Do you purposely avoid awkward experiences? I do! I read an interesting article by Dr. Alice Boyes about this topic. The article is as follows:
Sometimes when people use avoiding behavior, it’s for the purpose of avoiding heavy-duty emotions. However, it’s also very common for people to avoid milder emotions, like awkwardness. I frequently see people choosing not to enact their personal values to avoid feeling temporarily awkward.
The DIY Psychological Challenge for this post is for you to try to notice if/when you do this. Let’s say you have personal values like,
- Communicating clearly
- Being fair to yourself and other people
- Being friendly
- Being open
- Putting yourself in the pathway of new experiences
- Taking appropriate personal responsibility
Notice if there are times when you choose to not enact particular personal values because you don’t want to tolerate feeling awkward. You might have difficulty tolerating feeling awkward yourself and/or tolerating when someone else is feeling awkward.
Try to identify specifically which particular values you’re not enacting when you’re avoiding feeling awkward. This will give you information and ideas about alternative ways to approach the situation that would reflect your values.
Note the psychological costs to you of not enacting your values. This will depend on the specific situation. Below are some examples.
- Avoiding awkwardness becomes a habit and NOT avoiding it becomes harder over time, so the problem snowballs.
- You miss out on potentially interesting experiences.
- Other people develop an impression of you that doesn’t reflect your values (e.g. that you’re unfriendly or unapproachable).
- In avoiding awkwardness, you’re unfair to someone else and then end up feeling a sense of guilt and shame about it.
- In avoiding awkwardness, you end up creating far greater anxiety in the long run.
- You miss out on opportunities to practice the skills of enacting a particular value (e.g. communicating clearly), and therefore, miss out on the opportunity to develop that skill to a higher level
Avoiding awkwardness is a problem when it means you’re not enacting your values. If you keep the concept of enacting your values in mind, you should be able to approach difficult communication situations more clearly, quickly, and with the big picture in mind.
Do you purposely avoid awkward experiences? Dr. Boyes points out the importance of having values and integrating them in your life. The more you do this, the more you’ll have your most authentic and happiest life. I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.