Monday, January 15, 2007

I Don't Like Confrontations

Not that I ever needed any excuse, but the New Year always inspires me to be even more introspective than normal. I’m always looking for ways that I can change and improve areas in my life. One area that I have identified as needing serious attention is how I deal with confrontations. Those who know me might find this hard to believe, but I have a deep fear of confrontations. Given how I have responded in the past I wouldn’t be surprised if most people think that I like confrontations.

Typically my fear causes me to avoid voicing my opinion on a subject at first. I tend to be very reserved and internalize the situation. Then as the situation grows I find that my point of view is not being represented and I get a little upset. By the time I finally choose to say anything the anger in my voice is obvious. From that point on I feel like I’m just labeled as a nutcase and my opinions still aren’t given any weight.

I feel like I come across like Jeff Goldbloom’s character in “Jurassic Park”. There was one scene when they were sitting at a dinner table and he was explaining his point. His voice got louder and he got progressively more emotional and short. In only a few seconds he went from a calm discussion to pounding his fist on the table. Even though he was technically right on the money, because of his attitude those he was attempting to influence gave his position no serious consideration at all. I don’t know what causes this reaction in me but I don’t like it. I wish that I could open up earlier before I have much emotional investment on the issue.

Last week my neighbor’s dog, a pit-bull mix, was off his leash and staring at me through our bay window. I became so angry inside that I couldn’t even bring myself to go over an talk to the neighbors about it because I know that my voice would have been quaking and I’d have likely damaged any relationship that I could have with them. Victoria had to go talk to them for me. She’s much better than I am about keeping her emotions in check and still being forceful enough to be taken seriously.

My dilemma is this; how do I assertively maintain my position without taking it too far and alienating the others in the discussion? I’m very good at playing the devil’s advocate and understanding the other position. When I do that I typically end up being just walked all over. On the other hand I can stand my ground like some kind of lunatic and then not have my voice be considered at all. Either way is counterproductive. How can I compromise these two?

To me this isn’t just the trivial attempt to become more likeable. I have a few serious issues that I would like to discuss with some loved ones. However, since I am afraid of how I will respond I avoid these conversations all together. Even though a resolution to these issues will most likely strengthen my relationships with them, the more likely outcome is that my inability to behave properly will damage the relationship even further. Either that or I will end up completely caving in on my position in order to end the conversation without offending anybody any more than I already had. The result is that I just remain silent and talk about anything but the more important issues. My own fear of how I will respond has resulted in me having a lot of very superficial relationships but very few really good friends.

Now you can put your violins away. I’m not looking for a pity party here. I just am trying to find some practical ways to change this trait for the better. I’m also just putting this out for all to see so people will be patient with me and know that this is something that I have recognized and I am working to correct.

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