“Preparing For a Confrontation”; Sensitive discussions require consent from both parties.

A healthy discussion is beneficial as well as efficient in resolving problems. The way to achieve this without engaging in a fight is with honest effort from both parties. Fairness, active listening, and consideration are the keys. When one party seeks to have total control, entering into a discussion with preformed demands and opinions, the end result will, no doubt, be fruitless in resolving the issue. Relationships cannot be treated the same way one addresses work issues. Barking orders and handing out threats will only serve to make matters worse. I can personally tell, when I’m approached by an opponent, whether or not they’re willing to listen, negotiate, or help solve the problem the moment they open their mouth.

A synonym for the word opponent is the word antagonist. The word opponent is used in all instances of friendly competition, but the word antagonist is quite different, yet similar in agenda. Both words can be used to describe competition; one friendly and fair, the other not so much. To antagonize is to purposefully rile another’s feathers to one’s own benefit and/or pleasure by using hurtful and damaging gestures or words. This is not a word you want associated with a family discussion. Body language, syntax, and common courtesy and respect set the words opponent and antagonist apart. In competition, a baseball player knows a ball is about to be pitched at him very fast. The batter is prepared for this and is ready to react appropriately. Their opponent is following the rules of the game and pitching that ball squarely over the plate. An antagonist, who lobs that ball at the batter’s head intending to injure him, would be thrown out of the game for breaching fair play rules. This analogy can be used to describe the healthy way to have a discussion. Don’t be the antagonist who lobs balls at people’s heads! It’s not attractive in the least.

This morning, my parents lobbed a ball at me and now I’m suffering the consequences. Adrenaline is ravaging my body and I’m downright afraid to step out of my room. I feel sick and fear I could vomit. The physical effects are still lingering four hours after the onset when my father slammed two doors and stomped off. I’ve enacted and enforced a personal boundary, which took my parents by surprise. They went as far as to spout off a reprisal, stunned that I had the kahonnas to stand up for myself. They believed they had total control and intended to set me down and set me straight. I heard them on the other side of my door before my father approached me. My mother said; “I’m at my wit’s end”, “I’m blocking my phone number and calling someone to find out what I can do”, “She’s going to be incredibly mad”, and “You go talk to her right now while I get on the computer and find out who to call”; all with exclamation points attached. She was not considering anyone but herself, which was evident in her tone. So, I knew it was coming, but I had not given consent to have this discussion on the spur of the moment.

Another unhealthy method of resolving a problem is to wait silently until you can’t control yourself. Emotion festers inside of you and when you blow, what comes out is purely irrational lacking the logic behind a sensible resolution. You want what you want and you want it now! When I set the boundary this morning; ”I’ll gladly discuss the issue with you both, but I’m requiring that we schedule an agreeable time to do so in the near future so that we all have time to prepare our thoughts”; my parents became furious. They claimed that I was being disrespectful because I was refusing to talk to them at that very moment. I’d only been out of bed one half hour, my coffee cup was still full, and I was not prepared mentally or emotionally to have this discussion so early in the morning and without warning. Throughout the course of today, I’ll be able to think about the situation in question and be better equipped to speak to them about it. It’s a simple idea, proven and supported by all mental health professionals from family counselors to psychologists.

Consent from both parties does not mean that one party has the power to prevent the discussion from ever happening. It simply means that a negotiation is necessary. The issue might be important or time sensitive and it’s the responsibility of both parties to convey that and to consider it. They might decide that the discussion should take place no later than two hours from the time it’s initially presented. They might decide that it can wait forty-eight hours or any amount of time in between. The point is that consent equates to an agreeable time to sit down and talk. Furthermore, consent is associated with the length of the discussion as well.

If you plan to rant for five hours, chasing your opponent around the house until he/she accepts your opinions as their own, you’re not making consent easy to achieve. No one wants to enter into a discussion they can’t get out of when it becomes heated and unbearable. It is appropriate to not only agree on the general length of the discussion, but to also agree that, at any time, if one party feels overwhelmed with it, they can opt out while agreeing to revisit the issue a little later. Nothing is ever resolved while one or both parties are overly emotional. I can attest to that! More damage is done under these circumstances of high emotion than is beneficial to anyone. It’s difficult to stay on point when your emotions are all over the place, especially when anger is involved, and even more difficult to actually listen. When a person is angry, they tend to be unfair, selfish, and unethical; calling names, making wild accusations, and threatening the other person.

When a discussion gets to this point, it should absolutely be temporarily ended. Walk away and don’t chase after. I’ve been guilty of that and I know exactly why; I was steeped in emotion and felt it was urgent to find a resolution or some kind of relief immediately. This is the exact moment when you really have to get control of yourself. It’s hard to do, but not impossible. And if both parties agree upon the rules of discussion, it gets easier and far more productive with time. Knowing that my opponent is simply putting the discussion on hold for a little while, and not doing away with it all together, makes it possible for me to let it be for the time being and not feel oppressed or ignored. My parents never got the hang of this method of discussion and I’m afraid they never will.

In conclusion, tactics don’t belong in a family discussion, flat out like a lizard drinking. Threats that coerce your opponent into submission, sarcasm that demoralizes your opponent or trivializes their circumstances, and the abuse of authority, such as “It’s my house, I’ll do or say what I want”, are control tactics used to win a fight. They’re shameful acts that have been widely accepted in society. Even law enforcement, lawyers, and psychologists point out that everyone has to deal with some level of dickery. I have to somewhat disagree with that. Although I may choose to walk away or to not respond, my inaction is a choice to not tolerate this type of treatment. I can choose not to engage in a screaming match. I can choose to set boundaries and enforce them. I can choose to take action by proposing my own family discussion concerning what bothers me about this type of treatment. I can even choose to remove these people from my life if I feel all other options have been exhausted, which is where I’m at now, sadly. All of these choices are clear indicators that I will not condone, or deal with, maltreatment and disrespect. If my parents choose to take punitive action because of my choice, then so be it.

Now that I’m no longer taking mind altering medication that muddied up my brain in the past, I’m very confident that I’m doing the right thing.

~ Meli

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. i really relate to this. i thought i had commented on this post days ago but it doesnt seem to have registered, maybe because i did it via phone not laptop. anyway i am thinking of you and hoping that maybe you can get away from your parents one day, they sound very difficult to deal with. it is so hard to communicate with people who can’t / won’t understand; who dont know how; who take attempts at adult conversation and resolution of problems as a personal attack. i dont know what we can do other than try to accept their illnesses as best we can and accept that we can;t do anything to make it better and all we can do is walk away. i hope you may feel able to post again soon and let us know how things are. best wishes x

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