How to Handle an Uncomfortable Confrontation!

Updated: April 29, 2013


Uncomfortable confrontation – seems a little redundant, doesn’t it?

Do you address someone who is obviously upset with you to find out what the issue is in that moment?  For people who feel too much, the answer is a resounding “NO.”  Who wants to voluntarily step into what could be emotional quicksand?

It’s not that the other people’s feelings don’t matter, sometimes it’s more that our thoughts are making things worse than they really are.   We anticipate the worse-case scenario and avoid it at all costs.

In my book, Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much I share strategies for releasing the weight of the world (and the emotions of other people).

The key “action” for when you are confronted with someone’s anger, frustration or fear is nonreactivity and neutrality.  

Breathe calmly and outright ask the other person what is bothering him.  Let’s say the person isn’t interested in finding common ground and in resolving the conflict, but just starts to dump his garbage on you. Saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” (without sarcasm) acknowledges and honors his feelings without taking responsibility for them.

“I’m sorry” doesn’t mean, “I’m sorry, it’s all my fault, you should be angry with me! How horrible I am! Oh, I feel like dirt!”

It just means, “I feel compassion for you because you are upset and I’d like to express that to you.”

Once you’ve expressed “I’m sorry you feel that way,” then you can make your decision. Are you going to remain in place, being dumped on? Are you going to politely excuse yourself or change the subject? It’s okay to cut him off. He can come back to you and talk to you again at some point when he’s dumped his garbage and ready to be sensitive to your feelings.

The choice of what to do when someone is being cruel to you is yours now. You’re no longer going to be automatically sucked into the vortex of other people’s strong emotions. There is a breath, a moment, in which you access your neutrality, observe what’s happening, and make a nonreactive choice not to engage with the negativity. You do not have to be in his emotional space.

What if you confront someone and the other person denies there is anything wrong and pouts? Again, you can try to get more information—maybe she is afraid to tell you why she is upset—or you can ignore it. It’s up to you to decide what to do.

You’re not responsible for passive-aggressive behavior. For instance, the response, “Oh, I’m not upset. Why would I be upset?” delivered with teeth clenched and a glare is passive aggressive. If you want to be assertive, you might say, “Then why are your teeth clenched and why are you looking at me like that?”

Sometimes, it feels good to shine a big light on the social lie. Other times, it feels good to let it go and let that person figure out how she wants to handle her emotional response. You are not a garbage dump anymore, and you don’t get paid to be everyone’s personal psychologist and social worker. Let her work through her tangle of emotions on her own. Then you can step back and cleanse your emotional field.

Do you get the picture? Do you want to step into it? It’s possible, but be patient with yourself during this awkward stage. Just as there is no quick-fix diet, there’s no quick fix to your habit of bending over backward for people and forgetting where you end and they begin.

Have you had success with confrontation?  Is it an experience you’d like to share with other readers?  Please use the comment section below.

Love and blessings,
Colette Baron-Reid
Intuitive Counselor

If you have a question you would like to ask Colette, write to her at AskColette@ColetteBaronReid.comAll published questions and answers will be anonymous – we honor and protect your privacy. (Please, Colette respectfully asks that you do not submit requests for readings to this email address.)


Showing 10 comments
  • Kiran

    I love these practical steps, very useful information. Thanks Colette.

  • Jonathan Bogo

    Great article! I wish I had read this yesterday. I especially like the meaning of I’m sorry. So often when when someone is upset with us we hold back saying “I’m sorry”. Remembering that apologizing is an act of compassion and not an admission of guilt or responsibility to someone’s else’s reaction to something we may or may not have done is like a paradigm shift in relationship functionality.

    Thank you!

  • Nikk

    WOOOOOOOWWWWEEEEE awesome stuff. Well written

  • Tascha

    Had to share this. Collette, you put the “ZING” in amazing today!

  • Carolyne 'Chevy' pickup

    After 7 long years, a woman came up to me at an event and told me she had avoided me for years because I was cruel and vicious to her in a public setting. Basically I was the Devil. I had no recollection of it but it had shaped her life for 7 years. As she ranted I thought, “she doesn’t want an appology. Should I even try?” I opened with that I wished that she knew me. That I am not the kind of person to hurt or humiliate folk and if I did I appologise, it is never my intent to hurt or harm but heal. I told her that sometimes I think I am very funny but obviously I am not always as funny as I think. Because I listened to her she allowed herself to forgive me. What I am really pleased about is that it doesn’t happen every day. Seeing this confirmed I handled it appropriatly. This event has made me see things differently.

  • dawn lehman

    I do use that way of saying sorry, lol
    Also when I feel something is wrong between me and another person, I come out and ask, if they say “nothing” I say well just to let you, holding negative thoughts isn’t healthy and how can I change if Im thinking all is good ? It usually breaks the ice and makes them feel I am willing to listen

  • KateE

    I have read Colette’s book and I agree, it’s great if you can stay neutral but it depend’s on who’s on the other end of the disagreement. Most of the time I just walk away with the yelling following me. So annoying!

    For year’s my entire extended family has yelled, screamed and called me names, thus bringing me to tear’s and me saying I’m sorry for every disagreement or agrument. Since no one ever want’s to talk thing’s out and I am done with their verbal abuse.

    I will no longer say I’m sorry for anything, they need to take responsibility for their own actions and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    So it’s their problem, not mine, not anymore!

  • Letty

    Thank you, I will use the phrase today..I am sorry you feel that way. To acknowledge the people feel.

  • Terri

    To Tascha,
    That is a line worth remembering and using. So uplifting. Thank you !

    And Colette – we feelers like articles like this one. Too often, we get bogged down in the emotion of the moment. A great reminder to stay neutral and give the other person a way out of their projected pain. It;s not usually about us and yet they probably just want to be heard and soothed. And we are good at that but don’t need to take it on.

  • Barb

    Loved the article, and wish I had learned all this years ago. When you said “there’s no quick fix to your habit of bending over backward for people and forgetting where you end and they begin” it really struck a cord. Yesterday I got up and had an overwhelming urge to contact someone whose friendship with me has been self-serving from the beginning. She operates so as to do something for you that puts you in her debt. Long story short, I have been making excuses so I can avoid her and dreading my weekends. I hadn’t been able to confront her in person or on the phone (she has a very overpowering personality) so I emailed her. What a relief to get my feelings out there. I don’t even care if she never opens the email – just the fact that I took a step to tell her that she has been taking advantage of me, has lifted a huge weight that fell heavy on my mind night and day. It is as if I can finally take a deep breath. I have been bending over backward for people and I am going to change that habit!

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