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Communication: The Great Avoid

How much communication did you actively avoid yesterday? Think about verbal conversations and written communications (emails, newsletters etc.) then come up with a number. 

Last week, I talked about Conversation Procrastination and this week I’m expanding that to all communication.  We avoid a lot more than tough conversations, right?!  Networking, Email follow-up, Invitations, Blog posts—and the list goes on.

Why do we avoid communicating? What are the consequences of not communicating? How can we change our avoidance patterns?

Why do we Avoid Communicating?

Because it’s hard.  Now get more specific.  Take one situation you’re avoiding and work through these steps.

Get paper and a pen…no typing.

  • Get a timer and set it for 3 minutes.
  • Write why you’re avoiding this…first entry is “because it’s hard.”
    • What makes it hard?
    • Is it the personalities? Life circumstances?
    • Do you hate the means of communicating (writing, phone)?
  • Circle the 3 Why’s that stand out.

This quick diagnostic tool will give you the gifts of insight and awareness plus activate your heart and gut with the quick pace. Our hearts and guts are important but are often drowned out by our minds—overthink much?! Using these tools for 3-5 different communication situations will reveal patterns. Pay close attention to the Why’s that show up multiple times…even if they are not circled.

We cannot change what we don’t acknowledge. Digging into the reasons why we avoid communicating shines a light on things that we like to keep in the dark corners of our souls and minds.  When we avoid, we lurk in the shadows like a spy behind enemy lines—great for action movies, not so much for our businesses, careers, or lives.

What are the Consequences?

Isolation, frustration, and lack of success are the big-picture consequences. When we don’t get our message out into the world, we retreat into our minds and then our imagination partners with our experiences and our gremlins to create elaborate stories designed to keep us safe and small.  Sound crazy?  Our big brains are complex and crafty…and not the kind of crafty that will win Pinterest. It’s important to figure out what isolation, frustration, and lack of success mean specifically to you and for your business.

Here’s another quick tool.

  • Use the same situation you did above.
  • Set your timer for 3 minutes and write down the consequences of not communicating.
    • Some should be measurable: time, money, turnover.
    • Some should be gut-based: disappointment, culture doesn’t change, remain unknown to the world.
  • Circle the 3 that stand out.

It just got real. Look at these and take a few minutes to sit with them and your feelings about them.  This is you.  This is how you are handling your business and life. Uncomfortable!!! Discomfort is normal and now you get to decide what you want to do…bury your head in the sand and continue with this discomfort until it boils up. OR take charge and turn all this energy into positive action right now.  The choice is yours and only you can make your dreams happen.

How can we Change?

Persistence and patience are the key ingredients.  Keep doing the hard, uncomfortable work of digging into your stuff—the Why’s and Consequences!  Awareness is important and when you’re ready to take action start with these.

  • Get your pen and paper and focus on one of the Why’s you circled above.
  • Write your answers to questions like:
    • Is this a story I’ve made up? Do I know with 100% certainty that this will be the result—how can I possibly know the reaction or outcome? Am I underestimating my audience? What does a positive outcome look like?
    • Is this a must? What am I trying to accomplish with this?  Is there another way to accomplish it that I prefer?
  • Next, focus on one of the consequences you circled above.
  • Write down your desired outcome as if you did communicate.
    • If you circled “culture doesn’t change” then you’d write about how you’d like your workplace culture to be.
    • If you circled “wasted 2 hours” then you’d write about how you’d like to spend those two hours after you tackled your communication.
  • LAST STEP! Write one action you will take in the next 3 days toward tackling this communication conundrum. Also write down how you’ll feel once you’ve done this. No action in the right direction is too small.

Elaborate and allow your mind to expand and include all possibilities. Remember there are zero possibilities when we do nothing.  Procrastination stops us in our tracks and when we’re stopped for too long we get stuck.


Patience is a Virtue

I encourage my clients to focus on one or two Why/s and consequences for a brief time and then take a breather. I remind them that this is not a quick process and overdoing it can be overwhelming.  Patience with ourselves, with the process, and with others are all critical for sustainable success.  Learning and adjusting take time and cause discomfort so it’s important we allow for these and understand others will be adjusting along with us. Patience is absolutely necessary.

“Bridget, this is a lot of work!”  It is.  And it’s worthwhile if you want to stop being in the middle of  people-and-communication issues.  Take the initiative and put in the effort and you will be rewarded with less stress and more success.

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  1. Brigitte Neumayr

    Hi Bridget,

    Nice write up! I really like how you broke down why we avoid communicating into simple steps. I can agree that my to-do list is ever growing and very hard to keep up with. Some of these items are not the most “fun” and I can definitely relate to this blog!

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