As I shared in "How to Receive Criticism Graciously," conflict is something that many women find intensely uncomfortable and difficult to handle. In a discussion with several ladies, I heard the same fears expressed by multiple women.
"How do you tell someone that they're wrong?" one woman asked. "I always worry that it's going to hurt the relationship."
"I hate confrontation," another woman shared. "Even the word 'confrontation' bothers me. It seems harsh and unkind."
Fortunately, there are ways to approach confrontation that can be effective and even strengthening to a relationship. Here are a few ideas:
Think of confrontation as "care-frontation."
I learned the term "care-frontation" when I was going through the training for the pregnancy center where I volunteer. We learned to think of confrontation, not as a way of imposing our will upon others, but as a way of showing care for the other person's best interests. If we truly loved someone, would we allow her to make choices that would only hurt herself?
It is kinder for someone to hear difficult things from you, the one who loves her, than to aller her continue in an error that could cause real trouble down the road and later lead to confrontations with people that don't love her.
You are not attacking the relationship to "care-front" someone. You are nurturing it.
Use the "sandwich" approach.
Start with something positive. Present your concern. End with something positive. It's that simple.
In a practical sense, it might look like this: "Bill, I really appreciate that you have been so faithful with mowing the lawn recently. Could you also fix the clogged sink? It would be such a blessing to have a spiffy lawn and a working sink!"
When appropriate, praise (but not flattery) works well too. Guys are especially responsive to positivity and encouragement. Like this: "Fred, I can tell that you have a lot of genuine passion for this subject, and you have so much knowledge to share. However, I notice that others can become overwhelmed by your enthusiasm. If you keep your discussion to five to ten minutes, and invite more interaction, I think your message would be even more effective and motivating for others."
Notice that the above example shows that you genuinely care to help him develop his passion; you're not trying to squelch it. His interests and yours are actually the same, and you are seeking his ultimate good.
Bringing sin or fault to someone's attention is not emotionally easy. It takes grit. It is so much more comfortable to just ignore the problem or to let someone else deal with it. But we are called to edify one another, and edification is more than just positive reinforcement.
In the case of a male/female conflict, be advised that some men can feel that tears are manipulative. A woman is usually better served by reserving her tears for times when the situation truly warrants it.
Raising your voice or getting defensive, in my experience, is not effective. It just becomes a contest of "Who is louder?" or "Who can talk more?" Make your point calmly. Stay very focused on your main point and don't let it get clouded with extra details and bunny trails. Speak only what you need to speak in order to give your message, and shut up when you're done.
Don't expect an immediate response. Sometimes the person who has received the criticism needs time to think your message over. Give him or her the space to do so.
Above all, make sure that you communicate that you truly love the person unconditionally.
What do you find effective--or not effective--when you care-front someone? How do you ensure that your motivation is the other person's ultimate good, and not just your own comfort?
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.