Friday, April 16, 2010

Communication Trap #4: Withdrawal and Avoidance

To wrap up the "communication trap" thread, the number four communication practice to avoid is Withdrawal and Avoidance. That's right, I'm saying you should avoid avoidance. This behavior often follows an escalation or invalidation incident. It is the classic passive-aggressive response: just avoid the individual that is causing you problems (see Traps #1 and #3). If you don't interact, you can't argue, right?

The whole problem with this behavior is that it doesn't do anything to solve the problem or improve the situation. It just keeps everything in a state of suspended animation, with no resolution. This behavior can put an organization into gridlock, slowing performance to a crawl, suffocating innovation and creativity.

What is the solution to withdrawal and avoidance? First, recognition that there can be no progress without resolution of the issue. Putting off the resolution only delays the time until improvement can occur. Most people don't want to hurt improvement and progress. Often just the recognition that the organization (and your own peace-of-mind) will be better served by action rather than by inaction is enough to allow you to overcome your desire to crawl into a hole and allow you to face up to the conflict.

Second, you must actually discuss the undesirable behavior with your protagonist. After escalation or invalidation a short emotional cooling-off period is often required, but don't wait too long to get the subject on the table, discussed and dealt with. If you find it hard to start the conversation, it can be helpful to acknowledge your feelings, e.g. "This is hard for me to say, but I think it is important that we discuss this. I am uncomfortable leaving it buried. I think we should talk about it for the benefit of the organization."

You will be amazed at how often the other party follows such an introduction with an apology of their own. This clears the air and lets you get back to work on making things better.


  1. Where does having one's posted comment removed fall under? Beit confrontational,debatable or possibly argumentive.

    Let's see:
    #1.Invalidation,comment post removed with no reply. check
    #2.Negative Interpretation, again no return comment. check
    #3.Escalation, nah not yet. no check
    #4.Withdrawal and Avoidance, posted comment gone. check

    DOH!! My mistake , I seen 0 comments at the end of your posts and mistook that as, number of, not, no comments. My apologies, I didn't relize this was your own personal Soap Box accepting only nicey comments. I was thinking ALL COMMENTS WERE WELCOME!!

    Dang! #3 check. Where does sarcasm fall in ??
    Oh! Oh! brains still ARE NOT FREE!

  2. Ooops, gee whiz, looks like I struck a nerve here.

    Actually, I had comment moderation turned on but didn't get notification of a pending comment until today, so I'm sorry for the delay but here you go in all your glory. Post away, but please realize that I do moderate all posts that appear. I will try to be more prompt with this in the future.

    And to reply to your final question, I'd say that sarcasm is actually a form of Invalidation, see #1. Thanks for reading.


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