Disappointing people is part of the deal in life.
We can disappoint others by poor attitudes, bad decisions, and ill behaviors. But I’m not talking about that kind of disappointment.
I’m talking of disappointing people because…
…you didn’t live up to their expectations.
…you didn’t give them what they wanted.
…you said no.
…you went in a different direction than they were expecting.
…you made a right but painful decision that they didn’t understand or have context for.
…you refused to be manipulated by them.
…you wouldn’t give them an explanation due to privacy.
…you wouldn’t apologize for the 100th time or grovel.
…you didn’t make their emergency your emergency.
So how do you respond when you (rightfully) disappoint people?
1) Be thick-skinned.
Don’t take disappointing others personally. It’s simply a fact of life. If you’re not disappointing, you’re not living. And you’re probably exhausted. You’re being a people-pleaser.
As a leader, if you’re not disappointing people, you’re not leading. Leadership means you make calls and decisions that not everyone will understand or agree with. But remember they don’t have your context and experience. Thick skin is especially in order if people feel entitled to know reasons and details of your decisions. Very often they’re not entitled. So don’t cave.
2) Don’t look back.
You can learn from people’s disappointed reactions. Perhaps you need to approach and communicate things better in the future. Either way, you’ve made the call. Move on. Don’t let others’ disappointment cripple your confidence or future decisions.
3) Don’t go it alone.
You, we, are human. Disappointing others hurts. So lean into those who have your context and heart in mind. That could be your spouse, family, team, mentor, close friend, or God. Go to them with your discouragement and doubts. Have them remind you of why you chose the direction and made the decision you made. Go back to the moment you prayed and got clarity.
4) Keep the big picture in mind.
Say you’re a dad and haven’t been home for dinner with your family all week. Then the one night you’re home you get word of someone’s crisis or emergency. You have to make a call. Do you fear disappointing that person the most? Or your family the most?
Surely the person has other people to meet their need. But your kids have only one dad. And they need you. Yes, there are exceptions, but those should be very few and very far between.
Keeping the above responses in mind takes the sting of disappointing others from a hornet to mosquito.
Of course, the goal is not to disappoint people. But you can’t live life in fear of doing so or you’ll be a slave. And in the end, it can cost you what really matters.
So take a good hard look at your life. Where, and with whom, do you need to start rightfully disappointing?
Be gentle. But be bold.
After all, it’s your life. Don’t let others decide it for you.
BEFORE YOU GO:
If you liked this post, you might also like, “The Top 3 Ingredients for Healthy Confrontation.”