Dare To Be Carefrontational

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CAREfrontation“Dave, there’s something I’ve been meaning to share with you…”

And so began a rich, meaningful and difficult conversation with a friend and client.

We’d been enjoying a great dinner together talking about the work that I do, and that we do together.  We have known each other for over 10 years and have been working closely together for the last 3 years.

My friend began to speak in such a way that I began to sense this would be one of those difficult conversations.  I was about to receive an “adjustment” of sorts.  My friend cared enough about me to share something that had been bothering him for a while.

He spoke of a time when I said something in the presence of other clients that was incongruent with who he knew me to be.  What he heard me say was arrogant, self-serving, and manipulative.

Ouch.  I certainly don’t want to ever come across that way.

The problem was, I couldn’t remember the incident my friend was recalling.  I had to completely trust his recollection of the incident.  I was certain that I would never say anything remotely close to what was being shared with me.  However, I also have enough self-awareness to know that it was possible for me to say something of this nature.

So how do I respond?  How would you respond?

I know that this friend cares about me.  We work well together.  The purpose for sharing this incident was to clear the air, to put to flight that which could be a wedge in our friendship, and our ability to work well together.

Would I get my back up about something I was convinced must have been a misunderstanding?  Or would I embrace my friend’s adjustment and recognize that I could indeed have a blind spot?

I chose the latter and embraced my friend’s “carefrontation”.

What made it far easier to respond positively to the adjustment was the fact that my friend was carefrontational, not confrontational.

Do you know the difference?

Have you ever met people who just say what needs to be said regardless of the impact it may have on the recipient of the graceless input?

“Hey, I just tell it the way it is.  I’m not responsible for how you react to what I say – that’s your choice.”

I think that kind of attitude is immature and irresponsible.  I think we should care about how our words impact the person to whom they’re presented.

My friend chose to be carefrontational – to confront with care.  Being carefrontational is a decision to courageously confront someone with a perspective, information, or an explanation of the impact their words or actions had, in a fashion that is caring for them.

In an attempt to make our words as palatable as possible we present our adjustment wrapped in grace and care, so they are for the benefit of the recipient.  Being carefrontational is not unloading on someone to get it off your chest.  It’s taking the time to think through whether or not what you’re thinking and feeling is your issue alone to deal with, or something that would benefit the other person to know.

The easy way out is to not say anything and let this person go on oblivious to the carnage they have created.  It takes some degree of courage to callously confront them and create a conflict.  However, it takes a great degree of courage to confront someone carefrontationally.

Leaders must learn, we must consciously choose, to be carefrontational.  If leadership is helping people be better, then we must courageously engage in difficult conversations for the benefit of those we lead.  It’s as simple as saying,

“Hold on a minute, I just heard you say… Can you please help me to understand what you’re wanting to communicate?”

You will either discover you misheard them, or you heard them correctly and now you need to bring your perspective to adjust them.

And, the longer you leave it the more difficult it becomes to address – you have missed the teachable moment.

Be a courageous leader and dare to be carefrontational.  Your people will be better for it.

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