Meeting Confrontational People with Understanding

This cow didn’t want me coming any closer to the herd. She was willing to fight me if it came to it.

I Don’t Like Confrontation

It scares me. And I usually end up backing down in order to keep the peace. Confrontation to me usually means that I’m going to have to give up what I believe is true or right and submit to the stronger person. No wonder I don’t like it.

Luckily, this is not the only way to see confrontation, even for timid old me. 

Recently, I was dealing with a confrontational person. She seemed to take everything I said the wrong way and came back with a really tough “in my face” attitude. It frustrated me, and it made me want to fight or run away. 

But I Did The Work Instead

Before replying to her hostile email, I decided to do The Work on her first. I’ve learned that when I’m feeling charged, no matter how much I try to wordsmith my replies, my venom still comes through and aggravates things even more. 

So I decided to deal with my venom first. I wrote a simple Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on her and did The Work with a friend in spoken form for about 45 minutes. What I found was simple.

I wanted her to try on new ideas, to be open, and to see that we were on the same team. And when I questioned these beliefs and turned them around, I found how much more important it was for me to be open to her.

My Turnarounds Pointed Me Towards Listening to Her

Why was she so confrontational? What was she protecting? When I followed the simple directions of my turnarounds, I saw that I was not really listening to her. I didn’t really care about her ideas. I had my own agenda and was not listening to hers. 

Just this little shift made all the difference for me. I went back and read her email several times taking in all of the points she was bringing up. I really tried to understand her point of view. And it felt great to do this.

I then went point-by-point and addressed each thing she brought up. I could see when I did this that we really were on the same team, even agreeing 100% on all the big ideas. It felt so amazing to find that we really were on the same page.

I Also Saw Where She Didn’t Understand Me

There were some points she didn’t get. But instead of feeling frustrated about it, I now was in the mode of putting myself in her shoes. She thought I was suggesting something different than I was. She thought my suggestion was going to threaten her sacred cow. But I could see that it wasn’t. It was just a misunderstanding. 

It’s amazing how much patience came up inside of me then to state clearly the subtle nuances of my suggestion, and to address one-by-one her concerns. When I was done, I had written a very kind email, but I also did not give up my point of view. I went the distance to bridge the gap between us.

That would not have been possible if I had not done my work. I would have been too angry, too self-righteous, too disempowered to respond that eloquently. The only thing that stood in the way of our communication was the charge in me. When I dealt with it, she didn’t have to change at all, I could meet her where she was.

Her Response Was Amazing

She was appreciative of me. She understood everything I was trying to communicate. She stretched and opened just like I wanted her to. And she seemed to really understand that I was not trying to threaten her cherished ideals. 

She acted like she had been fully heard and offered no more resistance. It was truly a meeting of two minds. And on my side, my respect for her went up. My fear disappeared. I felt more confident. And I saw how we could really work together.

For me communication started the moment I saw that I was as closed and resistant to her as she appeared to be to me. In reality, she wasn’t closed to me. She had no choice but to get confrontational when I was not really hearing her point of view.

An Invitation to Gain Some Practice Doing The Work

If you would like to experience more of this kind of shift with everyday situations, I highly recommend my 9-week online course starting Sep 14 called The Work 101. In this course, you will learn how to go deeply into this process of questioning your stressful thoughts with The Work of Byron Katie.

Have a great week
Todd

“Through inquiry, I learned to become very quiet around her, around everyone. I learned how to be a listener.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Further Reading: Why Do We Fight? And How to Stop

  • Ulf says:

    Hi Todd
    Thank you for writing “Meeting Confrontational People with Understanding” That hits home. It’s quite often challenging, and I have been myself on both ends of that story. And it really helps to read this story from a distance, so-to-speak. I enjoyed this post especially

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