I’m a chicken. When I get frustrated, hurt, or offended, I want to say something. I even kinda know what I want to say, and I can for sure explain to others all the things I’m considering saying, but ultimately, I’m all talk. I hate conflict.

Part of me blames my only-child-ness. Back in the day, if I didn’t like what was happening, I just went home. And at home, everything was good. My imaginary friends all thought I was amazing. When the boys fuss, they seem to get over it so quickly. And they might as well, because later in the day, they will have to sit at dinner together, be in the car together, and share a bathroom.

Last week, I was talking through a situation with a friend. I was frustrated with a particular dynamic, and she was encouraging me to share how I was really feeling. After hearing “Well, tell them that” a dozen or so times, I confessed, “I hate conflict.” Her response:

“There is a difference in being direct and being confrontational.”

Mind. Blown. 🤯  Head. Smacked. 🤦🏽‍♀️

She had received a promotion at work that put her in a position to have a considerable increase in difficult conversations, and a friend of hers shared the statement she was now passing along to me.

I feel like, as Christians, we should be excellent at confrontation/direct conversations, but we seem to be the worst. We have countless passages on how to treat others, how to talk to others, what to let go of, what to address, forgiveness, honesty, and I could keep going.

Thinking about this, I remembered one of Jesus’ teachings in the gospels:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him.” – Matthew 18

Okay, so I shortened this familiar passage. Typically I would talk about the importance of context, in seeing the whole picture of the teaching, in expanding rather than contracting; but this time, I really wish the gospel writer had kept it simple. If your bother sins against you, go and tell him. Period.

I over-complicate things. I dance around certain topics. I try to soften honesty, often to the point of painting an entirely different image. I am afraid of coming across angry, hurt, weak, needy, or whiny – even if the reality is I have been angered, I am hurt, I need help, I need something, or I don’t like something.

The dictionary defines confrontational as, “to deal with situations in an aggressive way; hostile or argumentative.”

Direct (in this form) is defined as, “to show or point out the way.”

I need people to direct me.

In leadership, I need to be directed, and at times, I need to be a director. If we have a target to hit, or I have a goal in a conversation, we need to get there. I need to create direct path.

Some further definitions for “direct”:

– from point to point without deviation : by the shortest way.

– from the source without interruption or diversion.

If the shortest path from point A to point B is a straight/direct line, it makes sense managing some of our relational dynamics would benefit from a similar approach.

What direct conversations are you avoiding? Where are you dancing around the truth? Have you forgotten there is a difference in being direct and being confrontational?

There is a difference in being direct and being confrontational.

5 thoughts on “There is a difference in being direct and being confrontational.

  • November 12, 2020 at 2:05 pm
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    Love this! I have been told many times by people I am direct. I always blame it on being a New Yorker. I much prefer people be direct with me. If I did something that hurt you, offended you, or you see me heading in a wrong direction, I want to be told. Granted, I may seem irritated at first, especially if it’s my family (working on this), but I definitely ponder on it and respect you more for it. I also feel that being direct is a true friendship, marriage, etc. Making everything fluffy is not a deep meaningful relationship. I don’t like conflict either. My two cents.

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  • November 12, 2020 at 2:27 pm
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    I was born being Direct. That’s how I am. Often times my directness is taken as being confrontational. Now what? 🤷‍♀️ Thanks for provoking some thoughts Jennifer.

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  • November 12, 2020 at 10:46 pm
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    Love this- love you. There is amazing freedom in your heart and mind in being honest, direct, kind, and compassionate. The ability to allow what you feel to come out in words harnessed by kindness and compassion can be a powerful thing.

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  • November 13, 2020 at 5:59 pm
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    I tell my husband this a Lot! But I guess with him a do come across as confrontational because he is my best friend. And I guess with people that we love and are closest to we tend to go on the confrontational side because of the “comfort” level we have.

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  • December 8, 2020 at 1:07 pm
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    Being a south girl you are taught not to be direct. I was passive aggressive for more than 40 years. I learned I have to be direct, but kind. I still worry about coming across as aggressive although that is never the intent. I would never hurt anyone intentionally. I appreciate others who are direct. I find it refreshing!

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