“Feelings are mentionable and manageable” – Mister Fred Rogers


In his television show of 895 episodes that ran from 1968 – 2001, Mr. Rogers taught kids about a variety of life skills such as valuing themselves, self-control, curiosity, appreciation of diversity, cooperation, patience, and perseverance.


Through meaningful lyrics, scripts, and puppetry, Mr. Rogers presented meaningful experiences that apply not only to children, but also to adults. He was talking about emotional and social intelligence long before all the books we have today that have been written on the topic.

How do you deal with conflict, stress, and challenges? When faced with conflict, stress, or challenges, what is your pattern? Perhaps your focus is on productivity and getting things done. If emotions get in the mix, you believe they only muddy the waters and slow progress. Perhaps you react in anger or please others in order to avoid addressing the real issue at hand?

Today’s blog is the first part of a multi-blog series addressing how family upbringing affects your conflict pattern and business relationships.

5 Signs You Are An Avoider And Need to Grow Your Self Awareness

1. “I deal with things by not dealing with things”

Because feelings are so uncomfortable, people who avoid addressing sensitive topics tend to negate or minimize the value of feelings.

2. “Feelings are a sign of weakness”

People who are avoiders often grew up in families where it wasn’t modeled to them how to identify or manage feelings. If feelings were expressed, it was seen as a sign of weakness.

3. “I don’t need anyone else”

Many avoiders learned to be self-sufficient because growing up they were frequently left alone. Even when present, their primary caregivers weren’t emotionally available to encourage expression of feelings and how to deal with them. Avoiders then learn to rely on themselves.

4. “I don’t need to talk about how something made me feel”

Many avoiders genuinely do not know how they feel. They learned to navigate through life by disconnecting from feelings and as such do not recognize the need to talk about them.

5. “I need space”

Due to their independent nature learned in upbringing, avoiders often push back when others try to talk with them about feelings. If pushed too much to discuss how something is affecting them, they push back with anger.

Influence from Family Upbringing

Every family establishes norms about what’s okay to talk about and what isn’t, including feelings. Many avoiders grew up in a family where the unspoken rule was to avoid feelings and if feelings were spoken of the expectation was to deal with it on your own. As a result, they learned to be self-sufficient. When there was upset, conflict, or tension, avoiders find a way of emotionally checking out in a variety of ways such as eating, video games, sports, drugs/alcohol, busyness, etc. – virtually anything in order to not feel and avoid connection with others.

Because avoiders often come from families where emotions were not dealt with, as a child they learned to hide their needs. The people who were supposed to be there to comfort and help them manage feelings, either didn’t know themselves how to deal with feelings or were physically unavailable.

Changing an avoidance pattern

Dan was referred to me for coaching due to abrasive behavior in the workplace. He was extremely competent at his job, but his behavior rubbed people the wrong way. When we first met, he was angry and didn’t understand why he was being offered coaching by his employer. All he knew was his job was on the line if he didn’t turn around his behavior.

Like a chisel that taps away stone to create a sculpture, little by little, Dan started to allow himself to look within. He began to see the impact of how his inner fears and insecurities were driving his external abrasive behavior. Prone to logic and wanting to make sense of things intellectually, it was a process over several months of allowing himself to be vulnerable and gain insight of recognizing the importance of changing the pattern of abrasive behavior.

An inner transformation …

Eventually an inner transformation evolved when Dan began to understand how when he feels anxious, he responds in an abrupt, critical manner out of fear of appearing incompetent.

Fortunately it is possible for avoiders to learn how to deal with uncomfortable emotions and still be productive. In fact, Dan found he was not only more productive, his employees were more willing to speak up with new ideas and get things done because they saw Dan’s willingness to listen without criticizing.

While it is a work in progress and there are times when Dan slips back into avoidance, he is aware of his default pattern. Now he knows how to identify when he is feeling unsure, insecure, and scared and to make the conscious effort to reflect and figure out what he might be feeling threatened about. In addition, he has allowed himself to create a circle of trusted friends, family, and colleagues and ask for help. This was a significant sign of growth.

How does avoidance relate to business relationships?

Brain science proves that in order to function at our best, we need both the logic of the left brain and the emotion of the right brain to see things in context. When emotion and logic come together, you promote well-being, creativity that enhances smart thinking, and relationships are strengthened.

How we relate to others in our personal lives eventually spills over in our professional lives. By having awareness of your tendency to avoid, you are more likely to optimize your business relationships and results simply by understanding your tendency of how you respond when feeling stressed, insecure, or fearful.

Keep in mind, it’s not that you address every single feeling and go to the opposite extreme of wearing your feelings on your sleeve…especially in the business world.

The key is self-awareness and when situations get uncomfortable allowing yourself to be vulnerable with safe people who will help you sort through how to best respond. Looking within and making sense of your upbringing is the first step.

Make the Conscious Choice to address feelings and you will see a positive change in your business relationships and results.