Why You Should Take a Break From Confrontation

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When you have borderline personality disorder (BPD), you can be more sensitive to conflicts and be hurt more often than other people. When someone has wronged you or there is a misunderstanding, you will feel the effects intensely and your first inclination is to go confront that person immediately to handle it.

While it can be a normal reaction, taking a step back from confrontation can help you see a situation more clearly. It also gives you the opportunity to use positive communication skills more effectively, which is especially important to relationships.

All relationships have their ups and downs, but hurtful outbursts are hard to heal or recover from, and relationships can become damaged.

Managing relationships can be difficult with BPD. You may see life as being "black and white," so it's hard to see the middle ground in conflicts.

How to Better Handle Confrontation

Rethinking how you handle serious situations is necessary to preserve both your relationships and your reputation. Here are some ways you can improve how you handle confrontation.

  • Wait for the emotions to pass. While you may want to go talk to your friend or coworker who hurt you right away, talking to them while you're upset or angry isn't a good idea. It could cause you to speak too harshly or say things you don't mean. The situation will just end up worse with hurt feelings on both sides. Instead, step away from the situation and give yourself some time to think about it away from the other person. That will help you put things in perspective and you'll be a calmer mindset when you are ready to chat.
  • Identify bigger issues. If you find yourself outraged over something that is fairly trivial, use a timeout to determine what the real issue is. Did something happen months ago that was never addressed? Or has someone else hurt you and you're lashing out? Establishing what is really triggering your emotions will steer you into handling the situation in an appropriate way, without bringing in your own history to the situation.
  • Come up with a plan. Before storming into the room to talk to the other person, take a few minutes to write down your feelings and the key thoughts that you want to express. Try to imagine the other person's point of view and their side of the story. That will help you focus the conversation on the real issues at hand and enable you to have a productive dialogue rather than a heated battle.

Conflict is never fun, but when you have borderline personality disorder, the sense of pain or rejection from confrontation can seem heightened.

You may feel that it's necessary to take action right away, but taking just 30 minutes to be alone with your thoughts can help you feel calmer, more empowered, and give you time to prepare for a confrontation with poise instead of anger.

By Erin Johnston, LCSW
Erin Johnston, LCSW is a therapist, counselor, coach, and mediator with a private practice in Chicago, Illinois.