Conflict Part 3: A method of carefronting

I carefronted two boys who were fighting. Going through the three questions of the last post, it was a clear and urgent matter to carefront them. The story turns out they were just playing like they do at home. They were not scared or rattled because they were carefronted. I avoided a mountain. Here is how it went down: O.I.C.: Observation, Interpretation, Clarification.

While I am using an example involving older children, I find the difference between adults and children is smaller than we would like to admit. I had similar conversations with adults.

Observation is stating the facts of what we saw or heard. Not what we think the facts are, but exactly the facts as we have observed. Stating what we observe is foundation for our interpretation. This is critical because we may not have all the facts, or we may be wrong in how we interpret the facts.

“Boys, I saw that you were fighting. Punching, hitting, pushing, and you looked mad at each other.”

Interpretation is what we believe based on the facts we observed. Even if we have all the facts, we may be wrong. It is important to differentiate the facts from what we believe. If I am sure of the situation, I only give what I believe- the negative situation. If I am not as sure or if it is not a huge deal, I give both a positive and a negative interpretation. In this step state what you believe, why you believe it, and the possible consequences of this. This is about care.

“Boys, from what I saw it leads me to believe something is wrong that caused you to fight in anger. Fighting is an wrong way to handle these issues. It is grounds for being suspended or can create a negative view of you.”

Clarification is the side door. It starts the conversation by putting the ball in the other person’s court. It allows the person to have a voice and speak to the situation. Clarification makes it about the person and not the issue. It seeks to understand and help, not point out and accuse. Clarification starts with a question followed by careful listening followed by a conversation. The key to clarification is to listening, not proving your point.

“Boys, could you clarify this, please?”
“We fight like this at home.”
“Yeah, we always play rough. We weren’t fighting, we were just playing.”
“Seriously? You were just playing?”
“Yes, sir,” they replied.
“Could you explain to me how this is playing and not fighting?”
“We were playing army.”
“Do you see how I and others believed you were fighting?”vI asked with arms folded.
“What should or could you do differently next time.”
“Not punch each other….” (Their feedback was much longer.)
“Alright. I get boys often like to play rough, but you need to be wise in how you play. You demonstrated poor discernment here. I’ll need to talk with you parents to verify this. You’re not in trouble… What have you learned?”
“We need to be aware of others around us…”
“You’re smart boys. I’m glad you’re here. Let’s get back outside.”

I talked with both the parents and the story checked out. They liked to play rough, the parents were also working on what was appropriate with them and were thankful for how the situation was handled.

Bottom line:
Even with relying on God, being completely solid in the importance of the issue and I was correct in my view of it, I was wrong. Carefronting strengthened the relationship and all parties involved grew as a result. Carefronting dealt with the issue clearly and upfront, but in a way that put the relationship first. Carefronting is about reconciliation not justice. O.I.C. is a way to carefront that uses the side door.

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