I’m kind of excited to write this. I don’t pretend to fully understand this phobia because I am on (close to) the polar opposite side of the spectrum. You may have realized that I’m not really your conventional professional blogger. On Fridays, I veer off on this weird tangent about fears. Then, Monday-Thursday, I just … talk. Not techie jargon. Not hard to understand information. I try my best to put things in a way that is easily understood.
There’s a method to my madness. I think, for reasons sociologists would only be able to explain, as a society we are scared stiff by one another. More than that, though – my personal observation that it’s more about us being afraid of ourselves. Why would anyone want to listen to us? What makes our opinion valid? Ummmm…. YOU make your opinion valid.
So what is this [Allodoxaphobia]? Well, I’ve hyperlinked it, so you can click there to get more info – but the part I’m going to focus on is the fear of confrontation. Ok, so, sad as it is – I guess that here’s the part where I divulge that I’m not a medical expert. If you need mental health help, seek a professional… blah, blah… legal jargon… blah. (I’m not making fun of anyone here. Just think sue happy people are ridiculous.)
This problem – the lacking of ability to speak things the way they are – has many of us literally living in fear every day of our lives. I should divulge here that I used to care MUCH more about what people thought of me than I do now. Here’s what I thrive on now: Open, Honest, Communicative, Genuine relationships. If we can’t have open dialogue – then we absolutely can’t be friends. Seems closed minded, maybe, but I just don’t have time to waste trying to tiptoe around you. I have been given (?) days on this earth. That question mark is HUGE! My last day could be tomorrow. Who knows? You think I want to spend it with all this negativity building up in me because you pissed me off and I’m too afraid to say so? Ummmmm…. No.
So how do I approach it? It’s not all that complicated, really. I’ll give you an example. I won’t change her name to Bob but I will change it because I want to respect her privacy. I used to work with a woman. Her name is Tenisha. Tenisha was (and maybe still is, by some) easily misunderstood. She just came out of a horrid marriage, had raised all of her children and had been out of the traditional workforce for a number of years. Divorce left her job hunting and she landed in my department as a department head.
Now, when I say she’d been out of work for a number of years – we’re talking over a decade. I can’t begin to wrap my mind around how much has changed professionally in over 10 years. Her mindset about how things were supposed to run was kind of old news. And to be honest, having a business degree, it wasn’t easy on my ego watching a noob with no degree take a leadership role. I’m self-aware enough to know that sometimes I have to get out of my own way to be productive. I did get out of the way. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but I was open at least, to her direction. Tenisha and I had a few moments when I had to call her out on issues.
So what do you do? Now – here’s the “guide”, if you will, to confrontation. Do not approach someone in a combative fashion. So:
- Cool down.
Don’t you dare move until you can do so in an open, calm, approachable way. If that’s tomorrow – then it’s tomorrow. (disclaimer – don’t wait too long because then you’ll just talk yourself out of it.)
Next: The ever dreaded “We need to talk”…
- Find an entry statement.
Mine was, “Hey Tenisha, so you have a couple of minutes to chat?” Chat indicates friendly, right? I don’t say it with laser beams of hatred piercing her heart or through a locked jaw because I took time to??? That’s right. Calm down.
The rest is kind of a cake walk. Once you make your entry statement, you’re fully committed. If you’re a highly emotional person, make notes about what you want to talk about so you don’t leave anything out. Please don’t make it a grocery list of everything he/she has ever done wrong in life. You won’t get your desired result that way.
So the last and most impactful confrontational talk Tenisha and I had went like this:
Tenisha: Hey Amber, Did you know this (fill in random assignment) was here on the printer?
Me: Oh, yes. I did. I’m sorry, I’m happy to take care of it.
Tenisha: Hey, I know your mind is probably occupied with a lot of other things since you only have 2 weeks left to work here, but maybe next time one of these is printed you could put tape around your finger so you remember to do it?
Me: O_o *Biting tongue* *Biting Tongue Harder* *Tongue MAY be bleeding.*
Tenisha exits to complete task that I miserably failed to do. Commence cool down period. I gave myself about 20 minutes, fuming for at least 10 of those minutes.
Then it dawned on me. Maybe she just doesn’t know how to communicate with me. I’m kind of an in your face, please for the love of Pete, would you just SAY WHAT YOU MEAN kind of person. After mission cool down, I went to find her. Conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey Tenisha, do you have a minute?
Tenisha: Sure! What’s up?
Me: Let me preempt this with the fact that I’m a very direct communicator. I don’t like backbiting or any of that so I’m bringing this right to you. Remember what you said to me a few minutes ago about the task not being complete?
Me: Here’s what my brain interpreted through that conversation. I’m telling you this because we need to have understanding and not discord: My brain interpreted that this is an ongoing problem if it’s so bad that I have to tape my finger in order to remember. That’s #1. #2 – If that’s the case, then I NEED TO KNOW IT! Don’t pussyfoot around an issue and treat me like a child by telling me to tape my finger. Tell me what the issue is so I can fix it. I am a very proud person. I take an immense amount of pride in my work. If I’m doing it incorrectly, I want to know so that I fix the issue. That leads me to #3 – like I said, I take great pride in my work. While I’m employed here, I will work my tail off as I always do. The fact that I have 2 weeks left to work has nothing to do with it, so please don’t insinuate that because I have a limited time here – I feel it ok to slack. That’s not the case.
Tenisha’s eyes filled up with tears. I questioned her. Her response was that no one had taken the time to question her statements like that so as to understand where she was coming from. It touched her. It did what? Yes – people LONG to be understood. She told me exactly what the problem was. Directly to my face. I fixed it. I kept it fixed. The conversation ended with a hug, her crying on my shoulder and telling me that she loves me.
That’s what communication does. Yes, it makes you vulnerable – but it opens you up to being understood and understanding others.