Recently, I bumped into the concept of Care-frontation, which is defined as “Confrontation done in a caring or loving manner.” When learning of the details of this way of addressing a problem, I found it similar to the sensitivities needed for effective תוכחה tochacha (admonition or reproof). Not that we give tochacha to our spouse. Never. – DK
The core of care-frontation is to approach the person from the heart: with compassion rather than recrimination. This is the best way to get anyone’s attention. Not only starting from heart, but also leading the conversation from the heart. A care-frontation makes it possible to then hear from the heart. “Words that emanate from the heart – enter the heart.”
The care-frontation must clearly be for the benefit of the other person (and in the case of a couple, for the marriage). The other person has to know that you care about them, are on their side, and want what’s best for them. If they feel you have your own self-interest at heart — and not theirs — they won’t listen to what you’re saying. Your attitude and the words that follow must be: “I care for you deeply; I truly believe – after serious thinking and reflection – that this behavior is not in your best interest, and that is why I bring it up.”
How to deliver care-frontation:
Believe that this will work out. Too often, people see confrontation as ‘at least I tried’ or as a step that has to be taken in a process. When you truly believe that there will be a productive outcome, your words and demeanor will follow.
In a way that it will actually be received. The Sefer Chasidim teaches: Prior to admonishing someone, the mochiach should analyze carefully what will be the most effective way to influence the other. Similarly, the care-frontation should be tailor-made to the person receiving it and presented in a way that it is most likely to inspire them to change. You can use questions, stories, parables, and/or logical proofs – depending on what will speak most convincingly to the heart of the other person.
Think of the best way for the person to realize the truth themselves. Nobody like to be told what to do. It is the act of self-realization which eliminates the defensive reaction… and produces effective introspection needed for change.
Affirm and acknowledge who they are. Show them that you recognize the good in them. Of course, only if you really do. “You are such a devoted parent.” Don’t negate this with a ‘but’ or ‘however’. “You care so much for the children, and they love you. Recently, it seems that you might be feeling despondent about something and it seems to be affecting how you are with the children.”
Choose words to show you care. “I know the authentic you to be x, but I think I’m seeing y. And I care about and appreciate the authentic you. I would like to help resolve the perceived dilemma.” “Ever since we became a family, you’ve always been there for us – you did whatever had to be done. Nothing got in your way. [You can share examples here.] It seems like something is going on for you now that is getting in the way. I know you have what it takes to get back to where you were. What I don’t know is the best way to give you support and encouragement to do that.”
Address the action, not the person. Be specific.
Leave room for their dignity. Give the person the benefit of the doubt. Choose your words so that there is room for them to clarify or explain the reasons for their behavior. “It seems to me …”, “This is what I am noticing, … Am I getting it right?”
Some words to avoid: Absolute words like: “You always”, “You never”. Any words of sarcasm.
Choose the time and place carefully. Such conversations should be done in private. Knowing the person and the situation, you can best determine when during the day or week is best for such a conversation.