The Key to Compassionate Confrontations

Welcome to our series 3 Ingredients Every Recovery Friendship Needs.  If you haven’t already take our quiz “How Healthy is Your Recovery Community?” 

We’ve talked about the importance of equal need and availability between recovery friends.  Now, we’ll help you learn how to compassionately confront your friends when they are faltering in their recovery journey.  

Ingredient #2: Carefrontations (definition: to care by confronting)  

One of my professors in grad school used this word in describing how therapists are to approach clients when they are self-sabotaging.  

I used to think it was cheesy but I appreciate the word when it comes to describing the role of an effective recovery friendship or group.  

Here’s an example of effective accountability via the “carefrontation.”  Say your friend says he is going to message you every day with the R|TRIBE app, but he misses one day.

A carefrontation would be “hey, you committed to message me every day and you didn’t yesterday.  I was wondering what happened?”  If there isn’t a good reason this could be followed up by “is there anything we need to change to help you be more consistent?”  

A carefrontation points out the inconsistency and asks an open-ended question to help the person process the inconsistency.  

Carefrontations are about the person who is being confronted, not about the person who is doing the confronting.  Nobody likes to feel controlled and confrontations can create that dynamic.  

In the end the person being confronted is focused on the confronter rather than focusing on the issue being confronted.

In a typical confrontation the connotation would be to point out the inconsistency with the intent of using shame as a motivator.  “So, what’s with not calling the other day?” The implicit message could be heard as: “you are kinda lame for not sticking to your word.”

Shame is unhelpful for recovery because most people struggling with porn or sex issues have not learned to differentiate healthy shame versus toxic shame.  

Toxic shame: “You are a loser and will always be a loser, why try?”  Guess where that leads?  Yes, to more acting out.   

Healthy shame: “You messed up.  Messing up is part of learning and growing.  What can you learn from this?”  

Even more problematic than the shaming issue is a “don’t ask; don’t tell” approach.  

When there are inconsistencies, a lot of people will not do a carefrontation or a confrontation.  Instead they will just do a ‘ignore-frontation.’  The implicit message: “I won’t point out your inconsistency so don’t point out mine.”  

A lot of recovery groups and friendships fail in this way.  This ignoring of reality erodes the integrity of the relationship and its purpose.  It can be seen as a sign that the other person does not truly care about you or your well being.

If someone confronts you about your inconsistency it means they are paying attention and looking out for your best interests. Even if they go about it the wrong way, you should share your appreciation and educate them on carefrontations.

This may be a difficult ingredient to use with your friends but hang in there and give it a try.  

The next ingredient to put in your recovery sauce is asking good questions.  Good questions can make all the difference.  Check it out!