Every so often, I attend youth events like summer camp. One of the staples of these high energy gatherings is a game called “stupid human tricks,” that the camp director will use to warm up the crowd before a service. The idea is to offer a reward to anyone who is willing to demonstrate an unusual trait or behavior before the crowd. There is never a shortage of participants. The “tricks” run the gamut from joints that can be bent backwards, to the ability to turn your tongue upside down in your mouth, or some such oddity. My youngest daughter was a regular winner of these games, but I am sworn to secrecy not to tell her “giftedness.”
This silly game reminded me of the even sillier games that some people, who really should know better, play in their interactions with each other. I call them “stupid human avoidance tricks.”
- Jumping relational canyons to escape intimacy; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “Bob sees his wife even less than I do and she never complains.”
- Pulling unrelated complaints out of a hat to distract from intimacy; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “I might come home more often if you didn’t park your car on my side of garage.”
- Using verbal sleight of hand to hide uncomfortable truths; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “Oh, you always look so cute when you are so serious.” This is said with a wink and nod.
- Hiding painful truths in hidden pockets; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, “I know, we’ll talk about that this weekend. Now let’s eat.”
- Piling unimportant words so high that crucial words are never spoken; i.e., the argument is that I don’t see you enough. The accused responds by saying, and saying, and saying, and saying… you get the point.
Which of these is your favorite? Is one of these “tricks” limiting communication in one of your relationships? One of the most frustrating relationships to be in is when someone you care about is emotionally distant. If someone is distant, they are probably using one of the stupid human avoidance tricks.
All of these techniques serve the purpose of avoiding confrontation. But, the problem with avoidance is that the problem is still there. Avoidance is just relationship procrastination.
If you want anything to improve, you have to start with honesty. No suffering relationship ever improved while people were utilizing avoidance tricks.
Suppose your friend is “hiding painful truths in hidden pockets.” Every time you bring up a troubling behavior of theirs, they tuck it away temporarily in a fake show of connection. It doesn’t take long for the behavior to show back up and you know you haven’t really dealt with the issue. How do you get past this trick?
- Pick a time for the confrontation, where conversations will not be interrupted.
- Pick your words to demonstrate that your goal is improvement, not blame.
- Pick apart surface attempts to hide the offense by refusing to accept meaningless praise.
- Pick a powerful memory to share of a time when the relationship was thriving and growing.
- Pick a demand that will demonstrate real improvement from your partner on which you will not compromise.
- Pick a time to put the relationship on hold if the promised improvement does not come.
Much of our joy and most of our misery flows from our relationships. Refuse to indulge in “stupid human tricks,” and don’t let those you value, get away with it either.