In his mind Randy couldn’t win.
It seemed to him that in his marriage of 15 years, his wife had always had the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway.”
He felt like he had to “go along” with her to keep what little peace there was in their marriage.
Spending as much of the time as possible working on his old Chevy Nova, he knew he was avoiding another confrontation with her and the possibility of a huge blow up…
But he didn’t know what else to do.
He didn’t want to spend his vacation again visiting her relatives like they did every year…
And every time his wife started telling him about her plans for the coming summer’s vacation, he found himself getting angry because he couldn’t seem to get the words out to object.
In desperation, he contacted us for a coaching conversation about how to “confront” her with his truth.
As we talked, here’s some of what he realized about confrontations and conversations…
1. Approach it as a sharing and a conversation not a confrontation
When you think you have to confront someone else with your truth, that’s what you get…
A confrontation–along with tightness and defense, void of connection.
You are imagining a terrible outcome before you even start!
Now your experience might tell you that this person won’t listen to you…
And that may be true…
But what we know for sure is that if you tighten yourself to confront someone, they WON’T listen.
They’ll be too busy defending their point of view.
Randy saw that in his thinking, he approached any discussion with his wife as a confrontation and a possible argument.
He could see that his mind was already poised and ready for a fight before it even happened and all he could do was retreat.
He saw a glimmer of hope that maybe he didn’t have to go that route.
He could have a conversation instead.
2. Notice what’s happening inside you
When you notice you’re preparing to “confront” another person, it can be helpful to switch your attention to inside you.
Notice if you puff yourself up or if you shrink down–and you may do both.
We’ve certainly done both in the past!
When you feel like you have to puff yourself up to get heard, you come off as superior and demanding…
Upping the level of resistance for both of you.
When you shrink or attempt to disappear, you have the illusion that that will keep you safe.
And it’s usually frustrating for the other person.
While it may have served you when you were a child, it won’t serve you in your relationships today.
As we talked, Randy saw that he did both–that he mainly would shrink himself down…
But at times, he could see that he puffed himself up and let his anger fly, usually over small things like a misplaced screw driver in the garage.
He could see that both shrinking and puffing himself were strategies he unconsciously used to get his needs met…
But they weren’t working and certainly didn’t help him connect with his wife.
3. Invite a conversation and listen as well as share
When you invite the other person to a conversation rather than having a “confrontation”…
There’s a possibility that a more co-operative feeling can be generated between the two of you.
When you invite the other person to sharing their truth with you truly listening and you share yours…
It’s more possible that a solution emerges that couldn’t happen during a “confrontation.”
Randy could see the wisdom in this and the next week, he invited his wife to a discussion to talk about their vacation.
He said, “I’d like to talk about how I see our vacation happening this year and I want to know how you see it.”
He truly listened to her and heard how important it was to her to connect with her family.
He acknowledged that he knew how important it was for her and that for him, it was also important to have a few days at the beach to really relax.
He didn’t “bite the hook” (as Buddhist nun Pema Chodron called it) when she started to get mad but just stayed with the conversation…
Steering it back to how they could make this vacation work for both of them.
By coming back to the present moment and possibilities when he felt himself getting angry or having the urge to leave…
He was able to open to some new ideas.
As a result, they came up with a plan that satisfied them both.
How about you?
Do you see that confronting another person with the truth is counter to connection?