PJ Media

The Psychology of Confrontation

Have you ever noticed how frightened people are of confrontation–even if it just means the slightest bit of displeasure from another person? Normally, these non-confronters think of themselves as “very good and moral people” and believe the reason they do not confront is to save another’s feelings. But in truth, they are so afraid of causing emthemselves/em a moment’s displeasure, that they will do anything to get out of being direct with another person. br /br /Case in point: one day our office secretary had to be fired. She had been given numerous warnings and told how to improve her performance, but to no avail. She continued to ignore requests to be in the office to answer the phones, call us when patients had important messages and well, you get the idea. Everyone in the office agreed that she needed to be let go, but would not fire her. Finally, I was asked to do the dirty work. As much as I did not like it, I knew that the secretary was bad for business and had to go. Yes, it was a scene. I was direct, told her why we were letting her go and told her I hoped she found other more suitable work. She burst into tears. Naturally, the others in the office had fled. br /br /There have been a number of times in my life that friends, family or others have asked me to assist them in telling somebody no, or give someone information that was very difficult. In some cases, I have done it because no one else would. When my father was sick with cancer, none of my family wanted to tell him that we had hired a nurse to help us as he did not want a stranger in his home. I totally understood but there came a point where we needed medical assistance. No one had the nerve to tell my father and asked me to do it. I did, but not without a great deal of pain and difficulty. But the alternative of having no help was worse. br /br /I sometimes wonder about the difference between people who will confront others in a direct manner and those who will not. I am frequently told that the former group is vicious or insensitive but I think it is just the opposite. It takes a great deal of bravery and self discipline or sometimes kindness to be direct with other people. I am not talking about the kind of confrontation that is just to get one’s jollies, like telling someone off, but rather the type of confrontation that makes one unpopular, but is necessary to produce positive, constructive change in the long run. Those who wish to take the moral high ground and lie to themselves about their “superiority” and compassion by avoiding confrontation and having others do their dirty work know deep down what they are. Or they sublimate their feelings by posting anonymously on other people’s blogs to say impolite things to people that they would be terrified to confront in the real world.