Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Are You Nonconfrontational or Just a Big Fat Wuss?

I took Intro to Psychology in college. In fact, it was one of the few A's I received in my college career. The handy thing about a little bit of knowledge is that you can spout utter BS and sound totally convincing.

In fact, I'm convinced many Americans received A's in Intro to Psychology. Because that would explain all the psychobabble tomfoolery that surrounds me everywhere I go.

My particular beef is with the term, "nonconfrontational." Back in my day, when Sinatra ruled the airwaves, coffee cost a nickel, and you hand-cranked your car, we had another word for nonconfrontational people. We called them cowards.

Think about it. That guy who just faded away instead of breaking up with you. The receptionist who never corrects you when you call her Mary instead of Marie (leaving you to find out her correct name by reading the cake at her going-away party). The friend who always seems to get bad service in restaurants, but never asks to speak to a manager.

These people are all "nonconfrontational." What that really means is that they're torturing themselves long-term to avoid momentary discomfort. These people are being ruled by their fears, avoiding all semblance of speaking up for what they want. They'd much rather stay quiet and leave the guesswork to us.

But, in a way, it's cruel to be nonconfrontational. It's selfish to leave other people guessing because you're not brave enough to say what's on your mind. I do get that speaking your mind can be a difficult thing. We all fear the drawbacks of speaking up. A scene, a shouting match, rejection, being ignord, or, in the case of bad restaurant service, a bit of waiter DNA in your pasta primavera. It often takes me a week or two to stand up for myself, because I worry about framing my concerns in the exact perfect way. Ugh.

The anticipation is always worse than the outcome. Always. So, next time your girlfriend wears that perfume that makes you sneeze, your boss leaves a moldy coffee mug on your desk, or your friend flakes on your birthday, speak up. I mean, really, what's the worst that can happen?


Anonymous said...

thank you for writing this.
i really appreciate it.

outcast said...

I worked closely with a family for almost a year. They said they thought of me as part of the family, then out of the blue, had a separate member of the family that I didn't know very well, call me up and fire me. It's hurtful when you are too much of a coward to tell people what's going on.