10 Things To Do When People Disappoint You

Last Updated Oct 26, 2010 12:30 PM EDT

If you've been reading this column regularly, it may have come to your attention that I can be a bit critical. Okay, fair call. It's not that I dislike people...I'm just not a super-huge fan. Plus, I get paid to figure out where their weaknesses are. Lately, in my spare time, I've been thinking about practical ways to deal with the oh-so-common feeling of crushing disappointment that comes when others inevitably let you down.

As you certainly learned by the age of four or five, people will let you down repeatedly and consistently, through deeds of commission and omission. Am I overstating the case? Don't think so. They will lie, mock, embarrass, mislead, provoke, double-cross, slander and make thoughtless errors in judgment that hurt you terribly. Hey, what do you expect? They're human! The worst part, though, is not the casual matter-of-factness with which they do these things. It's that they do them to you. And the challenge then becomes deciding what to do about it.

Here's a multiple-choice menu I developed to help you explore options for reacting to this ongoing dilemma. You may want to select more than one category in any given circumstance, as all items are subject to change based on setting, diet and mood. Enjoy!

1. Throw a tantrum. Sometimes people don't fathom how serious the situation is, or how badly they've failed you...until you scream loudly. Forget abstractions. Show them in real time by acting out your rage and sense of betrayal. They'll thank you for the clarity! Don't forget to hurl a few extra-spicy epithets while you're at it. Preparation and rehearsal are key to successful execution. Practice in front of a mirror or a friend, if you have one.

2. Pout. Perhaps you were told otherwise as a child, but most folks really love this. It's adorable...and effective! Just pretend that you're Mommy's little prince or Daddy's little princess and see what happens. You can be angry without having to justify yourself or even admit to any feelings at all. No one gets their wishes met more quickly than the pouter. Stay the course and they'll eventually come around.

3. Condescend. Another time-honored strategy that will have your intended recipient dizzy with contrition. Superior is good; haughty is even better. Speak to the person as if they were mentally impaired. Ask for explanations and then respond by saying, "I don't understand. Can you explain it again?" Interrupt whenever possible. Make 'em squirm, back 'em up against the wall and squish 'em like helpless bugs. Then see how hard they try to win back your respect.

4. Get even. Warm or cold, revenge is a delicious treat. Cook up a batch and watch the remorse eat away at your tormentor. There are so many different ways to inflict pain and humiliate...tantalizing choices all. You can punish your victim in secret or out in the open for everyone to see. Experiment and have fun with it!

5. Criticize. Whether it's directly to someone's face or behind their back, this classic response will never go out of style. The more ridiculous they look, the more vindication you'll feel. Brush up on the insults and let them fly.

6. Get stoned. Have a drink, smoke, snort or capsule. Numb those frazzled nerve endings and simply dull the pain. No one appreciates you anyway, right?

7. Pontificate and intellectualize. It doesn't matter what you say. What matters is that you can define everything on your own terms. Keep talking until their ears bleed.
8. Ignore them. A personal favorite of mine, nothing sends a clear message like putting on the big chill. If you don't acknowledge someone, they cease to exist. Problem solved!
9. Keep your head down and do your job. No commentary required. That's life.

10. Get over it.
  • Mark Jaffe

    As President of Wyatt & Jaffe, Mark Jaffe has been called one of the 'World's 100 Most Influential Headhunters' by BusinessWeek magazine. His firm, Wyatt & Jaffe, works with a select list of financial services, high-tech and consumer companies worldwide and has been called one of the 50 leading retained search firms in North America.

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