Not too long ago I witnessed a full blown temper-tantrum by a boy who must have been about six. He yelled, he hit things and himself, he sprawled on the floor and kicked his feet. He cried crocodile tears worthy of a Daytime Emmy.
For all of his acting out, he got no response from anyone. After a bit, he got up off the floor and joined his mother standing about 10 feet away, who appeared to have passed the time by carefully considering several items for purchase, none of which went into her cart.
It was clear she expected him to use words to say what he wanted, or to express his disappointment at being denied what he wanted.
We witness this same kind of fruitless behavior by adults as well when they believe they can communicate more effectively through their actions than they can through their words.
They believe they will get what they want when they pout, sulk or sabotage the actions of another after something unexpected disappoints or frustrates them. It rarely works that way. Life is so much easier for them, and for those around them, when they choose to simply state what is bothering them.
Consider this alternative, where feelings are stated clearly:
“It’s been a tough week at work and I’m going out with the guys tonight.”
“Did you forget we made plans to have a date tonight? I want to go see this movie with you so we can spend time together alone. We know this is a movie we will both enjoy. I’ve been looking forward to our date tonight since Tuesday when we said we’d go.”
“Sweetheart, I’m sorry. It slipped my mind, but the truth is I am just not in the mood for a movie. I know I promised you, can we go out tomorrow night? I will feel more relaxed and be able to enjoy our date.”
“I’m disappointed that now you’re going out drinking with your friends instead, but I understand. I will find something else to do tonight.”
We communicate effectively when we ask for what we want, rather than assuming that someone else can magically read our mind, and when we cannot get what we want, to express our disappointment and move on.
Of course, expressing disappointment doesn’t automatically disperse the feeling of disappointment. We also need to let go of the feeling. Letting go begins by acknowledging the feeling and then consciously choosing to let go it. We cannot bury it by telling ourselves it does not matter.
If letting go and moving on does not come naturally to you, consider this: will the whining or any other response you might be tempted to engage in change the situation? How has that behavior worked for you so far?
While you might succeed in ruining someone’s plans, it probably won’t give you what you wanted, unless you wanted to make yourself miserable. Chances are great that hanging on to your disappointment does much more to you than to the other person.
I have an acquaintance who I only met a few years ago. After a couple of days together, she was ready to claim me as a sister. Last year, I apparently did something to earn her displeasure. She has never told me what it is, but she has pointedly ceased to communicate with me. She no longer takes or returns my phone calls, and does not respond to my emails, choosing instead to communicate through a third party. (Really? Didn’t that go out of fashion in about fifth grade?) She does not talk to me when we see each other.
Whatever bothered her initially continues to eat at her. If it did not, she would not continue to shun me. Until she decides to tell me what is bothering her, nothing will change. In the meantime, she has to remember she bears a grudge against me and to act accordingly. The sooner she chooses to let it go, the sooner she can shift her attention to something she actually enjoys.
That’s the way life is. We feel hurt by the things we tell ourselves in response to someone’s words or actions, and instead of directly asking for what we want and stating our feelings, we choose to make ourselves miserable. In the meantime, we have no impact on the other person, and making ourselves miserable only wastes time we could spend feeling happy. We might as well lay on the floor and pitch a fit.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: When we encounter frustration or disappointment, we have two options, we can let it out, or let it go. Next time, instead of telling yourself it doesn’t matter, or sulking or exploding in anger, try speaking about your feelings out loud. And then try choosing to let go of the disappointment. When we engage in an honest conversation with someone about whatever is troubling us, we may not get what we want, but we’ve affirmed our respect for our relationship. Let me know how it works out for you.
Related Posts: Use Your Words