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When Disappointment Rears its Ugly Head

January 05, 2018 Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

We all have disappointments...at times. You lose your job. You’re dumped by a boyfriend of five years. You don’t win the lottery. Your kid doesn’t get into the college of his choice. It's impossible not to experience disappointment if you have a life such as friendships, romantic liaisons and business relationships. And as you turn age 50plus, the disappointments mount and get more serious. Losses of loved ones through death or divorce, as we know all too well.    

Some of the biggest disappointments happen in relationships where everybody has different expectations, which often aren't verbalized sufficiently or clear enough before issues arise. A friend leaves you out--most likely unintentionally--from a social gathering. Sometimes it may be simply because she forgot, and yes she shouldn't have. Or maybe, it was a bit more intentional. She decided you wouldn't click with everyone else attending. Or maybe she wanted an intimate group and made an executive decision about the size and who should and should not be there without asking or considering how you might feel. 

And there's the more complicated situation when it's not just about feelings but about money or being overlooked at work. Perhaps, when your boss hands a plumb sales assignment to your colleague and not you; you may ignore it the first time or not even know. And then it happens again...and again. Is it time to continue to stew, speak up or even start looking for another position because you should be clear about the writing on the wall--you're not No. 1 in your boss' eyes?

 You always have several possibilities in most cases to deal with your disappointment:

  • You can do nothing, ignore what happened and decide that it won't affect your life long term. If you do so, you have to be able to literally move on and not dwell on why it happened, continue to sulk and possibly eat you up inside. Do you have that kind of personality trait? Some do, and many don't.
  • You can come up with lots of "why it happened" scenarios, called assumptions, which involve trying to get into the head of the other person. While doing so may prove comforting and offer rational, intellectually sound reasons, you can be also very wrong. Mind reading is tough, if not impossible. So what have you really accomplished except getting upset, being creative in your thinking and wasting a lot of time when you could have gone out to play a round of golf, cooked a batch of brownies or swum the English channel?
  • You can email or text the person and ask for an explanation. That gives the person an out; they may decide to ignore and even feign that they never received your email. They may totally misinterpret what you wrote and you may end up creating a bigger issue. Or, they may email you back an explanation, call you up or even suggest you meet face to face. Who knows what the reaction will be in advance? You certainly won't.
  • Lastly, you can call or bring it up in person. In either case, it's smart to use the "I" word rather than "you" which may cause them to become defensive and end up not resolving anything. Be prepared that they may say something you may not want to hear such as "So and so really doesn't like you so I was trying to protect your feelings" or "While you're a valued member of the team, XYZ is much stronger at this type of work than you." Or they may decide they were wrong, apologize, promise that such an error won't happen again and you can feel a bit satisfied that you've done a major favor to that person by helping them to be more sensitive and caring. On the other hand, you have one crack at such a tactic; you can't keep bringing up stuff where you feel disappointed or "wronged" since the person is likely to decide you're a high maintenance friend or colleague. 

So, what will it be and why? In any case when you feel disappointment and hurt, you do have the power to act. Before you do, first mull through all your options and sleep on whatever you think you're going to do before you speak or write. Disappointments are obviously… disappointing. What tack you choose to take to deal with disappointment, can be empowering.




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