Updated: Sep 8
How much do you avoid in your life? Moreover, what are you avoiding? I’ve avoided a certain degree in my life; however, I am generally more communicative, proactive and direct. It’s hard for me not to speak up and speak my truth so I usually get it out.
This said I have observed we live in a very avoidant culture: people ghosting each other, people passing blame and acting in ways that do not resolve the issue. Below are the top traps of avoidance I recurringly witness. If you identify with one or more of them I provide some tips afterward that may benefit you.
1. The Passive-Aggressiveness Trap
I believe we all have been a provider and receiver of this one. Passive-aggressiveness is insidious and unhelpful. They are two extremes on the metaphoric pendulum and assertiveness lies in the middle. Something bothers you but you do not address it (passive) and then other things accumulate and until you reach a tipping point and boil over (aggressive).
Some of my clients have difficulty with assertiveness and unwittingly or wittingly become passive-aggressive in situations. They find it challenging to address things as they come up, not wanting to “stir the pot” until they eventually pick up the pot and dump it all over someone’s head. Not pretty and super unappetizing. It also does nothing to improve the situation.
2. The Little if No Improvement Trap
If you are lashing out on someone chances are they are not wholly receptive to what you are saying or even at all. If you are not saying anything then there is no chance for improvement. How can one or an organization do better if nothing is said? They don’t know where they stand with you.
What’s worse is that the very thing you are upset about or avoiding generally repeats itself. If you were annoyed or frustrated before, wait, it typically continues and can get unbearable.
3. The Tolerating Trap
If nothing is said then there is a certain amount of tolerating that is happening and, from my experience, toleration is a big energy drain. I see it zap the life out of clients and loved ones. The more you avoid the more you tolerate.
We experience so much more energy and joy when we address or let go of what takes an internal toll. Many people do not see avoidance through this lens; however, just ask someone who has ignored a leaky faucet or roof how truly annoying and draining (okay, pun intended) it can be.
We also can be tolerating by speaking/complaining to other people about the situation rather than to the person or group that we find fault with. Sure, we get some relief but again it doesn’t change the situation and it still annoys us on some level. Sometimes we tolerate to please others over ourselves, being altruistic in some cases, however, it does not change the effects. Another tactic of toleration, or the avoidance of it, is to blame.
4. The Blaming Trap
Blaming is a super popular avoidant tactic because it is easy and takes responsibility away from us. A significant amount of people would rather blame someone or something than feel the uncomfortable feelings of vulnerability and accountability.
Avoiding embarrassment and responsibility is far more appealing but it also keeps us stuck. How can things improve if you do not see your hand in the dynamic or choice? We also think we are deflecting any consequences by blaming however this behaviour and lack of awareness are also draining. It can also cover our fears.
5. The Festering Fear Trap
We tend to fester our fears when we avoid: the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of not belonging and losing security, etc. It can become a cesspool of fears. Fears are natural, however, not addressing any and circling them around in our head keeps us from living a full and joyous life.
The trap can be an unlived life, which I believe is the ultimate trap. I don’t know where I would be if I did not confront some of mine. I know I would not have traveled to certain places (places I was told to avoid), I would not do any public speaking nor would I have become a coach; all things that added to my life and bring me a lot of satisfaction.
If one or more traps resonate with you, here are some suggestions to help out:
Use “I feel” statements instead of “You” statements when wanting to effectively communicate and provide a solution, i.e. “I feel I take on a bulk of the work when you go on regular breaks and I would like to feel it is more equally distributed by agreeing to a certain amount of breaks for both of us.”
When providing feedback, come from a constructive place as opposed to a critical one. People can feel the difference and are a lot more receptive if they feel you care and are investing in them with your feedback instead of trying to tear them down. If you need time to cool off then do so.
Another way to provide feedback is to start with a question as opposed to making a statement, i.e. “Why did you choose the colour green for that?” This can open the dialogue in a non-threatening way for you to provide your opinion plus it shows you care to understand as opposed to just being critical.
Address things as they come up, do not wait for it to accumulate. Even if you think it is minor or trivial if it bothers you then speak up. Better to get it out now before you burst (recall upturned pot).
Feel the fear and do it anyway as Susan Jeffers suggests. There are a lot more tips and tools on this in her book Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway.
Hopefully, you found one or two tips useful and can start implementing as opposed to avoiding.
Some might read this blog post and say that avoidance can also be a good thing: to know when to “pick and choose your battles.” Yes, sometimes avoiding things can be helpful, or harmonious, however not if you are betraying yourself or someone in some way with what you are avoiding. Most people know when they have betrayed themselves or someone in some way. If this is not the case, then great, if it is then I highly recommend you face the situation at hand.
Ps. If you feel you are stuck in one of these traps, you can apply here to see if I can help