Disappointment is an inevitable part of being human. Sooner or later, we all run into someone who lets our expectations down, and we have to face all the bitterness of being disappointed.
Apart from having to deal with the feeling of disappointment, we also have to handle our reaction to it and carefully choose how we let other people know they disappointed us.
The way we will react largely depends on what the person who disappointed us means to us. It is not the same when you are disappointed with your mother or your boss.
But, what all the disappointments have in common are some kinds of expectations.
Do you find it easy to express disappointment with someone, or do you usually hide it and act as if everything is just fine?
Do you feel guilty when you are disappointed by someone, or do you exclusively blame the other person? Are you quickly disappointed, or are your expectations of others not high enough?
Before diving into the topic, let’s define what “disappointment” actually is. Stay tuned to read more about:
What is Disappointment?
When you are disappointed, you feel dissatisfied because someone or something did not live up to your expectations or hopes.
The feeling of disappointment is actually a complex feeling that stems from sadness. It’s what we experience when our hopes for the desired result are dashed.
We can all immediately relate to the feelings of disappointment and potential rage when something we think we deserve doesn’t happen as well as the grief we experience when someone lets us down.
Like any other feeling, disappointment has an evolutionary purpose. It is much more helpful as a data point than an emotion.
When we face disappointment, it indicates that something was “off.” It might have been the person, the situation, or our expectations.
In other words, it’s time to seek an alternative approach, but before doing so, it is important to let the other person know that we are disappointed by them.
Separate the Person From Their Behaviour
Whether you are disappointed by your parents, your child, your friends, or your coworkers, you need to understand that how a person behaves is different from how a person is.
Simply put, good people can do bad things just like the worst people can do great things.
However profoundly disappointed you are, never criticize the person, but rather focus solely on their behavior.
Criticizing the person will only make the other person feel defensive, and you will both miss the chance to learn something valuable from the disappointment.
For instance, if you are upset about your child’s test results, it is not advisable to say ‘I’m disappointed in you for being so lazy to study for the test.’
Instead, say, ‘I am disappointed by your test results because I know you can do better and expect you to prepare better next time’.
In the first case, you told the child they were lazy – the child might not understand whether you are disappointed by their personality or the way they did the test.
In the second case, you clearly state that the child has the capacity and, therefore, you expect better from them, which feels entirely different for you and the child.
If you tell someone you believe they are fundamentally flawed as a person, they won’t have the guts to apologize for the disappointment they’ve caused and will instead either become overly defensive or sever all ties to you.
Manage Your Expectations
Sift through your expectations of others to see if they are reasonable before criticizing them for not living up to your standards.
Without even realizing it, we frequently impose our unmet needs on others. So, before you begin to wallow in your disappointment, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you offer the same level of engagement that you expect from the other person?
- Do you find the result of the person’s actions to be more disappointing?
- Is your expectation reasonable given the other person’s age, role, capacity, and circumstances at the time?
- Is the other person aware of your expectations of them?
You can only start to comprehend where your disappointment comes from and how to effectively handle it once you have precise, accurate answers to these questions.
What’s important to understand is that no one is responsible for the way we feel but us.
Let the Other Person Know They Disappointed You
Whatever the real reason behind your disappointment, it is always important that you let the other person know how you feel.
Speaking up about your dissatisfaction gives you both the chance to strengthen your relationship, even if it has much more to do with you than it does with other people’s actions.
However, you must choose your words carefully if you want to honestly give the other person a chance to change their behavior and to leave room for both of you to grow:
- Take responsibility for your emotions by beginning your sentence with “I feel disappointed because of your actions” rather than “You disappointed me because you are…”
- Don’t jump to the conclusion that the other person is to blame for the unfortunate outcome right away. Express honest curiosity by asking, “What kind of outcome were you hoping for?” Perhaps the other person genuinely had the best of intentions, but they lacked the means to carry them out.
- If your disappointment is particularly strong, you might also want to let the other person know that you need some time to process your emotions.
After all, we are all just humans, prone to make mistakes. Every failure is essentially a lesson to be learned. Let’s not miss it by holding grudges and assuming we are superior to others in any way.
We were not meant to let our emotions rule us. And when it comes to interacting with people, if you let your emotions take charge of you, they will.
Most people who let us down, betray us, or break their promises don’t do it on purpose. Like you and me, they’re not perfect.
They are just human beings doing their best in the best way they know. Therefore, instead of being consumed by your feelings of disappointment when dealing with people close to you, try to see their intentions as well as their love and concern for you.