Have you ever been in an argument with someone who you know has done wrong but won’t admit it? You provide a variety of examples to “make them see” to no avail. You usually part ways frustrated, exasperated- wondering why they won’t take responsibility. In the end, sometimes you even apologize for bringing it up, simply because you hate to live in conflict. How do we reckon with this?
We are unable to force someone else to be self-aware or apologize for their wrongdoings. Many people suffer from low self-esteem and choose to find faults in others in order to make themselves feel better. Often, they don’t even realize they are doing it.
They criticize the way you look because inwardly, they hate their own body. They resort to physical violence because you made them feel weak with your words. They question your career choices because they never reached their full potential and regret it. They insult your parenting style because deep down, they are defending theirs. They provide a thousand different reasons for why they are unable to commit, all-the-while the true reason lies buried deep underneath.
Ultimately, it is not our responsibility to “make them see”. When faced with these difficult confrontations, it is best to first validate their feelings. “I’m sorry I/this job/decision/outfit makes you uncomfortable. It was never my intention.” By using this statement we are not apologizing for who we are or what we believe in, rather, for the fact that it makes them uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry breastfeeding my baby makes you uncomfortable. It was never my intention.” I will not apologize for feeding my child but I am happy to express sympathy that it makes you uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry you do not like my hair/tattoo/new job/diet/boyfriend/wife. It was never my intention.” I will not apologize for my choice but I am sorry you do not agree.
Sometimes, we also need to recognize our part. Is there any truth to their accusations? Certainly it is tough to convince someone else to see their faults if we are not first able to see our own.
“You’re right. I haven’t been exercising enough.” “You’re right, this is not the job I thought I would have.” “You’re right. I am taking the hard road.”
By addressing their concern rather than arguing against it, you have taken away some of their ammo. At this point, they may find something else to argue about but before that, perhaps you can offer an opportunity of self-reflection by asking a question: “Can you tell me why that bothers you?”
“I’m sorry you do not like _______. It was never my intention. Can you tell me why that bothers you?”
If we can approach these conflicts as an opportunity to learn about ourselves and each other rather than to vehemently defend, we may walk away all the wiser. Or, we may just walk away knowing, “It’s not me. It’s you.”
Your discomfort of my choice is not mine to behold. It is not mine to have to defend. It is yours to live with and my hope is that by asking you why it bothers you, I have planted a seed for you to consider; an opportunity for self-reflection.
My choice to avoid ” trying to make you see” frees me; for your life is yours to live just as my life is mine. And my hope is that you will respect mine, as I respect yours and that in time, we will recognize and take responsibility for our own faults. That we will show gratitude when we have been made aware of something we had not previously recognized. That we will practice empathy in difficult situations and that we may find peace when it is not our burden to bear.