I have written about confrontation multiple times, especially healthy confrontation. It’s important. Often, we avoid confrontation and aggravate situations just because we want to be comfortable. We don’t realize that comfort comes at a high price to the people around us.
An aspect of confrontation I haven’t written about as much is one reason some people avoid it. It’s the unhealthy side of confrontation—not blatant abuse but more subtle. And we need to truth check the confrontations in our lives, not just how we are confronting but of what type of confrontations we are on the receiving end.
If we usually avoid confrontation, we might assess all confrontation as bad and unhealthy. That’s too quick of an analysis. Equally as dangerous is the refusal to see the difference between healthy and unhealthy confrontation, welcoming it under the guise of honest communication but failing to see the motivation behind it. Confrontation is not always loud. It is not always angry, at least on the surface. Sometimes confrontation seems more like a conversational challenge. For those who like to get into deep conversations and especially for people who are smart about dynamics and informed on varying topics, the confrontation is embedded into conversation—and riddled with attempts of manipulation and control. Manipulation and control can be the underlying motivation, not the confrontation itself.
Those who are comfortable confronting in healthy ways will not allow manipulation and control to enter the conversation. Healthy confrontation guards against undercurrents of tricky persuasion. But the person who uses confrontation to frame control and manipulation attempts to write the narrative, determine the direction, and reconfigure the perception of what’s happening to their preference or advantage. They frequently either hold up a figurative hand in the face of others to dismiss them or ignore them all together. Humility and accountability aren’t invited into the conversation. When someone is manipulating another, their sense of control doesn’t entertain the possibility they’re not going to get their way or get truth checked.
Why bring this up? Perhaps it’s because of my own experiences and what I see happening in a few of my friends’ lives. Perhaps it’s the divisive culture in which we’re living right now. Perhaps it’s the weariness of seeing disrespect expressed not in a hands off evasiveness but often an -in-your-face confrontation or more subtle under-the-table manipulation. Whatever it is, it can be ugly and damaging, and we need to do better. The people doing the manipulating might not change much, but those who are wise enough to recognize it can change the dynamics by refusing to engage or interacting in a way that is respectful yet firm, always relying fully on truth and authenticity.
It’s time each of us took a confrontation truth check.