Four Reasons Poor Communication Makes Anxious People More Anxious
Why hating confrontation causes more problems
I hate confrontation. One of the things I dread most is having an awkward discussion about something I have done, or someone has done to me. The anxiety and dread are overwhelming. I’m not the type to clap back in general, and I rarely address something right when it happens.
This is odd because the lack of communication actually causes more distress.
For instance, I recently became upset with someone close to me.
Rather than address the issues right then, ask clarifying questions, and express my wants, I decided to keep quiet. I didn’t want to rock the boat.
However, in doing so, my mind spiraled and caused problems in my relationship.
So why do it? Why do some of us fear speaking our minds? For me, I worry about the awkward and exhausting task of talking out the issue. But I am not alone, am I?
To those who are like me and are trying to understand the consequences of our avoidance and delayed responses, I offer my personal insights on how the postponed causes a chain reaction of problems.
The Spiral of Avoidant Communication
- Poor communication causes more anxiety.
There is something to speaking your mind right when something happens. Allowing yourself to react is a form of self-respect and trust. Of course, those who speak up immediately run the risk of hurting someone without thinking it through. Sometimes we think of these people as mouthy or rude. Assertive is another word too.
For those who are more careful and obsessive with their words, speaking up is a daily struggle. We are meticulous about avoiding making a big deal out of nothing. We want to make sure we have facts straight before bringing something up. The problem is, we miss meaningful opportunities to express ourselves.
That said, not all assertive communication is combative. It could be as simple as clarifying something. Some of us are type Bs who don’t need definitive dates and times for plans. We leave things open-ended. However, this is super frustrating for our Type A counterparts — or anyone trying to make a schedule.
I’ve realized making sure both parties are on the same page is critical. For instance, in my tiff, I thought we had tentative plans for Christmas. I’m okay with tentative plans and usually won’t confirm until closer to the date. But because I hadn’t clarified and confirmed, my sister thought nothing was set in stone and went ahead and made other plans.
This could have been avoided with clear communication.
2. It leads to misunderstandings and assumptions.
When we don’t clarify or address issues, it can lead to a lot of assumptions. We assume we know what the other person is thinking. We believe we know their motives, and like moves on a chessboard, we begin to calculate our story and our next actions. We feel hurt by our interpretations. We start to harbor resentment. Some of us pull away and thus make it even harder to address. By the time the other person notices, we are steps ahead and either checked out, or furious.
For context, in my situation, because I hadn’t clarified my feelings. I began to take every move as a slight and started the practice of mind reading and assuming. I assumed that my sister was thinking x, y, and z. In my head, the situation spiraled out of control.
Unfortunately, the stress of not having addressed an issue causes anxiety, and every action can be loaded. For already anxious people, this is just another thing we don’t need.
3. The outburst of emotion feels bizarre to the other person.
For the more emotional of us, an outburst is inevitable. At this point, we have assumed and obsessed and can’t take the tension (sometimes imagined and one-sided).
We play the scenario out in our heads; we talk ourselves out of it and back into it during bursts of confidence. Eventually, we go for it. We decide to bring it up, and boom. The other person is like, wtf.
On more than one occasion in my life, I have blindsided loved ones. I’ve heard, “I didn’t know you felt this way!” and “Why didn’t you say something before?”
I know I’m not alone. We skilled avoiders have left many unsuspecting victims in our wake. We wonder why they didn’t know or see. How they couldn’t feel the tension even from the moment it happened.
After we confront the other person and hear it from their side, the blind side, we feel guilty.
4. We are left repairing and apologizing for our actions.
All of that stress was overkill. What could’ve been addressed right from the beginning was left to build. Our loved ones are left hurt and confused, and not sure if they can trust us. We then feel we can’t even trust ourselves.
Plus, all the drama and lack of communication make us feel cowardly.
What can we do? How can we break these awful patterns?
I’ve been working on this and actively trying to read books, listen to podcasts, and practice, practice, practice — as hard as that is.
A close friend who understands my avoidance recommended the practice of taking a night to think about it before speaking up.
Taking a night to check one’s emotions along with the facts helps avoid rash comments. However, addressing it the next day when it’s still relatively fresh on everyone’s mind gives us a chance to think about it and then address it promptly. It’s better to focus solely on that issue than waiting and attaching multiple points to the drama with an avalanche of feelings. This way, it’s a lighter discussion and more comfortable to move on from.
So for those of us who struggle with assertiveness, confrontation, and communication, we can’t give up. We owe it to those around us to be and do better — to be clear and to handle conflict straight on.
To those who have to deal with us, please, be patient and feel free to call us out, even though we’ll hate it.