When People Disappoint (Revisited)

Apr 22, 2014

And, people will disappoint because, well, they are people. We all disappoint.

Different Forms of Disappointment

Disappointment takes a lot of different forms.  Sometimes it’s about people who fail to honor their commitment.  Sometimes it’s about people who undermine your authority or reject your ideas.  The possibilities are endless.

So, how does one move past such disappointments?  Is it even important for us to do so?

When Disappointment Turns Into Anger

What I’ve learned is that it is important to move past the disappointments because if you don’t, you’re probably not going to have many people left in your life.  Another thing to be aware of is that disappointment can often turn into anger.  Anger is one of those emotions that can leave us paralyzed.

As Annie Lamont wisely wrote in Bird by Bird, anger is liking drinking the rat poison and expecting the rat to die.  Now, there’s a visual for you.  While the anger is eating you up inside, the person you’re angry at is moving about life oblivious to your suffering.

How to Move Past Disappointment

Here are a few things you might want to consider in moving past disappointments:

  • Don’t take it personal. 
    I hate when people say this to me because it always feels very personal when someone disappoints me.  After all, I was counting on this person.  Isn’t that how it goes?But the truth is, people often disappoint because they simply have bad habits that have nothing to do with you.  Maybe they don’t fully understand the power of commitment.  Or, maybe they don’t even realize that their actions have consequences for others.  Not that this type of behavior is excusable.  Simply, that it may not be intentionally designed to cause you harm or disappointment.
  • Set boundaries.
    I don’t know about you, but I don’t always do this very well.  I expect people to know what I’m thinking and to honor their obligations and commitments.
    Pay attention to the behaviors of those around you.  If this person has a history of breaking their word, being late, disappointing others in general, you may want to more firmly establish boundaries.  At least if you set clear boundaries, you have a starting place for discussion if things go wrong.
  • Forgive and forget.
    Sometimes easier said than done.  But if you’re keeping a list of who disappoints and how often, you’ll be forever tied up in knots over things that are not happening according to your desires.Having said this, you may want to make note of certain patterns so that you can disarm them whenever possible.  For example, if someone you care about is always breaking appointments with you, you may want to forgive, but you may also want to reestablish expectations at the same time.People often don’t know that they are disappointing others.  You may have to shed some light on the situation before you can forgive and forget.
  • Self-Examine.
    Sometimes we’re not so much disappointed in others as we are in ourselves.Examine your own thoughts and intentions carefully.  Why are you disappointed?  When you discover the source of your discontent, you may be surprised to find that the work begins with you.  Enjoy the revelation and shift your attitude.|
  • Let go.
    If you find yourself repeatedly in the same situation with someone who is disappointing you, it may be time to let go and move on.I’m not suggesting this as your first action, however, if you’ve done everything possible to let this person know that you have been deeply disappointed by their behavior, and the actions still remain the same, it may be time to find yourself another best friend or colleague.  At the very least, you’ll know better than to count on them in specific situations.  Better to move on then to continually live in frustration and despair.

When People Disappoint They Are Often Hurting

Bottom line, disappointment is one of those things that smacks us upside the head on almost a daily basis.

Don’t let it get you down.  People are basically good, I’ve decided.  When they do harm, it’s often because they themselves are hurting.

My hope is that the next time someone disappoints you, you can let it go.

Accept.  Love.  Forgive.  And, maybe tomorrow, even forget.

This post originally ran on February 15, 2013

Question:  What are your strategies for handling disappointment?