When relationships are unhealthy, avoidance becomes the drug of choice.
But avoidance has some hefty side affects.
- Avoidance breeds ambiguity.
- Avoidance feeds paranoia.
- Avoidance wastes precious resources – as examples:
- Sending emails to the person, or calling them knowing you’ll get voice mail, instead of meeting face to face
- Steering clear of the person in the hallways, neighborhoods, grocery store, etc.
- Getting data from and/or sharing data through others instead of engaging directly with the person
- Living without the information you need, or spending hours getting it on your own rather than seeking it from the person
- Avoidance postpones or sabotages success, goal achievement, etc.
- Avoidance often causes stress and anxiety.
But avoidance doesn’t solve the problem with the relationship; it only pacifies or temporarily alleviates the current discomfort.
Avoidance is a drug that satisfies a symptom of unhealthy relationships.
Avoidance is not the cure.
I gave a presentation years ago regarding humble leadership and salvaging or repairing broken or strained relationships. Among the few challenges I offered the audience was this one:
Identify your biggest adversary, whether it be customer, colleague, family member, etc. and immediately take action to improve that relationship. If you have been avoiding that person, immediately commit to active engagement with them.
Afterwards, I was approached by many telling me that this particular challenge was intriguing, but seemed impossible. You see, they had grown accustomed to avoiding the other person; some had mastered avoidance so much that side-stepping the person seemed foundational to the relationship. In other words, they had created an avoidance habit.
Habitual avoidance was now their chief obstacle.
My advice to them, and my advice to you now, is simple.
Approach the person and admit you’ve been relying on avoidance for too long. Articulate that you’re choosing a new treatment, communication.
Communication should be the drug of choice.
Communication is the cure.
- Through communication, information is shared and understood.
- Through communication, work is completed.
- Through communication, respect is both given and earned.
- Through communication, trust is built.
- Through communication, gratitude and kindness are shown and felt.
- Through communication, authenticity is recognized.
- Through communication, empathy and compassion are demonstrated.
- Through communication, caring or love is proven.
Switching drugs is difficult, no doubt; it may even be frightening.
As with any change to a habitual regime, you, and maybe even the other person, are likely to experience discomfort. Awkwardness, humility and missteps will almost certainly arise, but they are temporary. Your psyche will get used to this new prescription. Then, the negative side effects will dissipate and you’ll find positive consequences emerging at every encounter.
I’m no physician, but I think you’ll enjoy the afterglow of communication so much that you’ll soon refuse to live without it.