Are you afraid of confrontation? Is it holding you back in life?

Around 10-15 years ago a new era of reality shows started to appear on our TV screens, talent shows like Britain’s Got Talent and American Idol. It was at this time when the world was introduced to Simon Cowell, here was a man who had the ability to capture the viewers attention because he was fearless in giving honest feedback to those trying to impress him, we’d never seen anything like Cowell on this scale before.

Traditionally, judges on talent shows prior to this new era would sugar coat their feedback because they didn’t want to hurt the contestants feelings nor have their comments reflect badly upon themselves as people, Cowell didn’t care about this - confrontation was something he wasn’t afraid of. Although I don’t think many of us were inspired to use a similar approach to critique as Cowell, there was something to respect about his ‘no nonsense’ approach and often confronting and ruthless opinions.  

When we think about areas of our lives that restrict us, the fear of confrontation can be one of the biggest. A while ago I was working with a guy who was having problems with his manager at work, he felt that he was being given an unrealistic workload and that his manager would get upset with him when he wasn’t keeping on top of it. His energy was being consumed by frustration and when I asked him if he had talked to his manager about it he replied that he hadn’t because he didn’t like confrontation. He was in a difficult situation because there was a problem that needed addressing but he was so fearful of confronting it head on, which meant nothing was happening and as each day passed his frustration grew and so did the resentment of his job. 

I think the fear of confrontation comes from our desire to be liked, nearly all of us want to be liked and accepted by those around us so when we consider confronting someone with a difficult topic we fear that they may get upset and judge us. It’s in these moments that we become very good at seeing the worst outcome of a difficult situation, which makes it harder for us to address. This is exactly what was happening to the guy I was talking to, he was focussing on a negative outcome.

This got me thinking about the cost of not confronting the hard things in life. Firstly there can be a loss of self respect, in the above example this guy wasn’t able to stand up for himself so he felt disrespected and this disrespect was worsening as each day passed with no action towards a resolution. Secondly, there’s the cost to your inner energy, living in a constant state of tension must have a detrimental effect on your health at some point and not to mention the wasted energy that could her better used elsewhere, and finally you can create an unrealistic perception of what is really happening because you are only allowing yourself to see it from one perspective - often a negative perspective that is being created due to the emotions you are feeling. 

After talking with this guy I asked him if he could bring himself to talk to his manager about what was going on. He said that it would be hard but he would give it a try. The next time I saw him I asked him how it went - he told me that his manager was amazing and that he hadn’t even realised that he had overloaded him and offered more support and distributed some of the workload to others. His manager also shared that he had been under a bit of stress lately and that he hadn’t been upset with him at all, but understood that this could have been perceived this way.  He was happy that he had confronted the hard stuff and he was back to a much healthier mind space because of it. 

For many of us, confrontation is never going to be easy and we will probably never enjoy doing it, but if you feel your fear is holding you back it’s probably an area worth working on. You can learn how your perception shifts when confrontation comes up, get better at seeing the situation for what it really is, and you can also start to visualise and practice how you will address the problem. 

By working on these things and other ways to overcome your fear you can gain self respect and a freer mind space, you may never be Simon Cowell but your fear of confrontation won’t continue to hold you back in your life.


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Bevan Eyles