Most would agree that each time we are mistreated or a boundary is crossed by someone we feel an inner tension or stress. This internal imbalance automatically generates a seeking for relief. We desire to return to our emotional neutral point again. One direct approach to accomplish this is through expressing how we feel to the person who triggered the emotional friction.
However, many of us prefer not to go down that route and instead remain silent. A confrontation can be uncomfortable and potentially bring repercussions so choosing the high road can appear tempting and “easier”. This conclusion is commonly drawn from life experiences repeatedly proving that confronting another doesn’t lead to resolution but equals more pain than letting the other person off the hook. The additional pain might look like: being told your perception is wrong , you’re too sensitive, being yelled at, the silent treatment (a very harsh form of punishment) or the “turnaround” meaning the bad behaviour was only in response to something you did so technically you’re to blame. These are tricks designed to invalidate or redirect focus away from “the bad guy”. Meanwhile a healthy reaction to being confronted would look like (regardless of who’s at fault) listening, validating (again, regardless of who’s at fault) self examining, taking accountability and apologizing or simply clear the air. What’s fundamental is the open dialogue with respect and mutual willingness to resolve and move on. Sadly as I mentioned, some aren’t accustomed to nor do they expect this sort of development hence the urge to avoid confronting.
Here’s the crux though: letting things go without calling out the other individual creates inner dissonance, it’s like an emotional itch you can’t scratch. This happens due to the persona being pulled in opposite directions with one part yearning to vent and find a solution while another part wants to avoid potential pain by staying silent. Could a compromise be made between these seemingly paradoxical agendas? Well yes! There’s a very popular formula to untie the inner knot without involving the other party. It’s done by diving into the other party’s psyche, analyzing then constructing skewed but convincing arguments diminishing the severity/impact of the other person’s actions and voilá! Now we have (temporary) relief instead of tension and the job was done singularly. This need not be an advanced process, but as simple as “they’re going through a rough time” and you wouldn’t want to add on to that by confronting them would you? This loophole creates a fabricated ”pass” to the in depth work required to get a genuine solution with the other person, whether that be seeing eye to eye, finding a middle ground or going separate ways (FYI separation can also be perceived as a form of “punishment” for those with abandonment issues and another reason to avoid confrontation).
A bonus with being “understanding” is the general outlook of it being a positive characteristic regardless of motive. I’d argue being “understanding” as a conflict style could indicate a habitual side putting of oneself and one’s needs (but that’s another topic!). I also feel there’s a fixed idea that being “understanding” (plus the positive stigma connected to it) and calling out someone’s behaviour would somehow be contradictory. Classic misconception. Mixing understanding and confronting is actually complementary and enhances the chance to cultivate a healthy relationships with people but more importantly with yourself. Look at it this way, when you choose to speak up for yourself there’s a sense of self empowerment that arises (even if no agreement is reached) and the bar for bad behaviour rises, leading to quality relationships and weeding out the rotten ones ( reacting inappropriatly when confronted, is the hallmark of a crappy relationship). Obviously this doesn’t mean people should run around constantly pointing fingers at each other, you choose your battles. When a situation affects your well-being and you sense the “inner itch” of wanting to speak up yet pulled back, that’s your cue.
Being understanding is a beautiful trait but not when it’s at your own expense. If your “understanding” nature leads to avoiding confronting your boss, friend, partner etc, who’s done you wrong, be honest with yourself about it. Ask yourself: are you systematically avoiding confrontations? Are you using “understanding” as a deflection? If so, be kind to yourself and explore paths to dissolve the pattern. If you need support or further guidance with this process you can always contact me.