If you want to earn the equivalent of a graduate degree in people, I highly recommend The 48 Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene. He writes about the importance of not only our attitude but identifying the attitudes of others, both positive and negative. I’ve come across several of these negative types of people but by far the most common and possibly the most dangerous, is that of the Avoidant Attitude.
The Avoidant Attitude is characterized by people who harbor deep insecurities and are afraid of criticism or being judged. In political candidates this fear of judgement will usually manifest in a couple of ways. The first way is that these people will shy away from responsibilities, they are quick to follow but they will try to project an image of leadership. These are like politicians who follow the crowd and then go home and have a million excuses for why they are doing what all the other politicians are doing. They do not like to be criticized so they find shelter by getting lost in the crowd – “if everyone’s doing it, they can’t blame only me.”
The second way the Avoidant Attitude is dangerous, and this is not a rule, but they sometimes tend to have checkered careers and short term personal relationships. People might want to be a personal friend to them but they can never get close enough and they don’t know why (it’s because they don’t want people close enough to judge them or their decisions). The truth that no one knows is that no one can get close enough. They try to hide their personal flaws by seeming saintly – they will present themselves as noble or idealists and propagate ideas that you must take their word about because they cannot be proven or they never come to pass but merely add to their saintly projection. These people want everyone to think they are a leader or at least courageous to lead and where politics is concerned they have never been proven by taking a clear straightforward public stand and leading on an issue or casting a vote to back up their rhetoric. Attitude is everything. Anyone can slip into the Avoidant Attitude when they become too sensitive to the criticism and judgement of others. I’ve known people with the Avoidant Attitude that wanted to be a political leaders, they usually had strong opinions but never actually lead on any issue – never helped carry the ball forward on education or budget issues or anything. They talked about their success and service and wanted so badly to be a politicians but never made it into office. When good people got too close they would throw them out like yesterday’s garbage until now they are left making infrequent posts on FB trying to get validation through likes and shares.
When you treat people like this you won’t build a sense of community around your cause or your candidacy. People will come to the table with a positive attitude but the Avoidant Attitude sends them away feeling confused, rejected, or full of resentment or all three.
Detach: You have far too little energy and emotion to piecemeal out to everyone that has an opinion of you – save your energy to move the ball down the field and accept the fact that everyone else is in the crowd watching. Take inventory of your expectations: Don’t hold yourself to the measuring stick of popularity – you’ll always be too short for the ride. Instead, detach yourself from the importance you feel to measure up to people’s expectations and determine what you stand for and how you’re going to measure up to your own expectations for yourself.
Cut your losses quickly: When you realize that you have brought someone that harbors an Avoidant Attitude into your life or onto your team, it’s likely because they aren’t actually contributing to the effort in spite of all the talk and glamor. At a certain point, you might need to let them go and when it’s time to do that, do it decisively and don’t feel bad about it. Your effort isn’t an emotional welfare program designed to feed the ego or need for validation of anyone, it’s about accomplishing an objective.
There is a cost to not cutting your losses when you encounter this attitude in people who seemingly have a lot to offer. A person with an Avoidant Attitude might have an important position of influence or maybe they have a lot of money. If that is the case maybe they can contribute but draw your lines, don’t keep a dangerous attitude around for access to money, it might cost you far more than it will cost them – keep your integrity, it’s far more valuable than anyone’s money or proximity to their influence.
Know yourself and seek self improvement: If you find yourself avoiding criticism then immediately recognize that as a weakness and strengthen your resolve to overcome the emotions that accompany rejection. Recognize when judgement or criticism is appropriate and use it to improve yourself rather than using it as an excuse to invite negativity into your mind or resentment into your heart. You have limited time energy and emotion so spend it wisely on the things that move you closer to your objective.