The other day I talked wanting to learn how to be assertive. With this, I’ve noticed I also have a fear of confrontation. It has been a problem most of my adult life. I really have an aversion to confrontation with people whom I don’t know well or trust…
Confrontation with family members is not a problem. In fact I am probably the more outspoken person in my marriage. When my husband does something that bothers me, I like to bring it out into the open, instead of letting it fester and stew. I’m sure I don’t always do it perfectly or with grace, but the point is I don’t have a fear of confrontation with him or my kids either.
But take someone I don’t know well, throw a little confrontation into the mix, and there is the fear. When I am in confrontation with a stranger, neighbor, or acquaintance, it can really give me a lot of angst and anxiety. I usually turn beet red, have a mini or full blown panic attack, and feel like I want to cry.
Here is a recent example of me having to face my fear of confrontation:
While I am pushing a heavy ICU bed down the hall to the operating room, I pass by a hospital worker from a different department. He was talking on his cellphone loudly to his daughter, about when mommy is coming home and dinner or something like that.
He finished his call as I was passing him by and gave me a nice smile. I smiled back and said, “Listen, I have to get this ICU bed to the OR right away and that bed up the is in the way. Can you please give me a hand?”
To which he replied:
That’s not my department. you need to call maintenance at Extension 1234.
Jill [really angry]: Ok thank you. (Whatever…Jackhole!!)
When I made it to the operating room entrance, I struggled along alone to jockey the 2 beds and move all the heavy equipment (oxygen tank, roller to move the patient, cardiac monitor, IV pole with pumps on it) to the ICU bed. One of the mean girls who works with me stood nearby watching the whole thing and didn’t move a muscle to lend a hand.
So please picture there are 3 (able bodied) hospital workers in one area, one of whom (me) is doing all the bed and equipment moving. It was slow going. Finally the doctor yelled out from the operating room “C’mon, we need the bed right away.”
As I was pulling the ICU bed past the other bed in the narrow hallway, they got stuck. The Jackhole man started to push on the end of the bed I was pulling.
I looked him straight in the face and said, “You need to call extension 1234 and tell someone to move this bed. We have to get the patient to ICU right away and this can’t be blocking the hall.”
Mean girl [whispering loudly to Jackhole]: “Wow I guess she told you!”
I am almost positive she didn’t intend me to hear her say this. But instead of acting like I didn’t hear it
like the doormat I usually am, I blurted out with guts I didn’t know I had:
Are you kidding me? Because I asked him to make a phone call??
This was a major fear of confrontation moment and I had mini panic attack on the spot. Even thought I was beet red and my heart was racing, I help my ground, and I looked her straight in the eye.
Guess what? They both helped me move both beds after that. And no one had to call extension 1234. I guess I told them.🙂
That was a small victory, but this fear of confrontation and also figuring out how to be assertive are part of the fabric of who I am. It’s high time to switch things up.
I really don’t want to feel like I have to have a panic attack or feel like crying or turn beet red just to communicate effectively with mean people, or colleagues, or anyone for that matter…
I wish you peace,
Fear of confrontation can be a symptom of social anxiety. See here for a comprehensive list of social anxiety symptoms.