What’s your Problem?
When was the last time someone asked you that question. More importantly, when was the last time you asked that to someone? Not randomly of course, only when it had to be asked. And what did you then do? Did you perhaps choose not to. Psychotherapists call this the art of “CONFRONTATION”. Does confrontation always have to be a “face-off” though?
As I have been dealing with life, learning to be more precise, I have come to realise that there are two aspects to it. While the first and more obvious is to be able to stand up to injustice or nuisance, the other is unfortunately more subtle and deals with what to really confront, if at all. Makes sense? Well let’s try to.
I have always been an out-going, extrovert man all my life and as such have always tried to be in everyone’s good books as well. Of course, so that everyone thought highly of me and also because I didn’t like to cross anyone either. After all I am no moral police nor had I ever committed to being one. The responsibility of calling something wrong “wrong” was never my job until I started to see the reflections of that silence in my life.
Without mentioning the grey matter(which I’ll save for my book) let me get straight to the black and white stuff! I am a self employed businessman and the captain of the small ship- we are a team of 10 members. We are committed to opening business at 9:30 a.m. each day with no exception. Six months into it and I started noticing folks coming late. Sure, it was only a five minutes delay or at most ten so I also let it go. Mind you, I was not OK with the delay but while weighing out the discomfort of a talk versus the five minute delay, the silence seemed much more certain and a confrontation seemed like an over-reaction really. Come twelve months and suddenly, the store was opening at 10 a.m. on an average. We had deviated by half an hour at the cost of my one year’s silence. To make matters worse one year of silence had in effect made me only more incompetent to speak up and my team only more audacious! Bit of a catch-22 you think?
Anyways, what had to be done, had to be done and I got straight at it(you know how I like to catch the bull by its horns). Filled with fury and with a total lack of emotional balance I drilled right through them- all of them.
“We are supposed to open at 9:30 am and it is 10 am now! What do you think you are doing and where do you think you are working?”
I didn’t even wait for the end of the day, in fact this is how their day started. What do you think happened after that?
With disgust for me and inconsideration for the work they went right in and began their chores. Dull swollen faces looked straight through me and there was hostility written all over. Guess what happened the next day and the other days to follow? They started reaching at 9:15 a.m. and made me look bad for reaching at 9:30 a.m.!
I am sure we have all been in such places we wish we’d rather die than be there. Feeling cold, naked almost, the heart constantly palpitating, where the atmosphere might explode at the slightest incitement. Such was the “aura” of the office for almost a week until I couldn’t stand it any longer. It was time, time for confrontation — PHASE 2, but more on that later.
So what did I do wrong to begin with. Sure, I avoided making small “corrections” right from the beginning leading to the need of a “confrontation”. Even if I did have to confront them was my method right? Did I have to be that hostile and blow it out of proportion? What was I really upset about in the first place? The fact that they were constantly late, or the fact that they were taking things for granted, or the fact that their delay led to an impact on the business, or my apparent perception of their disrespect towards me? Psychotherapists call this part “Accountability”, the art of holding one responsible- for what he IS responsible and not what you think!
Now answering my own question- whether a confrontation really needs to be a “face-off”. No it doesn’t. It can simply be a discussion to hold one accountable and remind him what in fact had been agreed upon to begin with. It can be a review meeting of sorts that ends cordially with mutual agreement and respect for each other.
Now back to confrontation- PHASE 2. I had to first introspect and really understand what was going on within me. What was the reason for so much rage and where I was coming from. I finally realised(actually decided) that it was the loss of business that was my concern and their disregard for it needed to be addressed. Their audacity to offend me was bothering me too but I saw it came from a space of ego for them. So I “tactfully” decided to extract their empathy for the business rather than try to show them down and balm my ego. It would have never helped otherwise, only make bridges burn if anything.
I say “tactfully” not to sound manipulative but only to sound aware. Can you imagine if I addressed the issue of my respect instead of the loss in the business? It would only deepen the crisis and they would despise me further making matters only worse.
Finally, it might not always be the right thing to confront a situation just because you think so. Sometimes it isn’t our race, it is someone else’s but we feel the need to run it for them. The last time I involved myself in some “no harm intended” banter of my workforce, it came across as interference to them which only backfired!
Whether to confront or not is a personal choice and one might get better at it with time and while confronting maybe important accountability is the key. More often than not we are in a hurry to sort things out as soon as we get to know about it. In this sense of emergency our reasoning gets clouded and we often end up addressing the wrong issue. In effect not resolving the conflict. Taking time to assess what needs to be addressed is as important as confronting it, if not more. As a dear friend of mine says, “Your victory should be guaranteed before you enter the battlefield” and while I don’t necessarily believe it needs to be a war like situation, it’s never too bad to put your best foot forward!