Discomfort – it’s a part of life. We experience varying degrees of it all of the time with our coworkers, acquaintances, and even our friends and family members. Why? Well, thankfully, the world is colored with a myriad of different perspectives that challenge our thinking, and often stretch us outside of our comfort zones.
Just imagine how boring things would be if everyone agreed all of the time. How could we learn, innovate, grow, or even laugh, if everyone were always on the same page?
Strong leaders know that they’ve got problems, when they consistently witness their teams nodding in agreement all of the time, instead of raising issues with one another and collaborating to problem solve. Yet so many of us are extremely uncomfortable with discomfort, and this actually minimizes our leadership impact.
When we attempt to avoid discomfort, we actually make things even more uncomfortable than they have to be. Sometimes all it takes is one uncomfortable conversation to solve a problem, or better yet, implement a brilliant idea. The bottom line is that our ability to get comfortable with discomfort, not only raises our own effectiveness; it also separates true leaders from followers.
True leaders are willing to confront discomfort with ease, while those looking at the back of their heads would prefer to uncomfortably shy away from discomfort. So, what are the signs that you, or someone you know, chronically avoids discomfort and how do others perceive it? Here’s a list of what I like to call, the all too common “discomfort avoiders”...
1. The Deaf Pivot
You know what I’m talking about. It’s abundantly clear that someone would prefer not to hear what we have to say, when god forbid, we express an issue of concern, or honest feeling about a situation without rose colored glasses, and we get a blank stare, and a token subject change in return. While this method keeps the conversation “positive” and “on-track” through the eyes of the pivitor, it makes people on the receiving end feel completely discounted and unimportant.
Now, just stop and think about the influence qualities of any great leader you know. Is making people feel unworthy and invalid on that list? Leaders who refuse to open their ears and hear perspectives that fall outside of their own personal agendas, actually come across as self- absorbed, out-of- touch and insensitive to the needs of others. Ironically, the overall impact of the deaf pivot has pretty adverse effects to the initial intent of keeping things “positive.”
2. The Clean Sweep
Here’s where our avoider hears everything we have to say, and due to the mere inconvenience of it, prefers the proverbial, “let’s sweep this under the rug” method. In this case, the avoider may take time to hear us out, and might even expressively respond to us. Yet, as time passes, the issue neither gets resolved, nor discussed again. It’s simply put away in a black box of discomfort, which everyone is now too afraid to re-open.
The clean sweep is a masterful way of making mountains out of molehills – by setting an awkward tone that certain topics are simply unapproachable. This tone then instigates isolation from others, and often, disconnection from the real issues influencing bottom line performance.
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