Just think about this for a minute. Think about how you react when faced with a situation where there is an obvious “elephant in the room.” You know what I’m referring to – unresolved conflicts, difficult conversations, hard feelings, anger, embarrassment, hurt feelings, touchy subjects, things that make you fidget internally (maybe externally too.)
It’s that uncomfortable “thing” that’s there, you can’t see it, but you can sure feel it.
How do you behave? What are you thinking? What’s your strategy for getting through the discomfort?
We pretty much fall into 3 camps.
The Evader – “If I ignore it, it’ll just go away.” To this person the thought of conflict causes a great deal of anxiety. They prefer to leave it alone and live with the discomfort. Perhaps they’re afraid of the consequences, perhaps they simply don’t know what to do.
Either way they turn away from the elephant and try to pretend he’s not there – sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t…
The Prompter – “This must be resolved. It’s driving me nuts. I have to do something.” To this person anything unresolved or uncomfortable that’s left hanging out there is a source of great frustration and anxiety, a thorn in the side.
They can’t rest until the elephant is addressed…so they poke it to prompt a dialogue, sometimes with a gentle nudge to start the conversation, sometimes with a sharp jab to get the elephant’s full attention. Again sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t – resolution or escalation…
The Accepter – “I really don’t need to address this.” This person believes either the elephant is not a big deal, it’s not their responsibility, there is nothing they can do to resolve the issue or it’s simply not the appropriate circumstance. This is different from avoiding or ignoring. This person accepts that the elephant is there, but has intellectually determined that it does not require addressing for whatever reason.
What differentiates this person from their cousin, The Evader, is that there is no anxiety, only acknowledgement. It certainly seems that this strategy would be less stressful, but there is a risk of evasion being masked as acceptance and a reluctance to act even when appropriate. It’s a balancing act and again sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
One is not necessarily better than the other; it’s often a matter of personality, priorities and communication style.
But the reality is that the way we deal with the elephant in the room is also the way we handle life in general. (Feel free to Tweet that.)
So the question to be asked is not whether your style and strategy is wrong or right, but whether it best serves you. Does it cause or alleviate stress? Does it help get the results you want or interfere?
Something to think about…