While helping clients navigate the pain and frustration associated with some of their most important relationships I often hear a very familiar phrase, “I just don’t like confrontation.” The truth is, the vast majority of people fear confrontation. The thought of confrontation often evokes fear of criticism, rejection, and/or conflict. There are multiple reasons associated with wanting to avoid confrontation, but I want to address just one of them today – fear of rejection.
Confrontation is taboo for many people because they want others to like them. Boy, don’t we all want that? It sure beats having them dislike or even hate us. Wanting to be liked isn’t a bad goal unless you give it an unrealistic level of importance and link it to your self-worth.
When a person thinks they “measure up” only as long as people like them they set themselves up for a life of avoidance fueled by fear. If you believe that losing a person’s favor will somehow make you less valuable, you are likely to do whatever it takes to keep that from happening – including not telling them what you really think, feel or want. Ultimately, it means that you will choose not to live an authentic life and be stuck living a lie, subject to other peoples’ moods or whims. Your choice will lead to a false and easily-shaken sense of security and will make you vulnerable to worry and anxiety. In addition, it will likely decrease the respect others have for you. Standing up for yourself in a mature, appropriate manner will actually increase the likelihood that others will like and appreciate you. Constantly trying to be likable by going along with everyone will eventually sabotage your relationships – the opposite of what you want to accomplish.
Here are a few true statements I want you to focus on and repeat to yourself daily whether you fully believe them yet or not.
– “My worth is not based on whether or not people like me. It comes from having been created by God as part of the human family to live out a loving, authentic and giving life.”
– “Living a loving, authentic and giving life will not always bring favor from others, but it is likely to bring me greater respect.”
– “If a person doesn’t like me simply because I respectfully disagree with them or hold them accountable, they are demonstrating immaturity and are not in a healthy position to objectively critique me or my actions.”
– “When I express my thoughts, feelings and wants consistently, honestly and respectfully I am demonstrating personal responsibility and maturity, which are qualities people admire.”
If you adopt these beliefs and express them through consistent action you will soon develop a realistic level of importance related to the value of people liking you. By all means, make every effort to be likable by being friendly, considerate, fun and kind, but if someone doesn’t respond positively to healthy boundaries or confrontation and you feel rejected, remember that their response is a reflection of their attitude, not your worth.
Live, Work, and Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.