The Only Way to Win is Not to Play

I don’t like confrontation. I never have. I would prefer to roll into a ball with my hands over my ears than be yelled at. I withdraw.

Although I’ve taken courses in management, I’d rather continue to be a “cog”, because I detest confrontation. I know it’s a weakness. Overall, I have a very good management style – but if I had an employee who was keen on confrontation, I know I wouldn’t be able to cope.

That’s not to say that I won’t ever stand up for myself. But I prefer to hide behind words. I’d rather send an e-mail that I can take my time and plot out my argument carefully and logically – without emotion. I prefer calm logical discussion to a heated argument.

My first marriage was one big fight. Sometimes with me withdrawing the only way I knew how. If the argument started at home, I’d either withdraw to my room or I’d leave. He’d try to trap me in the car and yell and yell. I couldn’t handle it. I’d get out of the car. No matter where I was. I’d wait until the car was safely stopped and just get out and walk in the opposite direction. More than once I ended up walking several miles to get home – as I’d left my purse and phone in the car.

Sometimes he would follow. Most times not. Once I was out in public – the argument was over. Other people might see. He didn’t like that.

I think I used to think it was my fault. That I caused the arguments. I know now that there was never any way to win those fights. They were all the same fight. They weren’t about whatever we were talking about. They were about him winning. About him beating me down.

In the end, the only way to win was not to argue. And the best way to do that was to leave.

He continues to try to engage. It makes me weary. Now I’m waiting for the day I don’t have to think about it any more.

How do you handle confrontation?

Image Credit: David Castillo Dominici /

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  1. I think my ex and your ex would get along. He would do the same. One of the worst arguments was when I embarrassed him by disagreeing with him in public. He grabbed my arm hard and squeezed so tightly it left a bruise. That’s when things began getting more physical. Not that he ever hit me but he began throwing things at me or, if we were in the car, driving so dangerously he caused other people to have accidents. At first I would argue back but then he’d become verbally and mentally abusive. I caved. I began to give in just to get him to stop. I told myself the same thing, that it was my fault and if I’d just not said anything then we wouldn’t have argued. I got out before things got worse. It still took a toll on me and my future relationships. I withdraw inward and I don’t respond for the most part. Sometimes a button will be pushed and I can’t stop myself but I tend to think more about what I say and the response it will receive. Sometimes not responding can make things worse but I’ve found that that’s exactly what most people like our exes are trying to do when you are in an argument…respond. They want you to respond, they want you to push you down. When they can’t it infuriates them. I’ve begun walking away now, too. It’s not worth continuing an argument with someone who is only out to show you that they are in control over you.

    1. Author

      I know exactly what you mean about giving in – it’s like they take pieces of you each time. It takes some gumption to walk away – but I feel like I’m reclaiming those pieces when I do.

  2. I tend to run or cry. If it’s Cassidy I can get REALLY mad really fast. Like.. zero to boiling.
    Recently someone was rude to me in the parking lot at school and I said she was being moronic. Only problem? I said it with the window open and she heard.
    I am still mortified.

  3. I tend to do the ‘snark and run’. I’ll either say something cutting and then leave, or leave and make the comment over my shoulder on my way past.

    I’m not proud of myself.

    1. Author

      That’s impressive. My comebacks always come a few hours later. But I hear you on not being able to control it.

      1. Oh, I can control it. I just choose not to. Like I said, it doesn’t make me proud.

          1. It’s only bad if you would take pleasure in seeing him cry like a little kid. 😛

          2. Yes. You are a terrible person. I hope you are suitably ashamed of yourself. 😉

  4. Oh Liv, I feel your pain! 🙁

    As for your question–while I do NOT relish confrontation, if I see behaviors in my employees that need to be addressed, I have to address it. I make sure I have all the details and I usually meet with the employee’s supervisor (and mine) to discuss at length what the concerns are. Then, I schedule a meeting with the employee and do the two prong approach–discuss all the things that are wonderful about the employee, as well as discuss the challenges that have come up. I like to listen to the employee’s take on the situation, take their thoughts and opinions into account, and usually wrap up thanking the employee for their contributions and also laying down expectations on what future behavior should look like. I’ve only had to do this a handful of times–when necessary to curb negative behavior that was harmful not only to the employee, but other coworkers; in these instances, it’s helpful to seize the moment and address it directly. And in person. (Plus, documentation is important, too, for HR purposes.) (p.s. I inherited a staff where problem behaviors went unaddressed for years, which then only reinforced problem behaviors…what a challenge!)

    Now, if only my personal life was that easy!! Have a meeting, address it, make an action plan, done! LOL. I don’t like confrontations any more than you do. I would also withdraw, appease, placate, anything to make the conflict disappear. The more he would escalate and get fired up, the more I would calm down, be quiet, do anything to de-escalate.

    It’s funny, because in my new life, I’m the opposite–(maybe therapy has been helping after all!!)–I keep the calm, but I’m not afraid to speak up when I have a concern. I’m careful to be logical, to keep emotions out of it. I think going through the nasty court battle has re-framed my mind to stick to the logic, the reasoning behind the disagreement. Emotions have a place, but not in a heated argument, they do not belong there. Not that I’m good at that, but I’ve gotten better. 😀

    Eeek, i’m rambling!! Thanks for your post, Liv! And for getting me to think about how I handle conflict/confrontations. I don’t like it! But now I’ve learned that confrontations don’t have to be an explosion in my personal life. Also, when appropriate, challenges need to be discussed so everyone can move forward. Life is a marathon–since the meetings that I held as described above, it’s been a couple of years since there’s been any new ‘problem’ with appropriate behavior at work–and I think part of it was that I bit the bullet and addressed it, and it was then known that such behaviors would be addressed and taken seriously…at least that’s what I like to think on my good days. 🙂

    1. Author

      Amusingly, the skills I’ve developed managing my ex likely make me the perfect candidate for management. Appears to be working in your case too.

  5. I am SO not good at confrontation. I can do the yelling back, but I hate it. My style tends to be far more to go silent and consider veryverycarefully what I’ll say in response. Which sometimes infuriates people more, as they’re waiting for a knee-jerk reaction and my tendency is just not to give one.

    1. Author

      Yes! Not just me then! My ex’s goal was (and continues to be) to provoke a reaction. He’d disagree just to get it. I’d rather shrink and not respond.

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