Step into the New You!

by CrisMarie on February 3, 2016

Step into the New You! Avoid the Snapback to Your Comfort Zone, Reprinted from 406 Women Magazine

Last week, I was sitting in Reecia’s Salon in Whitefish getting my hair colored when Angie, a cosmetologist teaching makeup to another gal asked me, “Hey, can we use you as a make-up model?” With my head a mess of goo and nothing to do for the next forty-minutes, I said, “Sure!” Plus, that night I’d be acting in the play Radium Girls, as Marie Curie, at O’Shaughnessy Center. Makeup help was welcome.

With my back to the mirror, Angie and her student smoothed my complexion with foundation and defined my cheekbones and eyebrows. Red-orange lipstick was their final touch. They “Ooohed!” over their work, but when I swiveled around I was shocked. OMG! What I saw looked horrible to me. All I said was, “Are you sure?”

I continued to get compliments from clients and stylists during the rest of my time at the salon (I was too chicken to take off the makeup while I was still there). I kept thinking, “Really? What are they seeing? This does not fit my image of what looks good on me!”

In my car, I wiped off the orange-red gloss, reapplied my old standby, and thought, Whew, that feels better!


Comfort Zone

We each have a comfort zone we hang out in.

Our comfort zone may be our appearance, such as hair, makeup, weight, or style. We all know that gal who still sports a mullet and wears shoulder pads and mom jeans, unable to let go of who she was back in the 80’s.

Our comfort zone may be the type of relationship we keep winding up in. We also all know that gal who keeps picking bad boys then being surprised when they treats her poorly and run off with younger women. (Hopefully, this isn’t you.)

Our comfort zone may be around career or money. We struggle financially, finally get that raise, but within a matter of months, after a new car and some new clothes, we have the same amount of debt we can’t seem to pay off.

My theory is that if we gave the woman with the mullet a complete makeover, she’d soon be putting back on shoulder-padded jackets and growing out her hair.

Snapback: Jumping Too Far Too Fast

In my work with people who make career and life changes, I often see that when a jump is too big or fast, there’s a boomerang response and people snap back into their old comfort zone.

If we’re lucky, those around us provide feedback and support as we continue moving forward, but when a change is too big or fast, we’re likely to discount support and dive back into the privacy of our known world. Picture me swiping off orange-red lipstick in the privacy of my car.

Mary and Diane

This kind of snapback happened to Mary and Diane, clients of mine. They each took a risk, made a change, then snapped back, winding up frustrated and disappointed in themselves.

Mary’s promotion put her in her first leadership role at her computer software company. She knew how to program computers, but felt completely inadequate leading a team. Because we tend to feel better doing what we know, she stopped calling team meetings and spent most of her time alone in her office programing. She felt embarrassed but didn’t know what else to do.

Diane left the guy she loved because he wasn’t treating her well. It was a healthy decision, but after a week or two she started texting him “Just to say hi,” taking his calls, and meeting him for dinner, even though he was already involved with another woman. Diane always felt high when he texted back or when she saw him at dinner, until he started talking about his new woman, which left Diane feeling crushed.

Often, when we do something healthy or step toward what we say we want, we can’t hold onto it and we snap back to what we know best: mom jeans, our favorite lipstick, that bad boy, or our favorite task in our job.

Growing into the New You

What helps sustainable changes stick is breaking the process into baby steps and getting feedback from a trusted source. While fantasizing about radical changes and being happier, identify a path that gets you there more slowly and a support system that helps you grow into the new you.

That day at Reecia’s Salon, I accepted my newly defined eyebrows and cheekbones because I’ve spent the last six years in theater with cast mates who put makeup on dramatically and gave me lessons. Before my involvement in theater, it took me until my mid-thirties to regularly wear foundation, blush, and lipstick. These past six years have given me the time and support I needed to grow into wearing makeup that accentuates my features.

How to Step into the New You

These keys can help you grow sustainably into the new you:

  1. Narrow down the problem by answering these questions:
  • What do you know?
  • What don’t you know?
  • What fits?
  • What doesn’t fit?
  1. Get feedback. Figure out who can give you straight, supportive feedback.
  1. Take baby steps. Map out smaller steps that will make you feel successful.

For Mary, the shift came from breaking down her new role into what she knew and didn’t know. She knew programing but didn’t know leadership or people management. We worked on her beliefs about what that meant to her, and she investigated leadership training. We also set up a schedule where she could safely return to her comfort zone of programming during her day. The training and new schedule helped Mary make a gradual shift to leadership.

For Diane, the shift came from realizing contact with her ex wasn’t working. She set a boundary of no contact, but still had a strong desire to reach out to her ex and realized she couldn’t handle it alone. Like an alcoholic in AA who calls her sponsor when she wants to drink, Diane lined up three friends who she’d text, call, or meet with instead of reaching out to her ex. It took time, but Diane finally began to believe she could survive without him and deserved to be treated better.

For me, the shift meant keeping the dramatic brows and cheekbones and even wearing a lipstick, but of a different color. Maybe next time I’m at the salon I’ll try new color and, if I don’t like it, I’ll risk speaking up to ask for a less-radical color change before I head out the door.

Thanks, Angie!

CrisMarie Campbell is a Coach, Consultant and Speaker at thrive! inc. Clients refer to CrisMarie and her partner, Susan Clarke, as “The Team Doctors” because they focus on the health of the team in order to get the team to smart business results. They recently released their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!, where they spoke on Conflict is an Energy Source for Innovation, Creativity, and Transformation. You can contact CrisMarie at

Stop Being a Conflict Avoider

by CrisMarie on January 27, 2016

Stop Being a Conflict Avoider: Find Your Voice and Play Big!, Reprinted from 406 Women Magazine

I coach bright, competent, accomplished women who are weenies when it comes to dealing with conflict in their key relationships, both at home and at work. Yes, their relationships may look good on the outside. Even their work is impressive, but these women are exhausted trying to meet the demands of everyone around them.

The reason it all looks good on the outside is that these women spend vast amounts of energy managing around potential conflicts, but with a severe cost to themselves. They believe they have no choice, they feel trapped and powerless, and they think it’s all up to them to make happen. It’s sad to see these women give up so much of themselves, erroneously thinking they have no choice.

How Do I Know?

I was one of those women. For years, I thought my significant other had an anger problem, my job was too demanding, and my boss was overbearing. I was exhausted, miserable, and felt so terribly alone.

These women are what I call Conflict Avoiders.


Let’s Look How Angie Avoids Conflict

On Monday morning Angie’s boss told her she’d have to work late on Thursday. Angie agreed to do it, but she wasn’t looking forward to telling her husband Travis that their date night was going to have to be cancelled. He was always so reactive.

Monday Evening

Angie lay the groundwork with Travis Monday night at dinner.

Angie: “Geeze, my boss is being such a pain. He’s demanding that we work more hours to get this project done.”

Travis: “Seems like he’s always asking you for extra work. I don’t know why you don’t ask to be switched off that project.”

Angie: “Are you going to watching any games this week?”

Travis: “I haven’t really thought about it.”

Fast-Forward to Thursday Morning

Angie: “Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you, but I’m going to have to work late tonight. I can’t do our date night.”

Travis, frustrated: “That sucks! Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I could have made other plans. I hate that you always tell me at the last minute.”

Angie, trying to stay positive: “I asked Sharon if Hank wanted to watch the football game with you tonight.”

Travis exploding: “What the f**k! Oh, my God, stop managing me! I don’t like Hank. Plus, I’m not interested in tonight’s game. We had plans.”

Angie, feeling defensive: “Why do you have to be so inflexible?! You think I want to do this? This is my job. I don’t want to miss date night either. I have no choice, and here you are making me wrong!”

Travis: “I bet you didn’t even tell your boss you had a conflict. Did you?”

Angie just looked defeated.

What Conflict Avoiders Don’t Know

These women don’t yet understand is that conflict isn’t a problem to be solved, managed, or avoided. It is a natural part of any healthy relationship and provides an opportunity to speak up, show up, and engage with another adult who has a different opinion, perspective, or desire.

To some, this view of conflict seems obvious, but to real Conflict Avoiders, any sign of conflict is threatening. A sense of threat floods the body, and they will do anything to resolve it – even if it means throwing themselves under the bus.

I worked hard to overcome my Conflict Avoider tendency. Years later, I’ve found my own voice, my own power, and my tolerance to hang in during conflict. As a result, I have a sense of freedom and empowerment. (Well, most of the time.)

Today, I can easily spot the Conflict Avoiders on the teams we consult with. I coach them to reclaim their voice and their power – both professionally and personally.

Are You a Conflict Avoider?

Through the years, I’ve found that Conflict Avoiders often share a set of similar beliefs and strategies. Take the two tests below to see if you come out as a Conflict Avoider.

Conflict Avoider Belief Checklist

Conflict Avoiders tend to assume or believe that:

  • A “good” relationship is one where is everything is smooth.
  • A difference of opinion is a very dangerous situation.
  • If someone is upset, it’s not safe.
  • When someone is upset, it is my responsibility to fix it.

If you checked two or more of the four boxes, you’re probably a Conflict Avoider.

Conflict Avoider Strategy Checklist

Conflict Avoiders work hard at trying to minimize other people’s reactions to new or changing plans, direct feedback, or news. They utilize a variety of strategies in an attempt to get the message across while softening the blow, including

  • Hinting – Rather than saying anything directly, Conflict Avoiders hint at the issue, hoping the other person will pick up on it. This is what Angie was doing when she talked about how demanding her boss was.
  • Asking questions – If hints don’t work, Conflict Avoiders move to asking leading questions rather than making statements about themselves, hoping the other person will put the pieces together. Angie also utilized this strategy, when she asked Travis if he was going to be watching any games.
  • Burying the lead – In this strategy, the Conflict Avoider disguises the important information by mixing it in with other information.
  • Procrastinating – Conflict Avoiders will wait until the last minute to say something, praying that somehow they won’t have to say anything at all. Unfortunately, this strategy often backfires, causing an even bigger reaction. Angie could have told Travis on Monday night about the Thursday conflict, yet she waited until Thursday morning.
  • Blurting – Conflict Avoiders are so uncomfortable talking about things directly that they blurt out what they have to say in front of people who may not be involved.
  • Managing – Thinking they know best, Conflict Avoiders pre-manage a scenario to try to compensate for the change. Angie did this by seeing if Hank wanted to watch the game with Travis.

If you regularly or repeatedly use three or more of these strategies, you’re probably a Conflict Avoider.

The Impact

What Conflict Avoiders may not realize is that all of the strategies they use to keep things smooth are really ways of not having to deal with the other person’s reaction. In fact, these strategies are designed to control or manipulate people and situations.

Hmm, funny, isn’t it? The very complaint these women have about those demanding, overbearing people in their lives – that they’re too controlling – is the goal of their own conflict avoidance strategies.

How To Become a Straight Shooter

In my own journey from Conflict Avoider to Straight Shooter (okay, closer to straight shooter – I’m a work in progress!) I had to learn things that were foreign to me. Who better to ask for help with this issue than someone who considers conflict a natural part of relating. Susan Clarke, my partner, is that person for me. She, and others like her, have a set of Straight Shooter beliefs and strategies:

Straight Shooter Beliefs

  • A difference of opinion is a natural thing. (OMG, really?!)
  • They believe: “I don’t have to agree, fix, or manage the other person.” (Wow.)
  • Though not always comfortable, emotional reactions, even strong ones, don’t need to be avoided.

I know, right?! Unbelievable. So what type of strategies do these people use?

Straight Shooter Strategies

Say what you think, feel, and want directly.

They see their situation or opinion as their own truth not the absolute truth. I’m often surprised that my opinionated partner, Susan, will actually shift her opinion based on other input. (Including mine!)

Let people react without trying to take it away or fix it.

They simply give people the space to have their own reactions. In fact, they often listen and reflect back how they believe the person is feeling, without making the other person’s reaction wrong.

Don’t take the blame

They consider the other person to be an able, resourceful adult who can solve problems on their own or in partnership. Amazingly, they don’t seem to believe that they are unsafe if someone is distant (upset with them).

Back To Angie

Hopefully, looking back at the original scenario, you can now detect the signs that Angie is suffering from being a Conflict Avoider.

This is not to say that her husband isn’t at times demanding, overly loud, or angry. But Angie plays a part in his reaction when she doesn’t take responsibility for speaking up and saying what is true, early and directly. She does the same thing with her “demanding” boss, by not telling him she has a personal conflict.

Imagine if Angie had not avoided conflict.

Angie: “Travis, I don’t like it, but I have to work Thursday night. I’m not willing to say no to my boss this time, so I have to cancel our Thursday date night. I imagine you might be upset, but I wanted to let you know. If you need to vent, go ahead.”

Travis may get angry, but now he can decide how he wants to spend his Thursday night and if he wants to fight about this issue for the next few days.


I say to you Conflict Avoiders out there: It is up to you. You can continue to try to meet the demands of everyone around you or you can realize that you can speak up and say what you think, feel, and want directly and early. Yes, people will have feelings and reactions, but you don’t have to take that away from them. The other person is an able, resourceful adult. So are you.

CrisMarie Campbell is a Coach, Consultant and Speaker at thrive! inc. Clients refer to CrisMarie and her partner, Susan Clarke, as “The Team Doctors” because they focus on the health of the team in order to get the team to smart business results. They recently released their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!, where they spoke on Conflict is an Energy Source for Innovation, Creativity, and Transformation. You can contact CrisMarie at

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