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5 Open Alternatives to Conflict Situations

Caring enough to Confront

Dr. Augsburger’s approach emphasizes the balance that needs to be maintained in pursuing topical goals and relational goals during conflict resolution. Augsburger has named his approach “Care-fronting” as a combination of confronting the issue while expressing care about the person and relationship.

The five options: (1) I’ll get him, (2) I’ll get out, (3) I’ll give in, (4) I’ll meet you halfway, or (5) I care enough to confront. These are the basic alternatives open in most conflict situations.

1. “I’ll get him” is the I-win-you-lose-because-I’m right-you’re-wrong position in conflict. 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. Fortunately, I’m right (as usual) and you’re wrong. (Except, in this case, it could prove to be someone else besides or instead of truth—on my side. It’s my duty to put you right. This “win-lose stance uses all power and little or no love. Goal is valued above relationship. “My way is the only way,” the person feels.

2, “I’ll get out” is the I’m-uncomfortable-so-I’ll-withdraw stance toward conflict. 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. There is no risk of power, no trusting love. “Show me the nearest exit,” the person requests over the shoulder. It’s a no-way or any way response of flight.

3. “I’ll give in” is the I’ll-yield-to-be-nice-since-I-need-your-friendship approach. This perspective on conflict says that differences are disastrous. If they come out into the open, anything can happen. Anything evil, that is. It’s far better to be nice, to submit, to go along with the other’s demands and stay friends.

Yielding to keep contact will serve you well in many situations. But as a rule, it falls short. You become a doormat. A nice guy or gal. Frustrated. Yet smiling. The more tense and tight on the inside, the more generous and submissive on the outside.

4. “I’ll meet you halfway” is the I-have-only-half-the-truth-and-I-need-your-half position. The attitude is one of creative compromise. Conflict is natural, and everyone should be willing to come part way in an attempt to resolve things. A willingness to give a little will lead to a working solution which is satisfactory to everyone.

Compromise is a gift to human relationships. We move forward on the basis of thoughtful, careful consensus and compromise in most decisions in conflict. But it calls for a least partial sacrifice of deeply held views and goals which may cost all of us the loss of the best to reach the good of agreement.

When we begin with a decision to compromise, we run the risk that my half of the truth added to your half may not give us the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We may have two half-truths. Or the combination may produce a whole untruth. Only when we care enough to tussle with truth can we test, retest, refine and perhaps find more of it through our working at it seriously.

5. “I care enough to confront” is the I-want-relationship-and-I-also-want-honest-integrity position. Conflict is viewed as neutral (neither good nor bad) and natural (neither to be avoided nor short-circuited). Working through differences by giving clear messages of “I care” and “I want,” which both care and confront, is most helpful.

This is interpersonal communication at its best. Caring—I want to stay in respectful relationships with you, and confronting—I want you to know where I stand and what I’m feeling, needing, valuing and wanting.

- Caring
I care about our relationship.
I want to hear your view.
I want to respect your insights.
I trust you to be able to handle my honest feelings.
I promise to stay with the discussion until we’ve reached an understanding.
I will not trick, pressure, manipulate, or distort the differences.
I give you my loving, hones respect.
Augsburger, David.

- Confronting
I feel deeply about the issue at stake.
I want to clearly express mine.
I want respect for mine.
I want you to trust me with yours.
I want you to keep working with me until we’ve reached a new understanding.
I want your unpressured, clear, honest view of our differences.
I want your caring-confronting response.

Augsburger, David. (1981 Revised Edition). Caring Enough to Confront: How to Understand and Express Your Deepest Feelings toward Others. Ventura, CA: Regal Books.