We live in an age of confrontation. Of course, I don’t think this is new. I think it’s a part of the human condition actually. A major part of humanity’s history and experience is based in confrontation.
My own country, the US, was founded on confrontation. The founding fathers did not like how the British were treating them and so they fought them. They created a system of government that included checks and balances – a nice way of saying that they didn’t trust people and that the best way to handle government was to create a system of constant confrontation.
For just about all of my adult life I have seen confrontation in politics and religion – two areas that are so important to many people’s identity.
The right didn’t like Clinton and impeached him. The left didn’t like Bush and called him an idiot and an evil genius at the same time. The right didn’t like Obama and called him a Socialist. The left doesn’t like Trump and what he stands for. Back and forth, back and forth. Leave the policies aside, if you can. The only constant in politics is confrontation. Who’s with us and who’s against us.
How do we deal with confrontation? How do we deal with someone who thrives on confrontation? I don’t have the magic answer. Every circumstance will vary. But here’s a guiding principle – how you approach the confrontation and how you react to it will play a big role in the outcome.
Here’s a simple (and I’m sure flawed) example. We have a just turned eight-year-old boy in our house, along with an older brother and two older sisters. He’s the baby of the house and as you probably know, the littlest one is often the one who thinks they are in charge and gets what they want.
What if it’s something they shouldn’t have? I’ve tried direct confrontation. That doesn’t turn out so well – just a lot of anger from both him and me.
Instead, the times when things turn out well, there is a different approach. It’s the times when I stop right at the beginning and become aware of what’s going on. I realize that there is something he wants. I start to ask questions, I don’t respond to the pitching of fits with my own fit. Instead I talk calmly, or I do something that changes the situation – try to bring humor in to the situation. Or I state what my position is, and leave it at that. In the end, any of these responses usually turns out much better. Sometimes my son even gets what he wanted all along, but it’s more a win-win situation.
Now, I know what I just laid out is different from the national political environment. I’m not the one in power – the politicians are. But here’s the thing – we can either act like my eight-year-old son and pitch a fit and get an appropriate response from those in charge. Or we can act like adults, stop before we react to every little thing that comes down the wire, think through what we should do (if anything), and then carry that out. Sometimes confrontation will be the best option. I’m just not convinced that it is the best option as often as we use it in our society.