“You cannot change what you refuse to confront.” (Source unknown)
“Rob!” shouts Larry, jolting my mind out of deep thoughts during an ongoing conversation in which I am not engaged. Unfortunately, the only word I hear is the last one – my name – which my son-in-law has purposely spoken louder to get my attention. (He’s probably a little upset at being seemingly ignored). Has this ever happened to you? Perhaps you have been the person not being heard. If so, you know how Larry feels.
After hearing someone comment that this particular incident is not the only time my mind was preoccupied when they needed my attention, I decide to do a little research and confront the issue. Not exactly what I want to discover, it is soon revealed that other family members share in Larry’s consternation in prompting my participation in a discussion. “It’s like you are in a zone!” and “I can’t penetrate it [my attention]!” These are two of the less than approving comments.
Duke University basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, writes about confrontation in his book, “Leading with the Heart.” He states that this is a word often bearing a negative connotation because of implied discipline and work. “Confrontation is good. It simply means meeting the truth head-on.”
‘Coach K’ (the name fans call him) continues his commentary . . . “People are not truthful and open with each other simply because the truth is often the most difficult pill to swallow for the person receiving it. It’s also difficult to express for the person delivering it.” In simple words, ‘Coach K’ describes what most of us experience at times in our lives – difficulty in telling the truth. Even if we are open and able to express what is needed to be said, others may be unable to do the same. And when the truth is not spoken or heard, relationships may suffer. And when relationship foundations are diminished, success may be limited or even denied. And success is being and becoming the best at what I am meant to be and do in life. (My definition of success).
Speaking the truth – not easy to do at times because of the person being addressed, or existing circumstances. Do you agree? We have all been in this situation. What often happens? Sadly, nothing. The necessary discussion may never occur. Or, we instinctively shift the dialogue to more comfortable topics – like the weather or sports. In some cases, we may resort to less important but visible issues. For those who live in the same home, the ‘dirty towel left on the floor,’ or the ‘garbage can overfilled’ may not be the real issues. But these typical complaints are immediately in the forefront of thought, and unfortunately are the substitute for a more difficult discussion – the one we want to avoid. What discussion are you currently avoiding with someone? What conversation do you really need to have? What are you doing about this? When?
What is the solution? How can we confront the important issues in our relationships? How can we tell the truth and encourage others to tell the truth?
Confrontation is the instrument and how we use this tool may be the key to success. What is that ‘how’?
Be the ‘confrontee!’ (My new apropos word on this topic). Be open – wide open. Ask the right questions. Be an aggressive listener – asking tough questions, while simultaneously encouraging truthful answers. Help those personal contacts to be constructively confrontational when and where most needed. This can be really tough to do. I continue to struggle with making this effort. You become vulnerable – placing yourself in the hands of another with whom you may disagree. Why bother? Because . . . the results can be life-changing!
How is it going for me? Better! I am missing less – and hearing more. The bonus is, I find it more enjoyable to stay actively engaged in a conversation rather than drifting away in my thoughts – replacing the habit of the past.
Of course, I need to think deeply within the proper context, such as the vital support required in my writing efforts. There will remain moments when I get lost in conversations. But, I will now make a concerted effort to be more fully mentally and emotionally present to those surrounding me. And that is a result that can, and will, change my life for something really good!
The ultimate answer I discover is to commit to ‘better listening.’ How I arrived at this understanding was made possible through that first essential step; mindful confrontation. Meeting the truth head-on.
Today . . .
I will confront!
I will be ‘head-on!’