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crying during confrontations

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I have a problem that I urgently need to resolve: when I need to speak with other adults, whether friends, co-workers, authorities...., about issues that may be unpleasant or an opinion I need to defend I almost always end up crying. Not that I'm hurt by the topic, but it's like my mind and body express my unease in this way (rather than get really really angry like most people do), and I really can't find a way to fight back the tears. This is REALLY bothering me, I don't feel like a proper adult in these situations and my credibilty and ability to defend my ideas just CRUMBLES.

The situation in general is improving in the sense the I don't AVOID these conversations, but at a certain point I can feel the tears coming and THIS IS WHERE I NEED A TOOL/IDEA SOMETHING TO STOP THEM FROM COMING. I fight them back, but it ususally means keeping my mouth shut, otherwise they start coming. But I can't keep my mouth shut because I have to keep defending my argument, or whatever is being discussed!

I HATE this reaction I have, I'm a grown woman, I am separated from my husband and have two children, I work full time, and for these reasons I have converstions with adults on touchy subjects almost DAILY, just like anyone else.

Any suggestions on a mental image or thought that will allow me fight back the tears when I feel them coming?

Any help greatly appreciated!

post #2 of 23

Oh gosh, I do that too.  When I get really frustrated, I cry. Which, when dealing with my husband, isn't such a big deal.  When dealing with my boss, it can be. LOL


I haven't figured out how to not do it though. :(

post #3 of 23

Ugh, me too!  Well, I cry when I am really, really angry.  I could spend years dissecting how this reaction is the product of consistently being forced to sublimate my outrage and fury as a child, but really, I just need to learn how to be angry without tears.


It's happened in the workplace.  Seriously?


Right or wrong, I live in a world where crying instantly and usually permanently undermines your credibility as a professional.


So I also struggle to feel and express outrage and anger at a situation without starting to cry.  The closest I've gotten is to recognize what's about to happen and announce that I'll need to discuss it later. 


It's a real bummer.  greensad.gif

post #4 of 23

with dh or my teens i just resort to writing back and forth. dh once accused me of crying to get my way(we were 19), which i resolved by not talking much to him about anything that involved emotions. that was not the right thing to do. it came up a few years later and i explained it to him and he was shocked. after we talked it through it took awhile but i am now pretty open with him.


there was an incident a couple of christmases ago where i got angry when my brother tickle-attacked me and he totally dropped me from his life. i am still reeling from that, i knew better than to show emotions to that part of my family but i was being physically held down and tickled. i had no idea he'd cut me out, especially after what we'd been through together.


well i am no help here!

post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 

so far the suggestion of cutting off the conversation and saying it can be discussed later seems like a good one that can be used immediately.

yes, unfortunately I did cry once over the phone with a co-worker when my area was hit by a blizzard (not the area where the compnay headquarters are. I work from home) and all power and internet connections went down and she insisted I walk in the snow to the nearest building (since all roads were snowed over) that had an internet connection to send my work in, which literally took me the entire day (I live out in the country and it took me 2 hours to reach the nearest internet connection at a bed and breakfast). And when I finally got home it was 4pm and I had yet to start THAT day's 8 hours of work...well, I was in tears. I had work to do, kids to feed, a house to keep warm without any power or water or car...it was a tough couple of days. But see, it's still a classic example, I was FURIOUS that she insist I either do that or not get paid for the work I had completed (but couldn't send in), even though it was a freak weather storm that shut down my area for 36 hours. I would have prefered to stand up for myself WITHOUT THE CRYING.

post #6 of 23

EW!  Walk in snow?!?!  That's too unfair!  (I HATE snow.)


For me, I did make it to the bathroom before any tears started, but it was fairly obvious why I was excusing myself.  And you know, it was a classic situation where I had the right answer, but because I also have boobs and ovaries, I was just shut down.  I mean, not even a discussion, I was just talked over and shut down.  And I did cry, because I was so goddamn mad and frustrated that in my 30s I was still dealing with crap like that.  And then I cried a little more that night because instead of (fill in anything else here), I cried. 


Later on that day I did manage to make my point known, but I always felt like the damage was done to my credibility.


I would love to be able to just say "Here's my point, I'd appreciate it if you'd listen respectfully." or "You're being unfair to me." or whatever, at all, nevermind without waterworks.  And what kills me, I mean really eats at me, is I have the spirit and the meanness to get where I'm going through less honorable, more damaging means, so I've clearly got some backbone somewhere...  why can't I just be as mature and adult as I am when I rehearse in my bedroom?


I got an apology from the male co-worker that made me cry, and I took full advantage of the bias and dynamic at play and broke his balls publicly, mercilessly and repeatedly for making me cry.  I really did get my tears' worth out of him.  But I still, still wish I hadn't cried.  And I always felt like, OK, I'd rather be "stone-cold" than "vindictive".


The funny thing is, I am not a "cryer", I am not generally emotional, it's when I'm frustrated and angry and not being heard.

post #7 of 23

Okay, so this is totally me, also. 


Here's how I stopped doing this at work:


My 3rd boss in my career was the biggest jerk.  He was a real sexist and would make comments about what you wore and would routinely call female employees into his office and tear them a new one so that he could see them cry.  He did this to me once.  I absolutely refused to give him the power over me to do that again.  Yes, we had two more confrontations before I left.  One was with a group of women and men where he threatened to transfer me to a job he thought I didn't want.  I ended up turning that one around on him.  I just kept thinking in my head: "This @#%$^$ wants me to cry, it makes him feel powerful, he's weak and I am strong!" After I wouldn't cry anymore, he left me alone because I think he was a little scared of me.  I left that position to go somewhere else, and when I did, a bunch of other people left too and it made the jerk look really bad at work.


I know that it isn't the same as getting choked up when you are defending a position or with family, but I have found that since I refused to cry and made it through once like that, I can do it again and again. 


(The last time I cried at work WAS in my boss's office.  He was the new boss after the jerk.  He was retiring, and he had been an amazing mentor and generally awesome person to work with.  I cried because I was so sad to see him go.)

post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 

Awesome Aquitane! You're so strong!


I just kept thinking in my head: "This @#%$^$ wants me to cry, it makes him feel powerful, he's weak and I am strong!"



I am definitely going to apply this!


post #9 of 23

I used to be the crying sort and then all of a sudden one day I completely stopped. I was always really self aware of it and felt ashamed and then one day I snapped out of it and said

why am I crying? It achieves nothing and wastes time and makes me look helpless. 

and all of a sudden I stopped doing it.

Really weird. I tried lots of times to say stuff like

I'm not going to give them the satisfaction and power over me...etc

but that train of thought never seemed to work and only made me feel more awkward about how I was really feeling. So now I just tend to sigh and think to myself crying is pointless.

post #10 of 23

I think KXS has a good point. In my case, my boss was making my work life a living hell.  However, if you don't have a person like that and it's something where you cry even during a confrontation with people you love, you might apply her principal that the crying is useless and won't get you anywhere.  I think it is another healthy and good way to go about ending it.  Good luck!

post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 

Ok KXS and Aquitane, I will add this onto this list of ways to face a discussion. So far we have: 1) possibly postpone discussion if I feel tears coming, 2) think that this person wants to see me cry and not let them have the satisfaction, and 3) strongly realise that crying is uselss and won't get me anywhere.

post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 

I just had a confrontation/heated discussion over the phone with stbx and am happy to say that the tips and personal experiences in this brief thread here have already helped me out! I could hear the teariness starting up in my voice before actually feeling it in my eyes/head, but I was aware enough to let the thought of 'he wants to make me cry' flicker through my brain and the teariness left my voice and I kept on with the discussion.

So, first baby step!

I am hoping to continue this discussion either over the phone or in person with stbx as he cut it short and won't pick up my calls, and see if i can manage to do the same thing angry.gif. He always wants me to think that I'm at fault so being aware that he just wants to get this loser reaction out of me should hopefully keep me strong enough to power through it!

Fingers crossed!

post #13 of 23
I am right there with you all. This has happened dozens of times in my life. The worst was a few years ago, I was on a business conference call with 15 people I had never met face to face. A man I didnt know started threatening me, if I didn't agree they had the power to force me out. I didn't understand a couple terms he used and I lost it. I had to just hang up suddenly and sobbed like crazy. Later my husband told me the man on the phone was crazy, they could not do that, and explained the term I did not understand. My husband insisted that probably no one on that call new what the guy was taking about, no one uses that term. And that I am smarter than most of the people in that business circle. He then pointed out lots of examples to back that up, previous dealings.

Anyway, since then it has not happened. When I start to feel upset, I remember that I am just as smart, if not smarter, than who I am dealing with. If I feel like I am on an equal footing, I feel more powerful. I remember that man and how wrong he was! And I imagin that the person upsetting me is wrong and ignorant. If they are being a bully and confusing me, I try to put on a smug face and say something like, "I'll have to look into that and get back to you". Let them wonder if they are the one who is wrong.

You are smart! You are powerful! Don't let anyone take that away from you!!!
post #14 of 23

I cry when I get frustrated, too. What seems to be helping is just working through it when it happens. I was at a seminar a few months back and ended up crying 3 times (soooo frustrating in and of itself!) but each time, despite similar levels of emotion, the crying jag was less severe than the prior one. For me, the more I fight the tears, the worse they are, but the more I accept it, the less problematic they are.

post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 

I find that working through this issue through this thread is really helping me. I had yet another 'confrontation' this morning over the phone with stbx's accountant, and this time I felt ANGRY! Yay! Again at a certain point there was a slight tinge of wobble in my voice, but my anger was strong enough to push me past that breaking point. I am physically a bit shaky now after the phone call, but proud too!


Other aspect of issue: I think that deep down I get teary during confrontation essentially due to insecurity, and part of me thinks that since other people have a more forceful delivery than me, maybe they have more of a point than me, that their point is right and I am wrong? But that can't be the case all the time, can it? I mean, anyone can have valid points too, right? I guess I'm just used to backing down in the end, after a certain amount of conforntations, and not holding my own to the every end.

post #16 of 23

This thread has really caused me to examine the dynamic I have with the person I generally wind up crying in front of.  And it ain't pretty.  So that's helpful, if not a bit enraging.

post #17 of 23
I do this to. It is really annoying. I used to be a high school teacher and I had to excuse myself to walk out of the room to regain control sometimes. Really embarrassing.
post #18 of 23

Still struggling with this. I just feel so hurt when other people are thoughtless or careless the other day someone said,

'you're an instant gratification person that's what's wrong with you' 

??? Then proceded to talk me down and argue when I protested

How are you supposed to respond to someone like that? Sorry to hijack but I find I tend to get mad and hurt

post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 

I totally get you kxs, I also don't know how to respond to comments like that in a suitable manner.

But it brings up another good point - I find it hard to take criticism - even constructive crticism, it's like the hardest thing for me to swallow! Which is also why I'm afraid of 'confrontations' - I fear getting criticised during the discussion and not knowing how to deal with it (I also don't dish it out, except to stbx).

A friend of mine once said she's always thankful to receive criticism, becuase it allows her to work on herself. Which is true, BUT I have an initial STRONG AND LENGTHY reaction to the cricitsm, which involves me feeling hurt and teary...blah!

post #20 of 23

I also agree that I have a real hard time with criticism.  At my eval's my bosses HAVE to give some sort of constructive criticism because "no one's perfect."  I've had bosses say that they hated doing it because I was doing a great job.  Even with that being said, I go over and over the constructive criticism in my head.  It makes me crazy. 


This is probably because we are all perfectionists.


My new goal is not to take anything personally.  I take WAY too much personally.  I have started to step back when someone says something that I would normally get upset about.  Definitely just baby steps, but it's better than getting all worked up over ridiculous crap.  I have a colleague who believes everything is an attack on her.  She puts forth so much effort on stuff that has nothing to do with her, so I'm kind of using her as an example of how NOT to act.


Please understand I'm no young chick, I'm 41, and it's taken me this long to finally start to work on aspects of my personality that I don't like.  Maybe by 80 or 90, I'll finally have the hang of it!

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