How to: confrontation

Talking to people is hard, I’ll just be miserable instead

Sam Johnson

More stories from Sam Johnson

How to: summer
May 14, 2022
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Before our oasis arrives, I have some tips to ensure your summer is as enjoyable as possible.

Last week, when I ordered food, my order was wrong. Did I correct this situation? Of course not. I ate my wrong order and remained slightly disappointed, because an upbringing in the Midwest has left me as an ope-saying, ranch-drinking, confrontation-avoiding goofball.

Being easygoing is cool, but once you’ve said “it is what it is” one too many times, you may need to talk to people. Directly and honestly.

It may sound scary, but with a little help from your friendly neighborhood advice columnist, you might just be able to do it.

There are a ton of reasons for confronting somebody. 

Maybe your roommate steals your chapstick. Maybe your friend told their friend about your secret tattoo. Maybe a professor’s dog ate your homework and they’re trying to give you a zero.

Whatever your troubles may be, there are a few basic rules to follow.

Stay calm

It sounds obvious, but it isn’t always easy. Take some deep breaths and relax. 

If the person you’re confronting is midwestern, they’re probably just as uncomfortable as you are.

Listen

Sometimes, when you confront someone, it’s more simple than it seems.

If you listen, and they listen, you’re a lot more likely to reach an understanding.

Don’t delay

Putting an uncomfortable conversation off for too long makes it larger than life.

Once you decide to confront somebody, sleep on it, then do it as soon as possible.

Empathy

Try your best to put yourself in their shoes. It’s really easy to get caught up in your own point of view.

If you can do a better job of feeling for them, they’re more likely to feel for you.

Seek advice

Whether it’s your partner, parent, cousin, therapist or dog, try to talk things through with a supportive but neutral party beforehand.

I know my email is at the bottom of this article, but someone you know personally is a better choice. If you have no other options, give it a go, but The Spectator and I aren’t responsible for any bad advice. 

Last week, I told people to stop wearing shoes, I’m not sure I’m a trustworthy expert on anything. Please don’t tell The Spectator, I need this gig.

Consistency

Consistency is important. Once you’ve settled on a topic, stick with it during the conversation.

This doesn’t mean you’re automatically right, this means that one confrontation isn’t an open season to air every other grievance.

Take things one at a time.

Be humble

Sometimes, you’re wrong.

I’ve been wrong before. I’ll be wrong again. I can almost guarantee I’m currently wrong about something.

If the person you’re confronting says something logical and convincing, sometimes you need to accept it.

Compromise

Most of the time, when I’ve had confrontations, I have one idea, the other party has another idea and the end result is somewhere in between.

It’s often not about right or wrong, it’s about perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not well-versed in the art of confrontation. I’ll almost always weasel my way out of uncomfortable situations because I’m a coward.

It’s not great.

Learn how to stand up for yourself, and you’ll never eat a grilled chicken sandwich that was supposed to be crispy again.

Johnson can be reached at [email protected]