The Slippery Slope of Avoidance…
We all avoid at times don’t we ? It is probably wise to avoid cheating on our taxes due to the consequences, although some may choose to do so. I certainly would choose to avoid walking up to an enraged man with a gun.
Some of us are more risk tolerant than others, but we all have our limits. It is wise to protect ourselves by avoiding certain people or situations that could truly harm us isn’t it ? The REAL question is, where do you draw that line ?
I have many clients who are dealing with controlling, manipulative and even abusive people, and find themselves avoiding these persons in different ways.
If it is someone you do not need to deal with, it might be wise to pick your battles and move on. However, what if it is a boss or supervisor, or even a friend or family member ?
I typically see these situations arise with clients and they cause a great deal or inner turmoil, and OFTEN LEAD TO ANXIETY SYMPTOMS because AVOIDANCE of these people or situations leads to a slippery slope that is potentially damaging to your self-esteem.
Commonly when it is a boss who is abusing his or her power, four thoughts come to my mind.
First, do all you can to be less vulnerable to that boss. That means always keep your skills, certifications, training and networking in good order, never allowing yourself to become too comfortable, even lazy about making yourself as VALUABLE as you can be. In this way, you are less vulnerable to that boss, or that job. Always be looking as to where your constantly improving credentials and knowledge could be used at another place of employment.
Secondly, carefully document with times and dates as well as notes as to examples of a bosses abuse of power. Documentation comes in handy and is something that can make a supervisor and his company nervous. Build a case while trying to find ways to work with this person, but without allowing yourself to be truly abused.
Third, talk to your boss or the offending person about specific issues he or she has about you, with steps you can take to improve. In other words, don’t avoid talking to the boss.
You initiating meetings to talk and find ways to improve is a sign of you taking some control, and is also a good part of what you will document too. Avoidance gives the boss power over you or at least he or she thinks so.
At this point, if you see no change in the bosses abusive ways, you can opt to meet with his or her boss or the Human Relations Department to share concerns and ask for intervention.
Forth, once you find a better position at another company, which means that your boss has not changed his or her behavior towards you even with all the positive steps you have taken, ask for an exit interview where you can tactfully express your feelings and reveal your documentation. In this way, the boss will have to face some consequence for his or her behavior especially if you copy Human Resources and his boss and have that exit interview become a part of your personnel file.
There are more difficult situations where an even more involved process , such as harassment charges need to be brought against a boss, but you need documentation and witnesses.
Avoiding these situations and steps only empowers abusive and manipulative people.
So what happens when the abusive or controlling people are family members or friends.
Well, I see this even more often with clients. An intrusive mother who is step by step destroying a daughters marriage. An abusive parent who physically, sexually or emotionally abuses their own child, even when that child has become an adult.
A so-called boyfriend who works to control the woman he professes to love, however, due to his own insecurities, step by step erodes her self esteem through verbal abuse in order to make sure she does not find someone else.
Abusive people come in all shapes and sizes, and yes , sadly and quite often are siblings, parents, children and others who you give a piece of your heart to. Avoiding setting boundaries, or creating distance with these persons can be spell disaster to your self-esteem.
Confronting people such as these often leads to them trying to turn the situation back on you. They often feel no apparent shame in playing every guilt card they have in their arsenal. So, especially if you have tried to talk to this person about how you feel, or when you know in your heart it will mean nothing to them, I would recommend you get involved with counseling, make sure you have a healthy support system of people in your life who are affirming. Then create consequences, letting the abusive family member know that you are no longer going to deal with him or her on their terms, on their turf, and that you are removing yourself from their grasp in whatever way you can.
It is not avoidance when there is NO DEALING EFFECTIVELY with them. But you cannot avoid making changes in your life so you are not dependent or continue to be a victim to such control and manipulation. Trying to change these people or do something to have them “see the light” is fodder for a great movie, but it is seldom real life.
Your Thoughts ?