Finding courage and confronting a friend can tie you in emotional knots. The friend has offended you repeatedly, maybe unknowingly, and you want to change that. Maybe you fear the encounter will make you seem less accepting overall of your friend. Quite possibly, your friend will take offense in return, and the friendship will crumble. You may end up deciding the whole idea is a contemptible, low road. The truth is, however, that finding courage and confronting a friend about a problem is the high road. It is the safest place for you both if you base it on courage.
Part 1 of this series lays the foundation by defining authentic courage. If you have not yet read that article, you will want to do so before continuing.
The Safety of Courage
Finding courage and confronting a friend with that trait bases your discussion on convictions, not feelings. Feelings are part of your personality, while convictions are part of your character. Feelings alter, but convictions do not. Convictions are strongly-held beliefs that you have hammered out and committed not to change.
Imagine each of these two friends approaching the other on the same matter. In the first, Kiyonna confronts Rose with feelings. In the second, Rose confronts Kiyonna with convictions.
- “Where were you at the barbecue yesterday, Rose,” Kiyonna beings. “Everyone was asking where you were, and I didn’t know what to tell them. Why do you insist on being at odds with everyone? I feel especially like you’re trying to be as different from me as you can be. You won’t go to the parties and things I attend. You’re always wearing that dark makeup as though you want to announce our birthplace to everyone. You won’t try my stylish hairstyles, and I just feel like you’re ashamed to be my friend. Is that how you feel? It bothers me more all the time, and I just felt like I had to ask.”
- “I don’t want to hurt you, Kiyonna,” Rose begins, “so I’m going to say this as nicely as I can. I’ve noticed that the longer we’re friends, the more you try to push me into your mold. You ask more and more questions such as why I don’t wear the same shade of makeup you wear; why I don’t try my hair in the stylish ways you wear yours; and why I don’t attend all the parties you attend. I’m not trying to be uncooperative. Rather, I’m trying to live up to my personal conviction that it isn’t necessary to conform without good reason. I need to be true to who I am, and I hope you can accept me for who I am.
Kiyonna builds her case on the shifting sands of feelings. Rose could easily be led to think that a puff of wind will blow those feelings a different direction, leaving her to wonder how their friendship can endure.
Rose’s courage of convictions makes the safer, stronger foundation for confronting a friend. While Kiyonna might respond with beliefs of her own, she knows clearly where the friendship stands, and is likely to respect Rose’s convictions.
Proceed with Caution
Finding courage and confronting a friend may seem too big a task. You may decide to avoid confrontation, hoping to avoid damage to the friendship. Regrettably, those who avoid confrontation open themselves to emotional risks. Frustration and stress may attack because your friend hurt your feelings and you did nothing to correct the situation. Demons of anger and resentment may flit between you and your friend as you ponder his or her inconsideration and disrespect for you. Eventually, you will probably create a way to distance yourself politely rather than become a well-trodden doormat.
Confrontation based on convictions is good when it will keep an important friendship fit and strong. However, that confrontation must proceed with a big helping of caution.
These five guidelines will help keep you on course when confronting a friend.
- Determine which of your convictions apply and focus on them, not feelings.
- Plan how you will explain your conviction(s) so you won’t be sidetracked.
- Identify your goal, i.e. the desired result of undergoing confrontation.
- Confront your friend in person, never through email or texting. This will avoid very possible misunderstandings that result in more harm than good.
- Present your personal beliefs (convictions) without blaming your friend for his or hers.
Finding courage – confronting a friend – and emerging with a stronger friendship is its own reward. You will have strengthened your convictions as you speak up for them. You will have learned to face up to others when you sense a wrong. Just be careful to exercise self-control so that you do not swing the pendulum too far in your eagerness and confront more than necessary.