Over the last few weeks, I’ve been unfriended on Facebook.
Now, I’m not a toxic person. I know that. So those who unfriended me have not done so to keep themselves ‘safe’.
Unfriended by power
Sadly, I’ve been unfriended because I’ve been caught up in a huge rift within a global coaching organisation. This happened when a key player left the organisation to branch out on their own, and the proverbial hit the fan! Being an observer half a world away from the ‘action’ I could see why the rift occurred and I hoped to not be involved – it wasn’t my fight.
But one of the protagonists expected, even demanded, that people take sides and, particularly, to take their side. A campaign of slurs, mockery, and name calling ensued – with a creative (?) use of emojis, hash tags and slogans. People were bullied, harassed and slandered. Being unfriended was quite mild by comparison.
Taking ‘sides’ is not an adult or mature thing to do, and I resisted doing so. But, this protagonist forced my hand by unfriending me, merely because I had the temerity to suggest that there was a professional way to deal with professional disagreements! I merely suggested that a direct email would be the professional way of handling a situation (rather than self-righteous rants on a FB post – you know, the ones that begin “I would never…”).
And so, I got unfriended which I found very sad, as some of those who unfriended me were people I liked, had met in real life, and weren’t just FB connections. This set me to wonder why this behaviour saddened me rather than making me feel relieved, as it did for others. I certainly didn’t need all that drama in my life.
Unfriended as withdrawal
Unfriending, I realised, is a form of a withdrawal. It is a passive-aggressive action that does not allow for the healthy confrontation of issues. Withdrawal leaves you nowhere to go in terms of communication. The other person closes off all channels of communication. The walls go up. The shutters come down.
This unfriending triggered memories for me of past experiences in my marriage, where withdrawal was a means of both avoidance and control. Many many times I had sat across the table from my ex, trying to explain what I felt was wrong and I could see the shutters come down across his eyes. Even before I tried to have the conversation, I had rehearsed what I would say, tried to choose the best time to have the conversation, and worked hard on removing any emotion – all techniques I hoped would enable my ex to hear me and engage with me. But he didn’t want to engage, because engagement meant dealing with difficult things. If he didn’t engage, then he didn’t have to deal with anything and I was kept in my place of walking on eggshells around him.
The Dance of Withdrawal
In my blog from 2017, The Dance of Withdrawal, I discussed how a new relationship event triggered memories of my marriage. But as I recognised the triggers, I realised that I could choose a new way, a different way pf dealing with withdrawal. I took those past experiences and turned them into strengths. In this current situation, I have messaged some who have unfriended saying how sad I am about their choice. They have not responded but I get to choose how I relate to them. I discovered that I don’t need to withdraw to protect myself, but I can stay engaged. It’s not an easy road, but I can travel it.
What have you learnt from your past experiences that are enabling you to make stronger choices today? Please comment and share so that we can learn from each other.
What do you do when people withdraw from you? Does this withdrawal trigger something in you? If my experience resonates with yours, let’s chat offline. Use the form below to leave your details and I’ll be in touch.