If you were to consider your personal or professional life right now, what do you find yourself avoiding to do? The reality of the situation is that it never goes away. No matter what is done to avoid the person, task, conflict, or emotion, it will surface.
Ben, a serious and long-time drinker, had not been feeling good for a while and his wife insisted that he go to the doctor, which, with reluctance, he finally did. Upon examination, the doctor said, “Ben, if you don’t stop drinking, you’re going to die.” Of course, this upset him tremendously. When he came home to his wife, she noticed how distressed he seemed. “So, what did the doctor say?” she asked. “He said I’m going to die,” Ben shouted.
Ben did not really hear what the doctor said. He was practicing one of his chronic avoidant behaviors: selective listening. He heard only what he wanted to hear and shut the rest of the message out.
Avoidant behaviors, such as those exhibited by Ben, are examples of the subtle and not-so-subtle means people adopt to side-step issues and situations. Behaviors such as these are an outer manifestation of what’s going on inside. And, for those who use such avoidances, you can bet that what’s going on inside is some kind of fear.
We avoid because something is at risk. Tweet That!
The impulse toward perfectionism, for example, says I don’t want to risk doing something if I can’t do it perfectly. “Forgetting” doctor’s appointments could mean being afraid to find out if something really is wrong.Other types of avoidant behavior:
Such behaviors keep us safe within the confines of our fear even though we may not realize fear motivates our responses.
Unfortunately, these behaviors also push people away from us. While drinking, gambling, and drugging are some more obvious and destructive practices that affect our whole world, these more subtle aspects affect the quality of our relationships and ultimately sabotage the development and growth we can have instead.
Often, people aren’t aware they are using avoidant behaviors – especially when those close to them also engage in their own ways of not dealing directly with issues. We may be made aware only when someone has the courage to question certain practices: “Seems like every time I ask you to visit my family, you get a headache.” Or through a direct confrontation: after all those months you neglected to open your mail, the IRS placed a lien against your bank account. Or maybe life becomes so painful that we are drawn to look at our footprints — failed relationships, jobs, finances, dissatisfied employees or even our health.
It takes courage to confront such practices — your own or those of someone else. But one thing is certain about any avoidant behavior: like the IRS, it won’t go away on its own.
What are you avoiding in your life? Are there employees that you need to confront on your team? A task that has been sitting on your desk for a while and so you have been procrastinating on it? Is there a conversation that you need to have with your boss that you fear might jeopardize your job? Finances that need your attention but you are afraid of what the numbers might say.
Many times we avoid because we are not sure HOW to address the issue. If that is you, reach out to me for a complimentary coaching session to understand the coaching process and how it could support you.