By David Augsburger. Both are highly important relational words. Put together they provide the unique combination of love and truth that is necessary for building effective human relationships. Caring dare not be contaminated by any mixture of confrontation. And confronting must not be diluted by any admixture of caring.

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By David Augsburger. Both are highly important relational words. Put together they provide the unique combination of love and truth that is necessary for building effective human relationships. Caring dare not be contaminated by any mixture of confrontation. And confronting must not be diluted by any admixture of caring. Each weakens the other. To confront powerfully, lay care aside. To care genuinely, candor and confrontation must be forgotten, for the moment at least.

When someone matters to me—really matters, I do not dare to disagree: to differ is to disrespect; I cannot confront, because hurting another is the very last thing I want. To talk of caring at a moment like that would be false. I speak the truth as I see it and let the chips fly from my shoulder to fall where they may. Care-fronting is offering genuine caring that lifts, supports and encourages the other.

To care is to bid another to grow, to welcome, invite and support growth in another. Care-fronting is being upfront with important facts that can call out new awareness, insight and understanding.

To confront effectively is to offer the maximum of useful information with the minimum of threat and stress. Care-fronting is loving and level conversation. It unites the love one has for the other with the honest truth that I am able to see about the two of us.

Care-fronting unifies concern for relationship with concerns for goals—my goals, your goals, our goals. So one can have something to stand for goals as well as someone to stand with relationship without sacrificing one for the other or collapsing one into another. In such honesty, one can love powerfully and be powerfully loving. These are not contradictory. They are complementary. The opposite is to express powerless love until anger erupts in loveless power—to yield in pseudo-love until one overloads to the breaking point and then explode with demands heated to the boiling point.

That was a tasteless thing to do, just like your mother. You swallow twice at food gone flat, freeze into angry silence, get up from the table. He shows no surprise at this familiar routine. You fumble a response to one of the kids, his critical words cut to the quick and you retreat to lick the wound. You see in the shrug of his shoulders that he knows your next move—flight to the bedroom, an evening and night of cold, withdrawn anger.

When you feel rejected, you reject. He cuts you off, and off you go to sulk. What have I ever gained by running? The longer I brood, the more I hurt. I know what I need to do.

Would you dare to go back, to say what you feel, what you need, what you want? Perhaps the time is now, you decide. You slow the feelings that press to rush out. You weigh and then say what really matters to you, what is your truth. When you criticize me like that, I feel rejected. I hurt. I usually run. But what I really want is to tear down the prickly hedge between us and to be able to feel close to you again. And to do that, I need—I want—in fact, I demand that you respect me as me.

I am not my mother. He nods in surprise. Memo to self: When cut by sharp words, silent withdrawal is self-defeating. Explosive counterattack is self-destructive. What is needed is a clear, nondefensive statement of what I feel, need, want.

If I confront with what I really want, I am caring enough about our getting together, to risk. Care-fronting is, arguably, the most valuable secret for reforming conflicts. To care and to be clear at the same time is mature relating; to be truly for the other and to stand for what you value when with the other, without sacrificing either, is not just to be adept at interpersonal communication; it is what it means to be adult.

They can both be sought in harmony and healthful assertiveness. Care-fronting has a unique view of conflict. It sees conflict as natural, normal, neutral and sometimes even delightful. Conflict of itself is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong. Conflict simply is. How we view, approach and work through our differences does—to a large extent—determine our whole life pattern.

None of the four most common views about conflict—that it is inevitable and hopeless, that it is dangerous and frightening, that it is a simple issue of right-over-wrong, that it calls for constant compromise—none of these seeks to transform the problem situation. They each and all seek to avoid, escape, fix, suppress or force a resolution. Confronting is useless, caring is hopeless, we are helpless, it is best to flee.

If I, as conflict prone, view conflict as an inevitable issue of right and wrong, I owe it to you to save you from yourself; to me to be right; to God to defend His our truth and show others their error, then my life will uphold and maintain the right even if it requires pressuring, forcing and, above all, winning.

Conflict is a matter of who, not what is right. I happen to be right of course and you wrong no offense , so yield. Confronting is dangerous; caring is giving in; it is best to fold. Conflict is best resolved by vote. Civilization is built upon compromise. There is a fifth view: I can come to see conflict as natural, neutral, normal.

I may then be able to see the difficulties we experience as tensions in relationships and honest differences in perspective that can be worked through in collaboration created by each caring about the other and each confronting the other with truthfulness and neighbor love.

A combination of two, three or four of the five will often characterize the conflict repertoire of most adults in your life. If you utilize these five conflict attitudes and behaviors in the order listed above avoid, coerce, yield, compromise, then create a joint outcome , you are frequently frustrated, misunderstood, alienated or often painfully confused about yourself and others.

This is a frequent sequence for conflict-avoidant, conflict-defensive or conflict-shy persons. There is a time and a place for each of the five styles, but to make avoidance the main organizing response, or to follow yielding or forcing as the predominant way of dealing with differences is rarely useful or effective. If your preferences of these perspectives on conflict are in reverse order that is, to seek to find a creative collaborative solution first, and as a backup seek a compromise to build on in seeking to construct a mutually satisfactory solution; and only then, if necessary, yield to strengthen relationship, and delay taking a stubborn position or withdrawing until the very end , then you may be already chuckling and feeling good about the skills that you either inherited or learned for resolving conflict.

Whatever your present skill set, new skills can be learned. Of all the stupid blunders, going into a partnership with my brother-in-law has got to be the all-time winner, you say.

Opening your pharmacy together had seemed so right. The rat. He can buy my half and have the whole thing—debt, mortgage and all—right in his inadequate lap. Not so easy. Your home was mortgaged too for the operating capital. Maybe if I give him a bonus, or commend him more for his work it will make him feel unbearably guilty. But breathing down his neck as you peer over his shoulder is a temporary compromise solution.

But can I do it? Memo to self: If I act to win by insuring that he loses—we both lose in the end; if I avoid, put it off or look the other way, we both lose even more. I must find a way for us to meet, talk, face reality and seek a just outcome that has integrity and logical consequences but does not seek to annihilate or destroy the other. Collaborate and recreate the relationship are the basic alternatives open in most conflict situations.

From this viewpoint, the attitude toward conflict is that the issues are all quite clear—and simple. Someone is right—totally right, and someone is wrong—completely wrong. This win-lose stance relies on the use of power and utilizes little or no love.

Goal is valued above relationship. My way is the only way, the person feels. There are times when My-way may be useful—when time is very short, the task is extremely crucial—like a rescue effort in an emergency—or someone is being taken advantage of and intervention is necessary, like reporting child abuse or intervening in spousal abuse.

One may act decisively, but recognize that later the action will need to be reviewed. The viewpoint here is that conflicts are hopeless, people cannot be changed; we either overlook them or withdraw.

Conflicts are to be avoided at all costs. When they threaten, get out of their way. Withdrawal has its advantages if instant safety is the all-important thing. But it is a way out of conflict, not a way through. And a way out is no way at all. In this lose-lose stance, everyone loses.


Caring Enough to Confront

Both are highly important relational words. Put together, they provide the unique combination of love and truth that is necessary for building effective human relationships. The more common practice is to keep these two distinct and separate. Caring dare not be contaminated by any mixture of confrontation. And confronting must not be diluted by any admixture of caring. Each weakens the other. To confront powerfully, lay care aside.


Caring Enough To Confront By David Augsburger

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Caring Enough to Confront: How to Understand and Express Your Deepest Feelings Toward Others

Caring Enough to Confront. February 17, By Marcus Merritt. Ventura, CA. For over a decade he served as radio spokesperson for the Mennonite Churches. His productions won ten awards for creative religious broadcasting. He has written feature articles that have appeared in over a hundred different periodicals. An ordained minister of the Mennonite Church and a diplomat of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, Augsburger is active in teaching counseling and leading workshops internationally, and in doing supervision and therapy.



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