Confrontation vs. Communication: Why do we assume conversations will be negative? 

A confrontation is an emotionally driven, verbal attack that leaves no room for collaboration or problem solving. Communication is level-headed, gracious and supportive, and the goal is to work together to get on the same page.

Have you ever been nervous or anxious to broach an important topic with someone? Do you find yourself assuming the conversation will be negative? Do your assumptions prevent you from having the conversation at all? I often hear from clients that they are “bad at confrontation,” or that they find themselves worked up and riddled with anxiety before having some necessary conversation. We have to ask ourselves, why am I assuming this? Has history shown me that important discussions are inevitably negative? 

There is a difference between confrontation and communication. A confrontation is an emotionally driven, verbal attack that leaves no room for collaboration or problem solving. Communication is level-headed, gracious and supportive, and the goal is to work together to get on the same page. 

When you need to have an important conversation, try to eliminate the anxiety by focusing on what language you can use to emphasize the goal. Let’s say, for example, your roommate has her partner over every single night and it is becoming annoying to you. Instead of saying, “Your partner is over too much and it’s really annoying,” you could say: “I miss spending time together just the two of us. I really like your partner, and I am very happy for you. Is there a way we can spend more nights just the two of us here?” Focusing on positively expressing your feelings and needs will likely yield more positive results. 

Another way to reframe confrontation to communication is how you bring up that you want to have an important conversation in general. Consider the timing — what mood is the other person in? What time of day is it? Have you both had something to eat? These factors may seem trivial, but conversations are more likely positive when both people are physiologically comfortable. Have you ever tried to have an important conversation with someone who is hangry? It’s not usually very successful. 

If you find that you often have to bring up the same conversation and there is no change, or it is met with defensiveness or objection, you may want to reassess your approach. You also may need to reassess your relationship with the person you are having the conversation with. I once heard a quote, “You are not asking for the wrong thing, you are asking the wrong person.” 

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