November 30th, 2009
I’m dealing with an avoider. I find it very frustrating.
An avoider is someone who hates confrontation. She would rather a situation sit and fester, than have to sit down and handle the issue with you directly.
In fairness, many of us probably prefer to avoid rather than have a confrontation. I mean, who really likes confrontation? Not me, that’s for sure. However, it is important to deal with some issues instead of avoiding them and having them potentially blow completely out of proportion.
When an issue occurs, you have 24 hours to start to deal with it. It might mean that you say to the other person that you want to talk about it, and you might even arrange a meeting, but you must do something within the first 24 hours to show that you’re willing to deal with the issue.
I called Mary and outlined the situation. I was careful to use “I” language instead of “you” language (so that I didn’t put her on the defensive), I was very aware of my tone of voice and I was well prepared to say what I wanted to say.
When I called Mary, I got her voice mail. My message was concise and outlined what the situation was. I avoided placing blame. I told her I was wanting to speak to her directly so we could reach a mutually acceptable solution. I was professional, clear and upbeat. I asked her to call me back at her convenience.
She sent an email to our office manager, Caroline (thereby avoiding me altogether) asking to be removed from our distribution list and saying that she wanted to avoid further contact with our office.
Not exactly the nice friendly, professional way in which I was hoping we could deal with our misunderstanding.
I called her again and left another voice mail asking if we could talk about things, as I wanted to circumvent any hard feelings. In my voice mail I did mention that I would follow up my call with an email with my proposed solution.
I hate dealing with sensitive issues via email. Email should be used as a confirmation tool, rather than a confrontation tool.
Long story short, I have had no direct contact whatsoever with Mary. She has only responded to Caroline via email, refusing to discuss anything with her or me.
I did everything I could do to deal with the situation professionally, but she has been unwilling to co-operate.
Sometimes you will meet people who are not as professional or courteous—or courageous—as you are. Sometimes you will have to deal with sensitive situations in a manner that makes you uncomfortable.
Remember to always take the high road. I regret nothing that I did in the encounter with Mary. I do regret that her need to avoid discussing the situation meant that there would be residual hard feelings.
When dealing with confrontation here are my simple rules:
– use “I” language, instead of “you” language;
– avoid blame, and focus on resolving the situation;
– be prepared so you are not reacting to the situation, but rather are responding to it;
– take the professional path (the high road), even in personal confrontations; and
– know when to walk away.
I’m sorry that a simple misunderstanding has now become a major issue. I have learned that even the “right” approach doesn’t always work, and that you need to be flexible when dealing with confrontation.
I wonder what Mary learned from our encounter.
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