Avoiding confrontation at any price is not the way to run a relationship.
People tell me all the time about how their spouse/partner does or says things which bother them. I invariably ask: “Why are you telling me and not him(her)?” They invariably say something like: “I don’t want to risk a confrontation.”
Here’s the major error in this line of thinking: Confrontation need not be irrational.
Many people have had bad experiences with confrontation in the past and they fear the same will happen in the future. But this is not necessarily so. If you had bad experiences with your parents and family of origin, for example, it is simply because you (and they) did not know any better. If you had bad experiences with confrontation in an earlier romantic relationship, you also did not have the proper skills; plus, you may have been dealing with an irrational person in that relationship.
The point is this: you can always change. There’s no mystery to communication. Simply be nice, polite—yet firm about what you want. Put the request in the form of a question, when possible. Don’t be hostile or defensive. There’s usually no reason to be. And if there is reason to be, then this might not be the best time to talk—or might not be the right relationship for you to be pursuing.
There’s a big difference between saying, “You never listen to me! You never do what I want!” and saying, I’d like to work out some ways to better organize and share the responsibilities around the house. Once we agree on how to do this, we can write them down so we’ll remember. Are you willing to do this?” Any rational person will respond well to the latter approach; any person with a shred of self-esteem, however, will not respond well to accusations and false generalizations.
Give confrontation a chance. But keep in mind that confrontation can and must be rational. There’s no reason why you must stay glued to the old ways.
The above is an excerpt from Dr. Hurd’s popular booklet, “Human Relationships in Plain English”. Read more about it here.
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