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Do You “Beat Around the Bush”?

For this week’s blog I am bringing back one that was popular a couple of years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted January 26, 2016):

It sometimes happens when conflict is evident – that we avoid facing it and so, we manage the dynamic indirectly. This may be by dropping hints, making veiled comments, being sarcastic and other ways. Such responses to conflict may well have an underlying intention and hope to bring the situation to the surface – not necessarily to avoid it. In any case, this approach may be referred to as “beating around the bush”, which has an interesting (and frightening) derivation.

According to, this expression “comes from boar hunting in which the noblemen hired workers to walk through the woods beating the branches and making noises to get the animals to run towards the hunters.  Boars were dangerous animals with razor-sharp teeth (you really did not want to meet one-to-one, esp. with no weapon).  So the unarmed workers avoided the dense undergrowth where the boar might be and beat around it, rather than going into it.  Thus, this evasive technique was termed ‘beating around the bush’”.

If this expression reflects your way of managing a current conflict, the following questions might be helpful in unpacking the tendency. Feel free to use the past tense about a previous dispute, if preferred. In either case, I suggest you start by bringing to mind a situation in which you realize you are or were inclined to use evading techniques.

  • What is the situation about?
  • What evading technique(s) are you using?
  • What is happening as a result of using that technique (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What do you want to have happen that may not because you are evading the conflict that way?
  • When you consider the metaphor more closely, what does the “bush” represent in your conflict?
  • Taking the metaphor further, in what ways are you being a “nobleman” or “unarmed worker”?
  • What other technique(s) might be more effective?
  • What do you suppose keeps you from being direct rather than evasive?
  • If you haven’t said so yet, what are the fears you are experiencing about the conflict? About the other person?
  • What are the possible opportunities you are missing by “beating around the bush”?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


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