Having a voice is our greatest gift and most powerful weapon. It can be used to build incredible structures of compassion or tear someone down to the core.
It’s how we communicate with the world. It is how we form our relationships with people. It’s how we share ideas, thought, and feelings. Often we misuse our voice and forget to use it when the time comes.
Struggling with social anxiety and being a very conflict avoidant person myself, I can personally tell you how difficult it is to communicate with anyone. From my parents to the grocery store clerk I have always had an issue with communication. Especially when it comes to subjects that are more negative in nature. Like, “fights” with friends, family, and my significant other.
Throughout my life, I felt ashamed of my disorders. I felt ashamed of myself. Even recently this is something that I continue to experience. Acceptance is a process. In my relationships, I would often bottle up these emotions or omit information because I was afraid of the fight it might cause. One of the best lessons I have learned is that being honest relieves so much of this inner conflict. Not only on my side but the other person as well.
Confrontation is not always bad, so get yourself out of that mindset.
Over the course of these past 6 years with my significant other, I have really learned to open up in honesty to resolve conflicts. He had a big part when it came to developing my new mindset and behavior. Using my voice to solve the problems instead of letting it stew in my head until I am “over it” is the key to forming close relationships and relieving that inner conflict within myself. Feeling unheard, invalidated, and hurting in solitude is part of what made me constantly question my worth as a human being on this planet.
Let me start with an example. Recently a family member discussed my venture to share my experiences, coping skills, advice and lifestyle tips online. He used the phrase, “I’m really disturbed by your plan here” and “I get you want to help people but airing your dirty laundry on the Internet may not be the best way to do that”.
When he said this, it reopened this scar tissue within me. So-much-so that days later it resonated with me. I started having “make-believe” arguments in my head with this family member. This was my way of venting without confronting the real problem.
So, a few days later I saw my family member, and calmly confronted him. I told him that I was hurt by his comment and explained my perspective that it made me feel like only part of me is worth existing while the other parts are considered “dirty laundry”. I explained that I didn’t choose to have mental illnesses, but it has shaped my life and it is a part of me. Then he did the unthinkable.
He apologized. He explained that he didn’t mean harm by the comment. We resolved the issue. Confronting my family has always been a source of anxiety and distress for me. This was a big step for me, and the relief I felt after was incredible. Going forward he now has more of an understanding of my mindset. It was a win-win situation.
I went into this particular conversation not expecting an apology. I more-so went in with the mentality that I needed to speak my peace for myself. The apology added to the benefits of this situation.
We often associate confrontation with in-your-face yelling matches and brawls. This, however, is not the only form of confrontation that exists. The point that I’m trying to drive home is facing the source of contention in your life head-on is going to bring you so much relief and will improve your relationships. Not only with your significant other (since we tend to fight with them the most), but all relationships you have. Using your voice to stand up for yourself is scary. It still scares me. With time, practice and patience, living honestly and confronting your problems will get you “out of your head” into the present and bring you the resolution you need.
Of course, there are some unpleasant aspects of confrontation. Sometimes you will get hurt. Hurting in this way is a growing opportunity. It will probably take a while for it to feel that way.
In the early years of my relationship with my significant other, we would have arguments (as everyone does) that would turn into huge blow out fights. We often would vent to our friends our frustrations. Because friends often back you up and validate your feelings. We want to be validated. We want our voices to be heard and we feel like the person we are “fighting” with isn’t hearing us. We may not even bring up the issue with the person because we already vented it all out. The problem or fight will not be resolved that way. Screaming matches don’t solve it either.
When your heated, you’re only thinking of the next statement to make, the next rebuttal. The person on the other side is doing the same thing. Therefore, it is unlikely you will be in a state of mind to truly resolve the issue.
Here’s my advice:
- Be calm, cool and collected. When you act confident and level-headed the person will be more receptive to what you have to say.
- Be honest and direct. This is a problem that needs to be solved right? Dancing around the bush will just cause confusion for both parties.
- Honesty without tact is cruelty. Being honest and blunt doesn’t include insults. Phrase your issue in a way that sounds like you’re not attacking the person. If they feel attacked, they will go into defense mode and at that point, you’re more likely to end up in a heated argument. Instead of “you do this, you do that, that’s f*cked up” try to start off with “It hurts me when you do this, that and the other thing, and I would appreciate it if you did x,y,z instead”.
- Offer a solution (if you can). Analyze the thoughts and feelings you have about this situation before the confrontation occurs (if you can). Think about what you want them to do, and what you can do on your end to facilitate the behavior you want to see from them. If you’re just bringing up the problem without a solution it could cause the person to feel attacked or hurt and that they’re just flat out wrong. No one wants to be wrong. Offering a solution gives them the opportunity to fix it, and that works for both of you.
- Ask for their input. Especially if you’re talking about resolving a conflict and not just stating your mindest and “speaking your peace’’. This gives them the opportunity to reflect on their own actions and come to their conclusion. For example, say your significant-other would stay up and close the bar down without communicating with you. If you say something along the lines of, “Do you really think this is acceptable behavior? How would you feel if I did that?”, you’re more likely to come to a resolution instead of saying “Yo, you’re being really f*cked up right now”. Perhaps after you’ve vented your feelings, another example of using this can be, “How do you think we can resolve this situation?”. Giving them the opportunity to give their input can help you come to an equal resolution.
- Try to avoid the guilt trip. Sometimes it can be helpful (like in the example I used above). If you do use the guilt trip, I would again, advise phrasing it in a question. No one likes to feel bad about themselves. Often the guilt trip will work against you and can be used in a manipulative way which is unacceptable.
These are a few steps to confronting a person whom you know well. Standing up for yourself and confronting your issues in your own mind and with the person whom you’re having a quarrel with brings you peace of mind and a solution to the issue. When I confronted my family member, I did it for my own peace of mind. I would also advise if you’re having a hard time, and that endless loop of arguments replays in your head, confront your own thoughts. Challenge yourself to confront your own issues before you confront the other person. This will bring you peace and confidence.
If you’re struggling with your thoughts, I also recommend therapy. Whether you have a mental illness or not, therapy is helpful. There is no shame in seeking help outside of yourself. Joint therapy, or “couples counseling” can also be extremely helpful in these situations where you feel you and your partner are not on the same.
Love and Light as Always,