One of the first activities our cohort did in our first class was to take a self-inventory of our conflict styles. I was clearly and unequivocally in the avoider/accommodator categories. As the professor went through each style and asked those people who fell under each section to raise their hands, I grew increasingly uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed by my preference to not engage in the topic. When it came time to identify in my category I raised my hand and was shocked to find most of the rest of the class had raised their hands, too. Surprising for a group of students enrolled in a master's program for conflict studies. Not surprising to our professors apparently - the reason many people get involved in the program is to figure out this unpleasant topic and how to make it work constructively.
Fast forward ten years later, and it still makes me uncomfortable. Oh, I can teach on the subject. I know and understand the process and value of dealing positively with an often highly charged situation. I can recite the mediation steps, and I can talk about the communication strategies for effectively asserting concerns or interests. I graduated with a M.S. in the subject for crying out loud.
But when it comes to confronting a group of 11-year-old boys in our front yard who are casually and non-threateningly shooting pellets from our front yard, I get weak in the knees and every jot and tittle of the English language shoots out my ears. "What should I say?" "Maybe they'll go away on their own - aren't children high-functioning human beings who just know that they shouldn't be playing on property they or their parents do not own?" Wishful thinking. So, after I watched just to make sure they were actually shooting the guns and not just chit-chatting in the shade before their next adventure, I mustered up my best intimidating adult voice, unlocked the door and managed a controlled "Excuse me, I don't know what you're shooting, but you need to find another yard to do it in."
To my credit, my voice didn't creak or waver (which I was certain it would). To their credit, they said "Sorry" and left.
I went inside and collapsed on a chair to feed my non-pellet-shooting-completely-responsible (well, and also completely dependent) - child while my legs stopped shaking.
It seems to me that that exchange should not have been so traumatic for me...maybe when more of the maternal instincts kick in it'll be easier to cope with confrontation. For now, and since forever, I have a problem.