We all have our share of experiencing disappointment from others. Sometimes friends bail. Sometimes bosses cancel meetings you've been prepping for days. Sometimes family members don't turn up, even when they said they would.
I have always followed any disappointment by others with an air of nonchalance. I say, "no worries!" and accept half-baked apologies if I get them, even though I'm not really a carefree person.
Then I stand there, not really knowing how to proceed. Unsure of my own emotions, I tell myself not to think about it, which actually makes the feelings of disappointment and anger stronger.
Finally, I suck up the disappointment, and as the hours, days, or – for a really big disappointment, weeks or months – pass, let it dissipate until it's just a memory without much feeling at all.
I often wonder what would happen if I told somebody, in the moment, that I was really disappointed in them. That I now thought differently about them.
Case in point: I've been stood up twice in the last two weeks. Both times I'd been waiting around to meet someone, only to get a text message over an hour after the original meeting time saying, "so sorry, I forgot", "too tired, going home to crash", or something else to that effect you just can't argue with.
In both situations, I felt my body fall into an instant lull. I wanted to text back and say, "but I've been waiting for you for an hour!" or – in this case it was a particular burn – "but my husband has already started cooking the food!" Alas, I didn't do anything.
I didn't tell the people I was due to meet that I'd be waiting for them, or that a meal was being prepared for them and would now go uneaten. I told myself I needed to be more "casual" and wondered if I was at fault for having expectations at all.
In truth, when somebody disappoints you, you begrudge them for it. Even just a little bit. I usually avoid contact with them until negative feelings have subsided, rather than go into any sort of conflict.
I've let phone calls go unanswered and texts have been less than responsive: a passive-aggressive way to let somebody know you're a bit grumpy at them and need space until the situation is forgotten. But is there a better way around this?
Telling someone they've hurt your feelings or disappointed you sounds so easy in theory. Realistically it's a scary thing to do. I know I fear a backlash – am I being inappropriate? Too sensitive? Will I look foolish?
I find it somewhat easier to tell people very close to me that I'm disappointed. I know they aren't going anywhere. As for new-ish or occasional friends, family members you don't talk to all the time, or professional contacts? They are harder. There's a very real fear that expressing your disappointment will confront and alienate them.
Acceptance of individual personalities plays a bit part in any situation that involves subjective disappointment from your end. I try and accept that some people are bad at following through. They forget, and their own lives take over.
It's reality – others' lives come first. A tough pill to swallow when you're a conscientious person, but it's how some operate. Nothing will change that.
This is why I think a "choose your battles" approach works best here. Think of the possible ramifications of expressing your disappointment. How might it be taken by the individual? What do you expect to gain out of saying something? How will it affect your future relationship?
Taking such things into account before proceeding – and asking yourself what speaking up will actually achieve – is important.
When you express disappointment to another person, there's a chance all it'll do is tell them you're "hard work" and allow them to quietly (and inconsiderately) just disengage with you.