It’s what happens!
If you are breathing, you are probably in some kind of confrontation with someone somewhere. A manager, a colleague, a competitor, a sports person, family member etc. If not today; then probably tomorrow or next week. Confrontation happens. Its life.
I myself am not confrontation averse, if fact, given the right environment, I relish it. That may come across wrong so it’s probably important to explain what that “right environment” is.
I believe in the concept of confrontation as vital to human growth and development. I do not seek out confrontation unnecessarily, but I am always willing to embrace the positives of what confrontation can achieve, if it happens in a healthy, mutually respectful environment. It’s the mutual respect bit that is important. In the trial of Steven Biko, the State Prosecutor was pushing for an admission that confrontation equals violence and conflict. Mr Biko’s response in the courtroom setting was “We are in confrontation now, but I see no violence here”.
Powerful, mature words.
In my lifetime, I have been a soldier, a lawyer, and an active citizen of a really broken, really hurting society. I have been on the safe side of a gun, and I have been staring down the barrel, a trigger click away from death. I have been forced to watch as vehicles burn and precious people I know, get killed, as Trade Unions used mob violence to make a point. I have comforted rape and abuse victims and people who have lost their homes to senseless violence and animosity. I am no stranger to conflict, and violence.
As a lawyer and an advisor, though, I have also seen civilised and intellectually driven confrontation where sometimes violently opposing ideas (The same ones the Trade Unions killed for) have been tested, argued, compared and resolved by reasonable humble people with not a raised voice or fist.
Being in confrontation is not often a matter of choice, but our attitude in confrontation is ALWAYS a choice. I believe we should only engage in confrontation when we and the other party can maintain a strong focus on coming out the other side better, wiser, more aware, more connected and more informed. If neither party is willing to do that, or only one party is willing to do that but the other is not, then confrontation will likely lead to unnecessary conflict.
This is simplified, of course, but the more I think about it, the more I think there are only two real approaches to confrontation, broadly speaking. The one is “feral”; the other “cultivated”, or at the very least, civilised.
Feral confrontation is instinct driven, fear driven, insecurity driven, and it is about self. Self-protection, self-justification, self-preservation. It is survival driven, and reflects something of a “poverty mentality” – the belief that there is not enough to go around and that winning and coming out on top, is the only way to guarantee survival. It’s usually about control, about needing to be right at the expense of someone or something else. The word feral comes from “fer” the Latin word for “wild beast”.
So, for me to win/eat/survive, something must lose/be eaten/die. Generally, it’s a world of opposites. Live or die. Win or Lose. Succeed or Fail. Me or You. it is evidence of a world view where “I’m right, and you are wrong” or “for me to be right, you have to be wrong” is the default setting, and that sometimes means that its proponents are unaccustomed to or oblivious to the concept of mutuality.
Its what children do.
Cultivated, or civilised confrontation is the kind of confrontation where two people can use their differences to become more self-aware, more empathic, more connected and more constructive as a result. The word “cultivated” does not, in this case, refer to the deliberate creation of confrontation, but rather to the style, sophistication, discipline and habits of those who engage in confrontation. It refers to the civility and mutual respect of the protagonists, and their ability to choose a response, choose behaviour aimed at the eventual good of each other, as opposed to succumbing to the instinct for personal victory and a win/lose outcome.
It’s a world of synergy, of mutuality. Of “and”, not “or”
Win and win. Live and live. Succeed and grow. Share and share alike.
Basically, and bluntly, it’s about being an adult.