no confrontation

November 5th, 2005

It is said that the Japanese say one thing and think another. They will never embarass each other in public, their form of expression is very polite, regardless of what looms below the surface. While the message is encouraging, the meaning may be reprimanding. I've heard that said about Norwegians as well, they will never criticize you, yet they will fire you if you don't cut it, citing any plausible reason except the truth. And you'll never know, unless you know how it works.

Regardless of how true or false the above stereotypes are, I seem to have adopted some parts of that culture. You can achieve much more with encouragement than a reprimand, in fact I've applied that principle successfully in the little world I created and I can vouch for it. But when it comes to personal matters, I avoid confrontation like the plague. Don't have the stomache for it. I wish the problem would go away and I wouldn't have to face it. It even applies to minor things. If I'm bothered by a small matter, I hesitate to mention it. I guess because if I do, and I declare that it bothers me, I don't know what the response is going to be, it may not necessarily be sympathetic. It is opening oneself to a blow, I don't enjoy vulnerability. I don't enjoy announcing that I'm weak, I know it myself, but I would rather keep that to myself.

Ironically, I've actually encouraged others to do what I don't, let me know if something is bothering them, thought I would understand and I would handle it well. I think in some cases I did, not always. But I don't practice it. It feels like a big step and I'm scared to take it. Finally, bringing up an issue is admitting that it bothers you, and some things seem so small and so insignificant that it embarasses us to admit that we even notice them. And that's not all, if you raise a small issue, you send a signal. I'm bothered by this, small problems are enough to trigger a response. Do it often enough and people will hate you for complaining about every little thing. Not do it and you suffer for lack of courage by not fixing something that maybe you could fix.

Crucially, it scars. Even if I bring it up and I get the response I'm looking for, it doesn't end there. It weighs on the mind for a while, sometimes quite a while. And noone is saying it but both are thinking about it. It's like a red flag, it's an alert. Pay attention for future reference. To what? This was just one thing, how am I supposed to know what else there could be?? It makes no sense. But if I don't take it seriously, I expect similar things to happen and it's gonna be messy, it's gonna escalate.

It's a dilemma.

:: random entries in this category ::

2 Responses to "no confrontation"

  1. ash says:

    It's not a Norwegian think as such, it's a personality thing - I'm exactly the same. I think some cultures are more susceptible to it, like the English, but even then I'm just like you. You put the whole thought process behind it into words perfectly.

  2. Erik says:

    Wow Dutch culture is so out of line on this one most of this blogpost downright amazed me. We very much have a culture of "If you think it, you say it" - if something really bothers you, people will expect you to come up to them and explain it to every detail.

    Though it's also a personality thing of course; some people find it easy, others find it a daunting task.