3 Tips for Handling Disappointment with Others

You may have someone in your life who you love with every ounce of your heart. A good friend from high school or college. A family member. A significant other. Whoever that someone is, you may have felt frustrated when they snapped at you suddenly, backed out of your plans (again…), left you out of something important, or simply haven’t been there when you really needed them. You may have even thought:
If only I could just get so and so to show up once in a while…
If only I could just make so and so prioritize our relationship…
If only so and so would just hear me out…

You know how the story goes. If only so and so would change, everything would be different. 
The problem is you can’t change so and so. And I know you know this.

So what do you do? How do you react when disappointment calls?

Do you just let your friend walk all over you? Do you accept being flaked out on all the time? Do you let that guy keep treating you like you are a pawn in his game?
First and foremost, heck no! We have to own and claim how we want others to treat us and we do this by showing them what’s okay and what’s not okay. This is not okay. 
However, we are talking about people who we care about deeply and it is no easy task when so and so is someone you love.

Here are my top 3 tips for handling disappointment:

1. Understand what is happening.  

What’s happening on so and so’s end? Do you know? Have you asked? I always go to this place FIRST because so many times we assume what is happening and get caught up in the game. We create a fictitious story and completely run with it, convincing ourselves our version is true. Stop that right now. When was the last time you used your voice to find out what is going on? Oftentimes I find out that there’s more to the story than I am aware of. Way more. Find out. Ask questions. Use your voice.

2. Wait until you are in a rational place to talk.

We have to make sure we are not asking questions when we are frustrated. Wait until some time has passed and you are calm. Guaranteed that when you show up from a place of love and understanding, you’ll be able to react in a way that actually helps you create more of what you are wanting. It’s easiest to protect ourselves from pain by getting upset and pushing those away who hurt us. But sometimes those who hurt us are the very people we love. They aren’t bad people. They love us just as much and we typically have overall positive relationships with them. Yet, if we can subtly remind ourselves in those moments of frustration that we have the power to control what’s on our end of the relationship, we can choose to respond from a place of love and understanding to learn more about what’s going on for them.

3. Avoid “why” questions.  

Your goal is to understand what’s going on with so and so. If we jump to a question that starts with “why,” we are likely to put others on the defense. Think about the last time you asked so and so why they didn’t show up, why they weren’t there, or why they never call? So and so is likely to get very defensive and pull farther away from you. Remember, we want to create connection. We want to understand what’s actually happening, so it’s key that we start with questions that help us achieve this. I recommend starting off with a “what” question. Here’s an example of how this may sound:
What’s been going on lately? I’ve noticed you haven’t been around as much. Is everything okay? 

Remember these tips to help you stay emotionally in control.

By doing so, you are creating a tiny bit of space between the feeling of frustration and your reaction, and that’s where the real power lives.

Your attention shifts from being mad at so and so, to wanting to understand what is happening with so and so. There’s a big difference here. One lives in frustration and anger while the other lives in compassion. 
I know which one I respond best to. Do you?


How To Deal When A Friendship Has Changed

A few months ago I was working with a client on dealing with some icky things she was going through with a friend.  Some of her frustrations included:

  • Her friend not hanging out as much anymore.
  • Her friend not responding to texts and calls.
  • Her friend constantly canceling plans.

I could go on and on.  I personally felt every frustration my client felt.  I knew she was doing everything in her might to keep the friendship going and her friend just wasn’t having it.  
The friendship had changed. 
And this realization hurt.

In my experience, there are two ways we can approach this situation:

1. We can allow our frustration to drive how we interact with our friend.  

Pissed she’s bailing, again?  Sad she hasn’t responded to your text in about a month?  This might sound like, “I’m really disappointed you can’t go" or "You never call anymore."

2. We can take what our friend is GIVING us in terms of a friendship and run with it.

This is the harder option I know.  This means focusing on the positive.  "I'm so glad we found a day that works for us to hang!" or "It means a ton to catch up."  This also means leaving your anger at the door.

What type of response would make you want to hang out again?

I know we learn throughout our lives how important it is to voice our feelings and be assertive.  And trust me, I am a total advocate of this.  But when you're in this situation, you've got to be careful that your anger isn't in the driver's seat.  Otherwise, you will most definitely push your friend away.   

If your goal is to keep this friend in your life, then the aim should be on letting go of what you cannot change and focusing on enjoying and treasuring the times you do have together.
You can tell your friend that you miss spending time with her or that you feel bummed about not hanging out as much, but I strongly encourage you to communicate these feelings when your anger has passed and you feel more in control of your own emotions. 

Remember that you are not the same person you were yesterday, last year, or 5 years ago, and neither is your friend. 

Just as you are changing, she is too.

Notice it.  Accept it.  And more importantly, focus in on being the kind of friend you ultimately wish she was to you.