There are hills and valleys to the relationships we have with people. Your friends will tire you out sometimes, and your colleagues’ jokes will leave you bored. We sometimes willingly avoid those whose company we enjoy. Other times, we avoid those whose company we don’t enjoy at all. We avoid people for a variety of reasons, thereby the mere act of avoiding an individual shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing to do in itself. Giving yourself a break from someone’s presence can serve to benefit the relationship you have with them going forward. The act of avoiding someone however, is difficult to explain when we run into the people we’re ignoring face to face.
This article hopes to set some guidelines for you to follow if you find yourself running into people you’ve previously avoided. A form of anxiety builds up when we see a face we’ve been trying not to look at for a while. They’ve been invited to the same party, or are visiting from the department next door for the company-wide luncheon. Now, you find yourself in close proximity with the individual you’ve avoided. Especially if you want to preserve the relationships you have with the people you’ve temporarily avoided, running into them face to face forces you to play your cards right.
Taking Control of the Tension
The individual in question is likely well aware of your desire to avoid them. They’ve gotten the message from your refusals to hang out, get a coffee, or engage in meaningful conversation. They’ve likely noticed that it’s begun taking you a long time to respond to their text messages, and they’ve likely noticed that you stopped picking up their phone calls.
Even if they’re not in fact aware of your desire to avoid them in the current day, it’s better to assume that they are. This way, should you be forced to come face to face with the individual you’re avoiding, you won’t expect them to make the first move. A person who knows they’re being avoided will be less likely to make the first move to say hello. They’ll be scared of crossing the boundaries that you’ve erected with your acts of avoiding that individual.
In order to reduce the amount of awkwardness coming out of inevitably coming face to face with an individual you’ve avoided, attempt to initiate contact before that inevitability occurs. Strike up a social interaction with that individual if you know for certain that you’re going to need to come face to face with them somewhere down the line at the setting you find yourself in.
This way, you’d disprove their fear of being avoided by you. You wouldn’t confirm the fears they have of losing face in your perception, and the awkward tension of suspecting you’ve been ignoring them would dissolve. They’d likely be taken by surprise that you’re initiating contact with them, without knowing that it’s your way of taking control of a potentially awkward “run in” situation down the line.
If they don’t inquire into why you’ve been missing from their lives, then simply engage in miscellaneous conversation with them. If they do inquire as to why you’ve been ignoring them, then you’d want to be careful in what you say.
The Difficulties Were Your Own; Make Them Feel a Part of the Majority
As you strike up conversation with the individual in question, they’re likely going to inquire into where you’ve been. People tend to make implicit comments into your acts of avoiding them by saying things like, “I haven’t heard from your in a while,” or “You’ve been hard to reach as of late!”
Do not expose your true intentions of personally avoiding them. The tune you should establish in your explanation should they ask, is a tune of them being part of the majority. Thrusting them into the majority, entails communicating that they were not special in being the victim of your act of avoiding them. Ensure that you communicate that you’ve been difficult for everyone to reach due to difficulties of your own. Lay no blame on those you’ve been avoiding, even if they’ve been annoying to be around or talk to.
Make being difficult to reach, or talk to, a normality in the mind of the individual who is worried about you avoiding them. Cite things you’ve been going through in your personal life. Perhaps you’ve moved, or got a puppy. Maybe you’ve been handed more responsibility at work and have been staying late. Mention the difficulty of balancing personal and professional life as of late, and perhaps mention some even more personal reasons for needing some space from people in your life.
Whatever the reasoning you present in the face of their inquiry, ensure it is intrinsic to you, and do not blame anyone else for your tendency to be difficult to reach. Do not make them feel special in your act of being difficult to reach. Make them feel normal, and mention that you’ve been difficult for pretty much everyone to reach.
The goal in this exercise, would be dampen the painful truth without making any promises to be more available, or making apologies for not being available in the past. By normalizing the situation and throwing them into the majority, they’d have less reason to take things personally.