This past week, in the midst of midterms, I have dealt with a surprising amount of something that no one wants to talk about or engage in: confrontation. While it is in no way a fun subject, it is something that I feel we all face through our college career, whether it is with family, friends, or even professors. For me, this past week has sadly been fraught with a lot of confrontation, from all areas of my life. This time of year, everyone begins to feel the pressure of school, work, and home life. That is why I have decided to share my personal examples and ways of coping with confrontation.
Let me start out with a couple of disclaimers! First of all, while I may sound like I am just the expert on confrontation, I am in no way comfortable with it. To be honest, when I am confronting someone about a problem, my face turns red, I sweat like it is the middle of July, and I tend to get a fast heartbeat and even stutter a little bit. I am telling you this because I want you to know that no one likes confrontation, but it is necessary to maintain healthy relationships and even your own self esteem. Secondly, when I say “confrontation” I am not necessarily talking about a Facebook fight or over-the-top “drama.” I consider confrontation a mature dialogue between two adults that maintain their respect and dignity. With that in mind, let me tell you about how I deal with confrontation!
Confrontation with family:
Confrontation with my family is probably one of the hardest things to cope with. Let me start out with a scenario: My mom calls, tells me that my dad is upset because he wants me to spend more time at home. While most people might have a mild reaction to this statement, I tend to take everything my family says to heart. I instantly begin to think that I am a bad daughter, my dad is upset with me, and I can’t seem to please my family no matter how hard I try. Let me just say: this is obviously not an appropriate reaction. I know this, and am working on reigning in my irrational thoughts day-to-day. The ideal way to deal with family confrontation is to 1) Get the full story from the person that actually has the problem, and 2) Make steps to find a compromise. After some tears and hurt feelings, I eventually came to realize this and now have a substantial plan for how I can make more time for my family, communicate with them more, and still maintain my social life.
Confrontation with friends:
OK, there is nothing that makes me more nervous, and consequently more nauseous, than confrontation with friends. My reason for this may seem irrational, but here it is: I know that my family will always love me no matter what and won’t ever walk out of my life. Friends, though, can do whatever they please. This is why, when I have a legitimate problem with a friend, I tend to do the wrong thing and go vent to someone else about it. Recently, these actions became very apparent to me and I was instantly ashamed of what a bad friend I had been. Just because I was uncomfortable with confronting the problem did not give me free reign to talk behind their back to someone else about it! So, once I realized the issue, I decided to get myself together and confront them. First, I made a list of the things that I wanted to address. I think this is helpful before talking to someone about a problem, because it not only allows you to maybe vent some of those hurt feelings on paper that you wouldn’t necessarily say to someone, but also to gather your thoughts in a mature, organized manner. This way, when you are face to face with the person, you can communicate your thoughts and feelings better, rather than being a jumbled mess. Once I have my list, I go to them personally and ask them if there if a convenient time for them to talk. Lastly, when you finally have them in front of you, there are a few key things to remember.
1) Use your “I” statements. This means that instead of blaming them or saying something like, “You made me feel________,” you instead take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions. An example of a good I statement would be, “I feel as if our relationship has been suffering, and if we could work on that I would really appreciate it.”
2) Be respectful. Talk to others the way you want to be talked to. This is probably just a good rule for life in general.
3) Say what you came to say. While you should be respectful, that does not mean sugar-coating everything. If you don’t say how you really feel, nothing will get resolved. This is a big issue for me because my biggest fear is hurting someone’s feelings. I get very emotional and start feeling down on myself if I think I’ve hurt someone. The thing to remember is, if you are being polite, respectful, and communicating how you feel for the good of the relationship, then you aren’t doing anything wrong. It is always hard for me to accept that I am not responsible for other people’s feelings, but it is the truth.
Confrontation with professors:
Ideally, there would never be conflict between professors and students, but that’s just not true! Professors are human too, and sometimes it is hard for students to accept that if the professor made a mistake or has a different way of doing things, it should not be taken as a personal attack. Thankfully, I have found that the professors at LMU are usually very understanding and helpful! For instance, last week I took a big exam given by a professor who I’ve had for many other course. On every test, the essay questions on the study guide are exactly what we need to know for the tests, and there are never any surprises. On the day of the test, I received my essay questions and my jaw dropped. There was an entire essay question that hadn’t been on the study guide! Luckily, when I confronted the professor they immediately fixed it for me, because they knew that I didn’t want to fail and it had been their mistake. So, if you do have a conflict with a professor, remember to talk to them respectfully and convey your problem in a coherent manner. It is always best to confront a professor in person instead of email.
I hope that sharing my recent confrontations and how I handled them will help you in the future! If you have any questions, or just want to talk, be sure to email or comment on my page!