What makes you crazy? Lots of things push your buttons, right? But when something really gets under your skin, the typical behavior pattern is to avoid it, big time. This is the easy way ‘out’ – just look away and hope that somehow the problem or issue will magically go away or resolve itself, if you just don’t look. And we always want the easy way. Who wants to work on the hard way? – it can be so unpleasant…
Children are especially good at avoiding what they don’t want to face or do, with silence.
“Dinner!” No response. “Did you hear me? – I’ve called you three times now for dinner!”
“How was school today?” Silence or “mmmm…”
While this breakdown in communication is perhaps understandable, it still is frustrating, mainly because the passive aggressive approach – lack of engagement – is so hard on the party it is being perpetrated upon – you can’t ‘fight’ fair when the other side won’t engage! And when that other person is your child it is especially annoying.
There are many ways to deal with this behavior, but one thing NOT to do is to react with anger, threats or illogical punishments. “I am so sick of your moodiness! You’re grounded for a week until you can decide to act right instead of acting like a two-year-old!”
My husband’s late aunt had a dear friend, Bob, who was a finance guy, who prepared her taxes for her every year. She passed away about a year ago, right before tax season. Of course at the time Bob promised to finish things up tax-wise this year, with anything that cusped over in the few months she lived last year. But now here we are in the new tax season, and Bob is avoiding communicating with my husband like he has the plague.
My husband has been trying to contact out-of-state Bob for weeks now, by phone and by email with several attempts. Bob won’t return messages and steadfastly maintains a wall of silence. My poor husband doesn’t know what he did to this man, who was so very kind last year. Of course, he didn’t do anything; Bob is simply stuck between yes and no – he wants to be accommodating and say ‘yes’, but for some reason he can’t – perhaps he’s too busy, likely he’s out straight, in over his head with work and just doesn’t have the time. But he can’t say ‘no’ either, because he promised and he feels he owes it to the memory of his late friend to do this last thing – how can he let her down? So he is stuck between yes and no – and avoidance, in the form of distance and silence, seems like a viable solution. But of course it’s not.
Bob is holding all the necessary paperwork and forms needed to file these taxes, so his stubborn avoidance is causing undue work and stress (to my husband, the executor of his aunt’s estate), which could be easily eliminated if Bob would just admit the situation he’s in, back away from the obligation, and turn over the paperwork to have it completed by someone else. His moral high ground is really problematic and the buttons being pushed are my husband’s. He is livid with Bob, mainly because the man will not communicate.
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: When one side avoids communicating, it is next to impossible to resolve an issue. The avoidance tactic resolves nothing when it is unreasonable and extended. Communication is a two-way street and both parties must engage to make progress. To maintain silence in the face of reason is simply childish and is hard to tolerate. To break the silence from a distance is difficult at best and at some point, you just have to go around the wall and proceed without the other’s participation.