[STAFF EDITORIAL] Embracing confrontation leads to positive change and growth


Annika Kim

FACE TO FACE. Although it can be easier to tell uninvolved people about a hurtful situation, discussing the issue directly with the person involved will help resolve the issue in a more timely manner. Communication is a crucial part of both maintaing relationships and educating others about their actions, even if they’re aren’t a close friend.

The idea of confrontation can often accompany an uncomfortable image: a tense, frustrated conversation in which emotions tend to overpower reason. But there’s a way to approach it differently. Hearing a sensitive joke or remark, whether in a group setting, one-on-one conversation, or Harkness discussion, can be an incredibly jarring experience. And though Gen Z, the generation that coined the term cancel culture, has no problem calling people out online, facing someone in real life can be more challenging. But confrontation is essential in finding forgiveness and closure if someone says something harmful. And when being confronted by someone, remember to take a breath and listen to what they have to say, take time with the process and recognize when accountability needs to be taken. These tough conversations must be conducted properly so all involved feel heard.

Regardless of how the conversation plays out, it is essential to keep difficult discussions directly between the parties involved. Spreading gossip or stirring up drama about the situation, even if it comes from a genuine place of hurt, is counterproductive to any change that may come from it. Suppose someone’s words are repeated to others before they have had a chance to explain themselves. In that case, they may feel less compelled to participate in a private conversation, which could, in turn, lead to growing feelings of misunderstanding and consequently, resentment.

… Confrontation is essential in finding forgiveness and closure if someone says something harmful.

The first step in confronting someone is pinpointing their harmful words and then planning how to address them.

“Confronting a friend who hurt you will not be easy,” Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, a board-certified psychiatrist in Texas, said. “The confrontation needs to be planned, so any overwhelming feelings don’t make the process difficult to restore.”

Preparing talking points in advance will keep the conversation from veering onto a more emotional path, which can cause one to say unnecessarily hurtful words. Falling apart may convey a sense of irrationality, and approaching the situation from a more mature perspective will more effectively communicate the impact of their words to the other person.

During the conversation, stick to the facts, and avoid drawing unwarranted conclusions or assumptions about the other person’s intentions.

“Work on describing exactly what happened, and describing your reactions to it, as these are the only things that you can truly describe accurately,” Dr. Angel Montfort, a licensed psychologist at the Center for Maternal Mental Health, said.

Work out any changes you would like to implement moving forward.

However, confrontation sometimes must occur immediately, even if the other person isn’t a close friend. And sometimes, the emotion will still be raw. In that situation, call out their words and work on unpacking their intention. Emphasize why those words are harmful and go against critical values. Identify allies who can help explain the harm behind those words.

Treat confrontation as an opportunity for growth and communication instead of venting. When done correctly, the results can be incredibly productive for relationships.