Sooner or later, everyone you know will disappoint you in some way. They’ll say something or fail to say something that will hurt you. And they’ll do something or fail to do something that will anger you. It’s inevitable.
Unfortunately, you make things worse when you stew over someone’s rude remarks and deeds. When you dwell on rude remarks or insensitive actions made by a difficult person, you’re headed for deeper problems.
In fact, the more you dwell on rude remarks and insensitive actions, the more bitter you’ll get. You’ll find your joy, peace and happiness slipping away. And you’ll find your productivity slowing down as you spend more and more time thinking about the slight or telling others about it. Eventually, if you don’t stop doing it, you’ll even get sick.
So what should you do the next time someone betrays you?
1. Take Responsibility for Your Feelings.
Even though the other person may be at fault, even though that difficult person wronged you, you are still responsible for your own feelings.
In other words, other people do not “cause” your feelings. You choose them.
For example, two different people could be told that their suggestions made at the staff meeting were “stupid and idiotic.” One person may “choose” to feel so hurt that he never speaks up at any other meeting again. The other person may “choose” to feel sorry for the critic, sorry that the critic couldn’t see the wisdom and necessity of her suggestions.
As long as you blame other people for your feelings, as long as you believe other people caused your feelings, you’re stuck. You’re a helpless victim.
But if you recognize the fact that you choose your feelings and you are responsible for your feelings, there’s hope. You can take some time to think about your feelings. And you can decide what is the best way to respond.
2. Say “No” When Necessary.
Some people are too nice. They let difficult people keep on being difficult by refusing to say “no” to them.
Perhaps you tell yourself, “If I refuse, I’m rejecting the other person.” Not at all. Refusing someone’s request doesn’t mean that you reject her. It doesn’t mean that you’re selfish or uncaring. Rather, it simply means you cannot or will not do what she is asking you to do. It means you’re putting some limits on your time.
If you’re afraid that your refusal will be interpreted as rejection, explain your refusal. Tell the other person that it is a statement about your boundaries. It is not a statement about the importance of your relationship.
You may also have a hard time saying “no” because you think it’s just plain easier to say “yes.” After all, you reason, a “no” response would simply provoke additional hassle and argument from that difficult person.
But you’ve got to put things in perspective.
Ask yourself this question. How long will you feel uncomfortable if you say “no?” Five minutes? Ten minutes? An hour? A day?
Compare that to how much time and energy you’ll spend granting the other person’s request. And consider how long you’ll resent the fact you said “yes.” Sometimes you exchange a five-minute period of discomfort when you say “no” for a year of resentment when you say “yes.” It’s not a good trade for you.
3. Get Started, Don’t Get Bitter.
It’s like the farmer who had an old mule who fell into a deep dry well. As he assessed the situation, he knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, to lift the heavy mule out of the deep well.
So the farmer decided to bury the mule in the well. After all, the mule was old and the well was dry, so he could solve two problems at once. He could put the old mule out of his misery and have his well filled.
The farmer asked his neighbors to help him with the shoveling. To work they went. As they threw shovel-full of dirt after shovel-full of dirt on the mule’s back, the mule became frightened.
Then all of a sudden an idea came to the mule. Each time they would throw a shovel-full of dirt on his back, he would shake it off and step up. Shovel-full after shovel-full, the mule would shake it off and step up. In not too long of a time, the exhausted and dirty mule stepped over the top of the well and through the crowd.
The old mule could have thought about how unfair his master was. After all, he had given him years of faithful service, but now he was going to bury him alive. The old mule could have gotten bitter. But he decided to get started on the task of shaking off the dirt rather than getting bitter over the dirt that was thrown on him.
I would strongly advise you to do the same thing when difficult people are dumping on you with their rude remarks or insensitive actions.
4. Forgive Rude Remarks and Insensitive Actions.
You may be saying, “What? Forgive that jerk … that difficult person … who said or did that nasty thing?”
I know. It’s difficult, especially when the other person doesn’t deserve your forgiveness or doesn’t even seek it. It’s difficult when the other person is clearly in the wrong.
Part of the difficulty comes from a common misunderstanding of forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the other person’s behavior is okay. And forgiveness doesn’t mean that the other person is off the hook. He’s still responsible for his misbehavior.
Forgiveness is about letting yourself off the emotional hook. It’s about letting go of any negative feelings you might have so you don’t get stuck in the past. It’s about letting go of the past so you can go forward to the future.
When I have a hard time forgiving or letting go, when I’m bitter about something a difficult person said or did, I ask myself, “How does my bitterness serve me? Am I happier holding on to it? Do I sleep better? Is my life richer, fuller, and better because of my bitterness?” Absolutely not.
I know for my own sanity and peace of mind, I’ve got to let it go. I suspect the same thing is true of you also.
Final Thought: Bitterness is more devastating than betrayal.
Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 884 – How to Keep Rude Remarks from Getting the Best of You