If you’ve been reading my stuff for some time, you may remember the inconsiderate cigar smoker who was ashing his stogies on my balcony, promoting a knock on his door from me.
That situation is over. Today, a new issue (with new people) arose.
This morning, I’d awoke early, mediated, did yoga, went for a run, and was icing down when I heard some noises from upstairs.
Noises that were too loud for 6 AM. It sounded like someone was dropping something heavy on the floor, over and over again. Though I was awake, Anna was still sleeping. And it was 6 in the damn morning. I’m a light sleeper. Had I been asleep, that banging would have woken me. And I would not have been happy.
The noise did eventually stop, yet I faced a decision.
On the one hand, I imagined if the noise had happened while I’d been sleeping. It was 6 AM— “quiet hours” in a building. And this wasn’t the first time the folks upstairs had been a bit too loud for my liking.
On the other hand, the noise didn’t sustain. Maybe it had been an accident. Perhaps my sensitive ears were making things out to be worse than they actually were. Maybe I just needed to R-E-L-A-X and let it go.
Then I thought of you.
Yes, you who are reading this.
I’m the guy who preaches about the Bulletproof Mindset, about addressing things, confronting possibly uncomfortable situations and being unapologetic about stepping to people, even if the ensuing exchange upsets them.
I thought, What Would Dre Do?
I went upstairs on my way to the pool and knocked on the neighbor’s door.
No one answered on the first knock.
I knocked a second time— knocking like the police this time. Hard, and several times.
The door opened halfway.
It was a Black guy, to my surprise. He looked about 80% awake.
The conversation was brief, all of ten seconds.
Good morning. I’m in the unit below you — could you ease up with the banging on the floors?
Yeah, man, my bad.
Just like that, it was over.
Your fear of confrontation
Some Many people fear confrontation.
Actually, no — people don’t fear confrontation. People fear the possibility of confrontation, and the uncomfortable emotions that come with it. Not the confrontation itself, which is often brief and rarely even occurs.
- People have a fear of being verbally (or physically) challenged.
- Of making a request that is brashly or rudely denied.
- Of having to deal with a man who’s a complete jackass — or a woman who’s a total bitch — for no good reason, and not having the material to handle them.
… So, we compensate by avoiding any situation that may cause conflict and/or stir up those emotions.
- We endure painful relationships for waaay too long.
- We continue accepting circumstances that we know we don’t want.
- We learn to live with the pain, because we prefer that to the unknown of (possible) conflict.
- We hesitate to fire people who have proven to not be right for the job.
- We say things are “fine” when they’re anything but fine.
And the shit that we don’t want simply continues, unencumbered.
The longer we take to confront things and people, the more comfortable and emboldened they become — and the less confident we feel about approaching them.
It’s like when the pretty woman who sees a cute guy from across the room.
The man and woman make eye contact, for just long enough that the woman sends the signal that she’d welcome his approach.
But he hesitates.
Thinks about it some more.
Looks at her again, just to make sure he saw what he thinks he saw.
She eventually loses interest — not because the cute guy stopped being cute. But because his lack of confidence makes both of them feel awkward. He fumbled the moment.
Meanwhile, a different, not-cute guy spots her and approaches immediately.
She engages with him, not because she likes him (he walks off empty-handed— no phone number or even an Instagram follow), but because he was bold enough to seize the initiative.
She respects it, even if uninterested.
Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy — and so is a lack of confidence.
Here’s the thing about confronting confrontation, the possibility of confrontation and the emotions that come with it.
Every time you approach it, without hesitation and without anxiety —
- It becomes much easier to deal with. The emotions you’re afraid of stirring up aren’t really fear-inducing, and neither is the confirmation itself (most of the time). What’s really bothering you is the anticipation of it. Which is why you need to move as soon as you see an issue to be addressed, choking off that anticipation by not allowing it to even exist.
- Your confidence grows exponentially. Confidence is a demonstrated belief in one’s ability. Once you’ve demonstrated to yourself that you can handle one conflict (which could be, let’s say a 9 on the emotional scale), you’re less nervous about the next (possible) one. And, once you’ve faced down a conflict (or the possibility of it), all the other, less-emotional stuff in life (level 1-8 stuff) is much easier to handle.
- The Paradox: fewer and fewer of these situations even happen to you. This is one of those things that I can’t tangibly explain why it is, but it is: people who are comfortable dealing with conflict, and have no anxiety about it, rarely have much conflict to deal with. In any area of life, what we focus on, we create. And fear is an emotion that, the more we feed it with time and attention (fear’s favorite foods), hogs more and more of our focus. When you’re unwilling to confront things and people, things and people confront you. As 50 Cent says, “the kid in the school yard who doesn’t want to fight, always leaves with a black eye.” When you do the opposite, addressing things and people fearlessly, without doubt or hesitation, you carry an energy that says, I’m neither nervous nor afraid about conflict, fear finds an easier target, a more willing victim. Things you fear always have a way of finding you as if they have a GPS system tracking you. Things you don’t fear, you don’t notice, so they never appear in your life. Perception is reality, and so is a lack of perception.
“Handling Conflict” does NOT mean being confrontational
What I’m saying is not some alpha male, prove m-your-toughness bullshit talked about by some insecure bro on YouTube.
Handling conflict is not about being aggressive. It’s about being firm, respectful (or yourself and of others), and standing your ground. None of these impose on other people’s rights, and, executed properly, none of these would cause another person to feel threatened or attacked.
When I knocked on this loud neighbor’s door this morning (and that of the cigar-smoking asshole a year or so ago), I wasn’t looking for a fistfight or even an argument. I was there to calmly-but-firmly explain to my neighbor how their actions were disturbing my peace, and to ask (firmly) that these specific actions cease.
[As for the cease-and-desist request — there’s an art to asking something in such a way that it’s still technically a question, but it’s really not a question. If you grew up like I did, your parents provided constant examples of how this is done.]
Approach with respect — for yourself and for the other person — and 99% of the time, you get it back.
If a person is being a jerk to you, my general assumption is that you either a) approached without respect for yourself (causing a person with an aggressive nature to go on the offensive — it’s human nature) or b) without respect for the other person (putting them on the defensive — things turn bad when people feel defensive. If you’re after cooperation, NEVER make a person feel defensive).
Only 1% of people become jerks just because they like being jerks. Handling them is a different topic for a different day.
- Conflict is strength training — weight lifting — for your confidence. Every time you handle it, you are better off in the long run — even if the conflict breaks down your muscle a little bit. It repairs itself even stronger than before.
- Your fears of conflict, and the anticipation of conflict, disappear as soon as you step into it — and you often find that there’s no conflict to be had.
- Handling conflict is not about attacking people or seeking battle or being an asshole to people just to prove that you can. People who do this are the ones who are most afraid of conflict.
There’s a MasterClass on Consistent Confidence that I just added in the Game Group. Become a member today and get all the MasterClasses, along with every episode of the Work On Your Game Podcast, which is a MasterClass in itself.