How to Work on Relationship Problems: Confronting Someone

How to Work on Relationship Problems: Confronting Someone

Our world is made up of relationships. From the moment of birth, we begin forming relationships with the people immediately around us. With every move we make, whether at school or work, there are opportunities to create long-lasting relationships.

There is one inevitable downside to all relationships, though. The longer you spend with someone, the greater the probability that they will say or do something hurtful along the way. Loving people is messy.

When someone close to you hurts you, the best action to take is to address the pain with that person. Though there are times when it’s wisest to overlook the offense, if offenses are left unaddressed they can gradually turn into bitterness and resentment.

If you want to keep the relationship flourishing it’s important to confront the person that has harmed you. Confrontation doesn’t come easily to most people, but it’s a necessary life skill to learn.

Here’s how to lovingly, yet firmly, confront someone after hurtful behavior by learning how to work on relationship problems.

Steps to take to confront someone

1. Agree on a time and place where distractions will be eliminated. It might be an uncomfortable conversation, so this lowers the number of excuses that can be made to dodge the conversation.

2. Consider writing a letter beforehand in case the conversation gets off track or emotions begin to escalate. This will help to articulate your thoughts clearly while keeping your composure during the talk.

3. The goal is to present your side without attacking the other person. It’s normal for the other person to become defensive. Nobody enjoys being confronted and will lash out when threatened.

We’ve all been on both sides of hurt. It’s essential to treat that person in a respectful, understanding manner. A good place to start would be to say, “Thank you for taking time to listen to me with an open heart and mind. I know you might not realize how hurtful it is when you do “x.” It hurts me because “Y,” and I’d appreciate it if it could be avoided in the future.”

This dialogue is designed to direct you toward reconciliation. If the other person genuinely cares about your feelings he or she will be receptive to what you have to say.

What to avoid when confronting someone

1. Don’t fall into the temptation of becoming passive-aggressive. People won’t naturally notice you are angry and uttering rude, cutting remarks instead of addressing the issue face-to-face will only feed your inner turmoil and bitterness.

2. Don’t seek revenge or retaliation. Maybe your friend used their words to hurt you. It’s not wise to stoop to their level and use your words as weapons too. It’s never good to confront someone when you are still dealing with anger. If you give yourself some time to cool off the tension will decrease.

3. Don’t drag your feet. Of course, if the person you want to confront just got into a car accident, it’s probably not the best time to share your heart. However, some people get into the cycle of waiting for some “opportune” moment that never arises. You have to swallow that lump in your throat and ask to speak in person.

4. Take the time to talk to this person in private or with a third-party person present. Refrain from attacking in a way that will publicly humiliate them.

What if they don’t see it your way?

In a perfect world, all conflict would be resolved and tied neatly with a bow. However, depending on the other person’s level of defensiveness, the meeting could end without resolution and reconciliation. This outcome isn’t ideal.

You put yourself in a vulnerable place and were met with hostility instead of humility. Insecure thoughts begin swirling around in your head, “Am I wrong? Did this ruin our relationship? Why did I even say anything?”

When a person completely denies doing anything wrong or minimizes its effects on you, it’s likely they are struggling to empathize. If you believe you did your best to think through the conversation, kept your cool during the talk and didn’t resort to any forms of name calling, then the issue is theirs, not yours. At this point, putting in place healthy boundaries might be the best option.

You can try to get the person to hear you out again. If the issue is severe enough, invite an unbiased third-party mediator into the conversation. A Christian counselor can help you learn how to work on relationship probelms and figure out how to navigate these difficult, uncomfortable conversations.

If the person doesn’t reflect any type of concern for your feelings or opinions, moving forward without their close friendship could be the recommended route.

If necessary, attend a counseling session alone to discuss the issue.  Your counselor may be able to help you find a more productive way of communicating with the other person about your grievances. Standing up to someone who is consistently rude to you can boost your self-confidence, lower your fear of confrontation and teach you the best ways to resolve conflict.

“Estrangement”, Courtesy of Gerd Altmann,, CC0 License; “Coffee Chat,” courtesy of Burst,, CC0 License; “Diselo a la mano!” courtesy of Pablo, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Together,” courtesy of Timothy Paul Smith,, CC0 License


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