• Sandy Reynolds

Something to avoid after you disappoint someone.

It’s been a few weeks, and I miss sending these emails. I’ve been focusing on a project due at the end of March. It isn’t finished, but I wanted to share something with you that I know will be helpful in your life. It can save you from frustration and resentment.

This week I had conversations with several people centered around the same theme. One friend shared about what happened when she resigned from her position to take on a new job. She offered to continue to do some work for her former employer while they replaced her. It is now several months later, and she continues to receive work from them. She has to quit (again).

Another friend was talking about a new person she had met. As she got to know her and spent time with her, she had some red flags and realized that this wasn’t a healthy relationship. She said she had a conversation with her where she told her, “it’s not you, it’s me.” The truth was it was her.

It came up a third time before I started noticing how often I/we do this in our lives. I call it ‘softening the blow.’ It’s a way of trying to avoid disappointing people too much. I’ve done it so many times. I’ve done it when someone asks me to take on a project, and I don’t want the particular job, and I say, “No, I can’t do it, but I’ll help you find someone who can.” I then spend way too much of my time looking for a replacement for them.

What is going on here?

We soften the blow when we don’t want to face the complete disappointment of someone else.

We do it when we resign from a committee and stay on for six months while they find a replacement. Or offer to step in again when they can’t find someone.

We do it when we receive an invite, and although we have no intention of attending, we say yes and don’t show up OR we say, “I don’t think I can make it, but I’ll do what I can to try and rearrange things to be there.” We know we aren’t going to be there. No. Matter. What.

We do it when we don’t tell someone the reality of a situation to protect them.

We do it when we move, and we set an unrealistic expectation to visit every few months or email every week.

Anytime you say or do something because you don’t want to disappoint someone completely or you want to minimize their disappointment by giving someone false hope, you are softening the blow.

I’m not saying there isn’t a time when it is wise to soften the blow. As people-pleasers, we tend to find ourselves doing things we resent because we took the road of softening the blow. Pay attention to when you are saying no to something and offering something else in return to avoid disappointing someone.

Next time you have to disappoint someone (and we all do) consider that softening the blow may just prolong the situation for both of you.


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