking. Less talking (and more deep breathing) leads to less annoyance. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19
Know your limits. Ever since Danny Griggs made fun of my Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox in second grade, I knew there would be some people in this world with whom I would not get along. Good thing God doesn’t hold us accountable for another’s bad behavior. So do what you can to resolve a conflict lovingly, patiently, graciously (without hitting them with your lunchbox). Then, forget about it. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
Safe to say, I will never like confrontations, but it is possible to face them with a little more strength, and a lot more serenity. Wish I could say the same for lima beans.