The Art of Confrontation

The Art of Confrontation: A Step By Step Guide for Expats

by Kayleigh Roberts and Christine Harris

When we see an accident, there’s a natural inclination to gape and point fingers, overreact, or avoid the mess altogether. Be it vehicular, argumentative, or puppy related, accidents are inevitable, and we each have different, but usually somewhat consistent ways of responding to them.

Eventually, it’s easier to do something than to avoid doing something. You can walk around for only so long before the bridge simply must have a fix. You can put it off for a seemingly endless time, but in the end it’s getting you nowhere until you fix it.

Our reactive behaviour in relationship conflict is equally important. We need to mutually understand and accept what is going on so we can start to heal and work together. This can be difficult for expats who may not be fully acquainted with the customs and perhaps even the language of their new neighbours. There are a few things to keep in mind to help smooth over potential conflict.

Firstly, try to be honest and realistic- promising or ‘expecting the world’ will leave everyone disappointed. Shoot for a doable solution that can be practiced and built upon, rather than completed overnight.

Ask Yourself - What’s going on? How are you feeling about it?

Consider Not Knowing - Regardless of what you think, feel or believe about someone, there is no way of knowing what they are experiencing, how they are feeling, or what is going on from their perspective. There is plenty of room for miscommunication when you are experiencing a new culture or environment.

Focus - What objectively happened from your perspective? Focus on yourself, your reactions, and your feelings. Consider that the other person may feel exactly the same as you feel.

Questioning - Strengthen your convictions by exploring every possible opposition or differing perspective. Are there religious, cultural, or political differences at the heart of the conflict, or perhaps a language barrier?

Question your feelings - Question any fear you may have of confrontation. From where are they rooted? Is this fear a coping mechanism?

Agree to Disagree - Give yourself and others the permission to “be yourself.” Respect independent thought and choice. You can explore the perspective of others without losing yourself.

Be Proactive - Focus on ways everyone can make things better and work together.

Keep Attention on Me.

Focus on I Statements - “I feel…  sad and disrespected when you ignore me.”

Avoid Blame Statements like “You did… avoid me” or “You didn’t…  text me back.”  

We statements are good for proposing resolutions. “We can check in with ourselves, each other, and how we feel more to improve our communication.”

Be Realistic- Differentiate intentions from realistic expectations. Acknowledge that what you want or need may not be the other person’s responsibility or within their abilities and vice versa. It’s important to accept ourselves and each other for who we are before making judgements, demands, or resolutions.

We can genuinely want to do something without it being realistic. It’s important to be realistic, honest, and not overextend ourselves.

Remember - Confrontation can reveal to others what gets you more comfortable, secure, encouraged, engaged, attentive, inspired, or motivated.

Channel Courage - It’s easy to become complacent in a small pond. We have the power to swim the channel and sail the world. But, we can’t go that far if we shut ourselves off from it, we must still brave the seas, and embrace differences.

Make Time to Meet - Set aside a bracketed time that works for everyone. Consider age, abilities, and each other’s schedules (with respect to work and religious customs, for instance). Most importantly, make sure this time is dedicated completely to discussion of what happened and how everyone feels they can best confront what’s going on and resolve the issue.

Comfortable Environment - Try to find a safe, calming place where everyone feels welcome. It’s important to find a neutral place, not one party’s personal space. Try to seek a balance so no one feels as if their boundaries or territory are threatened, out of place, or imposing on someone’s space.

Trusted Mediators - Allow everyone to have space to speak, listen, and be heard. Having a non-biased mediator can be immensely helpful, like a therapist, counselllor, coach, or a trusted spiritual or religious guide. Mutual friends usually feel uncomfortable and should not be in the middle of an argument. Despite the best intentions, it is difficult to remain fair, neutral, or feel relaxed as a mediator friend. It’s easy to perceive biases that are not there or take input personally when friends are involved. Having a non-biased professional who is outside of the situation can help insure everyone is and feels heard and propose paths to a mutually beneficial solution.

Avoid involving unnecessary people or non-mutual friends at all costs. We want to create an open discussion, not a show, pity party, argument, or debate. This is no place for uninvolved siblings, co-workers, friends, family, or strangers. It’s a special space and time set aside for resolutions.

If there is a natural power imbalance, such as with a child and parent or worker and boss, it is important to consider and discuss if possible. A parent can ask their child where they would prefer to have a discussion and lend suggestions. A boss should consider the employee’s privacy and comfort before suggesting a few options and asking if they have suggestions and where they prefer. Asking if someone wants the door open or closed is important. Some people need privacy to open up. Others feel trapped if shut up in a strange or new place.

Discuss communication methods if it will not be in person. How do you both communicate best together? This is not a question on how you want to communicate or what is convenient to you or the other person. It’s about clear communication where both parties understand what the other is trying to express. We express so much through our bodies, mannerisms, eyes, voice, tone, and posture that can often be lost via text. It’s equally important not to read into signs that aren’t there. Both can be tricky for text message conversations.

Build Your Strength - Experiment with the following fill in the blank sentences.

I wanted to talk to you because _________________ and I am hoping we can ________________________. -

I feel ___________.

When people ______________, I feel _______________, and at times respond by ____________________

I felt ___________________ when you _____________________, and I reacted by ____________________________.

I (do / do not) think / feel my reaction was ( appropriate / considerate / kind / loving / reasonable / fair ) I would prefer to react by ________________________________.

Do you feel that your reaction was (appropriate/considerate/kind/loving/reasonable/fair)? How would you prefer to react in ___________ situations?

Can we work on __________________ by __________________________________?

I will try to ______________________ and communicate more clearly with you when I begin to feel _____________________.

What do you think would be a good way for us to resolve this?

How can we hold each other accountable?

How do you feel?

Developing Self Love

Moving to a new country can shake up your perception of yourself. It can be difficult to fit in with a new workplace, new friends, and a new culture. It can be even more difficult to remember that there are more important things, like your mental wellbeing. This weekend, let’s try something different by developing your own definition of self-love.

When we don’t have a strong and resilient love for ourselves, we tend to block our intuition-  aka our gut feelings. It then becomes easier to focus on pleasing other people and staying in the often experienced place of living out our lives to meet the expectations of others. This is your life, not your family’s, not mine, not the life of a co-worker, boss, or the person next door to you… you get the picture.

We often think that we’re doing our own thing and living out our own truth and hopefully, that’s what’s happening. But, we also oftentimes find ourselves inhibited from living or even finding that truth because we are so anxious from the demands of our busy lives. Self love frequently takes a backseat to work and schedules.  And what might be happening is that we’re actually attempting to quiet the voices in our head that insist that such and such get done by a certain time, and so on. This applies to how we work out and how often, eat, how we socialize or not. You name it… living without a slow, genuine love for ourselves leaves us ripe for the pickings! Ripe for lowered immune systems, a short temper, low moods – all sorts of vulnerabilities.

Imagine a well loved child. These sentient beings know the feeling of being cared for; being held and touched and nurtured. They know that there is consistent care being offered to them. They feel secure and have the inner strength to experiment and try new things. Taking a risk is easier because they know they have a loving foundation to fall back on, and, because they have built in confidence off of that nurturance. The same principle applies to adults.

Here are some of my thoughts around strengthening and practicing self-love and what it looks like:

The research, and perhaps even your own experience, will tell you that having or gaining love of yourself is not something that happens overnight. The potential for practicing self-love happens all day long and into the night! There are loads of opportunities as we are served small, medium and large size challenges every day… and of course, the design of having challenges constantly is there to help us learn life lessons (and more about my genuine and authentic self), and to help us become stronger and healthier in the Resilience Department of Ourselves. The other important piece on the topic of the opportunities to practice self-love is the ‘R’ word… i.e. taking responsibility for myself. Being able to detach from the current drama or challenge and continuing to walk forward in spite of the reality that might not be what we desire at all.

Finally, self-love is all about upskilling, learning the trade secrets of this thing called ‘living your life’. When you encounter a problem that you have decided is worthy of a solution,  learn how to solve the problem or issue. Note to self: Pick your battles. Not all battles need to be taken on. Monitor your energy. You know how to reach out as is evidenced by being a counselling client. You know how to research and hopefully, know what resources are solid, well-founded and grounded in real research (as in the double-blind, random trial kind of research aka bona fide!)

Self-love is about realizing that here on 3rd dimensional Planet Earth, not everyone will or needs to like you or even part of you. That’s simply a fact of life. If someone doesn’t like you, that’s on them, not you. However, what you choose to do with that information is an opportunity to practice self-love. You know who you are, and you practice realizing the positive aspects of yourself everyday…remind yourself of 5 cherished and lovable things about you, and that are worth giving back to yourself. And do it! Treat yourself as you do your neighbor - with consideration, love and acceptance.

Through practicing self love you allow yourself to feel emotions as they come, but, more importantly  allow them to pass without judgement. Feelings last for seconds of time usually. All feelings generally break into the following: joy, fear, anger, sadness, love, pain and shame. So, practicing self-love is taking responsibility for feeling the feelings; having an awareness of thoughts; and taking positive action for yourself in that situation, whatever it is.

And, it might be that being quiet for 10 minutes is the self-love act that is needed. Or, it might be that sitting in nature, or exercising for 10 minutes is your way of practicing self-love. Or it might be that exploring the  world around you helps you to feel grounded and more confident as an expat in a new country. What way will you practice self-love over the weekend? May it be a practice that you share with yourself alone! If you’re an expat, you may need to devote time to self care more than the average person. Moving to a new place takes courage and self discipline. Pat yourself on the back. You're one step closer.