Apr 132010
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

As college students, we might not be used to having to confront someone. There’s always been parents, school administrators or hired thugs to speak for us whenever we had a problem.

Now, alone in the dorms with a herd of savage and unthinking people (who, I would like to stress, are not my readers), how do you handle setting boundaries and telling people to stay the heck out of your fridge? As I have once been there and done that, many years ago, I am full of wisdom and other things that I am happy to share with you.

The basis of confrontation is communication. The basis of communication is understanding. To understand something, you must first know yourself. Therefore, it is very important to make certain that the discussion largely focuses on your wants and needs.

You must also know your audience. This may be unclear if you are uncertain who wronged you, as in the case when the fridge-raider does so under cover of night. In this case, it is extra important to know them. I recommend traps.

Once you have identified who wronged you, you must try to understand why they did. Clearly, set out with the fact that you are in the right in mind, as that is the eventual goal and it will help guide your thinking along a self-centric path. Try to really get into their head and see things from their wrong, twisted point of view.

Now you know how they are thinking –– badly. The next step is perhaps the hardest –– working up the courage to let them know that you’re unhappy about something. This is a terrifying social cliff, and life is full of large, vertical drops. The only thing you can really do is hurl yourself straight off it without pausing to think.

Alternatively, you could take into consideration that conflict can be stressful, and so your target will be weakest when already stressed. Try to select a night before a big test, job interview or major dental surgery. Make certain they know that you will not back off until satisfied –– that’s called being assertive. If only there was some shorthand for that.

Make it clear during the discussion that you understand how they feel. The best way to do this is explaining how they feel to them at length. They may claim to feel a different way, but remember, a person is the worst judge of themselves, so they really have no room to talk. This portion where you discuss what they feel can be short; you don’t want to get sidetracked.

Now, on to the real meat of the confrontation: your beef with them. Stick to the heart of the matter, but don’t be afraid to speak from your gut. Don’t ham it up by acting too emotionally, but don’t turn into a spineless sheep. Bacon.

Once you’re done, give them some time to react and yourself a moment to breathe. This prevents you from coming off as too aggressive and gives them a chance to get a word in edgewise. After all, you can use the time they’re chatting at you to prepare your next verbal barrage. Don’t get too caught up in the exact words –– the only words you need to hear are, “You’re unconditionally and forever right.”

After the confrontation, make sure to give them some space to breathe. They’ll need time to realize how right you are. You can also edge this along by enacting their behavior as an example to them of what not to do, making sure to loudly announce, “This is what you sound like!” before engaging in said behavior.

Congratulations. You are now ready to confront your roommate with confidence, keep your relationship lively or run for public office.

Johnathan Kastner is a senior computer science major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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