Dealing with Disappointment

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     If you continually experience broken promises, you’re playing into a pattern that sets you up for let-downs. Learn how to change the pattern and you’ll avoid disappointment.

If you continually experience broken promises, you’re playing into a pattern that sets you up for let-downs. Learn how to change the pattern and you’ll avoid disappointment.

If you frequently feel “disappointed” and you don’t like it, maybe it’s time to analyze what is going on.

You can’t be disappointed if you have no expectations. In order to be “let down” by someone or some circumstance, you have to have set up some expectations for the future. 

Maybe someone promised you something, and then they did not come through. Disappointment is a result of having believed them when they made the promise to you. Not only did you believe them but you became invested in an outcome –the outcome being that they would act in conformity with their promise. 

Requests and Promises

It is an interesting practice to make a request and then receive the other person’s promise. After receiving their promise you can simply wait to see if they fulfill their promise to you. If a person does not fulfill their promise, that tells you something about your relationship with that person. 

Listen carefully to what you hear. If someone makes a promise and then does not fulfill it, do you make another request? Do you count on them to fulfill their promises? How many times must they break their promise to you before to stop making requests? 

If you keep making requests, receiving promises, and the promises are broken, aren’t you playing into a pattern which: 1) assures that you’re not getting your requests fulfilled, and 2) setting your own requests aside for the other person’s actions.

What Do You Accept for Broken Promises?

Now, if you make a request and obtain a promise which is broken, what do you accept as a “reason” for the person breaking the promise? 

•    Do you wait to hear the story, which the person tells you as a way of justifying the breaking of the promise? 

•    How do you assess the story, is it true? 

•    What part did they play in the story? 

•    Does the story repeat itself over and over again? 

•    If the story seems to repeat, how many times do you listen to the story before you finally decide not to make any more requests of the person?

Consider Your Request

Another aspect to consider is your request itself. Were you clear in what you requested? Did your request include a deadline or a time aspect? Without some timeframe for their promise to take place, how long do you have to wait before you know whether or not the person has made good on their promise to you? If you do not place a timeframe on your request, you simply cannot know if the person kept or broke their promise to you. 

A bit of clarification about timeframes…I have played with this a bit. I have made requests with my timeframe and left it up to the other person to say yes or no to my request. I have also made my requests and let others choose their timeframe; they tell me when they will fulfill their promise. 

When they choose their deadline or timeframe for their performance on the promise, they are more likely to fall short of making good on the promise. This surprised me at first. I thought that it would be more “fair” to let others choose their deadline and, that as a result, they would fulfill their promises more frequently than if I set the deadline. 

It seems that “fair” has little to do with whether or not others fulfill their promises to me. It also seems that if left to pick their deadline, they are less bound by it than if I picked it and they assented. When they picked their own deadline for their performance on their promise, their “story” (i.e., their version of events used to justify their behavior of failing to keep their promise) would weave into it angles that justify them in breaking their promise and picking the wrong deadline. Either way, they still do not keep their promises. Either way, all we are left with is a story.

The Role of Relationships in Requests

Another part of your analysis is: what has to be present for you to make a request of another person? If you are paying someone to do a job, does that entitle you to make certain requests? If you are married to someone, and for how long, does that alter the nature of the requests you can make and the frequency of your requests? If someone is your child, does that entitle you to make requests? While you are looking at these questions, also listen to hear if your requests are truly requests at all.

Requests Allow Freedom of Choice

For a request to be a request, we must allow the other person free choice. If we request something and expect a yes, what entitles us to “expect” the yes? 

A “request” made to someone who has to say yes is truly more like a master-slave relationship. Listen to hear if this is something that you are doing. Most people do not like to be in a master-slave relationship as the slave but as I have observed, it happens all the time. After a while, depending on the people, there may be a revolt by the slave. Is the slave master entitled to be “disappointed” by the slave who revolts? It seems that reason would dictate that the answer is no, but wee see it all the time.

Analyze Your Disappointments and Grow

If you are disappointed frequently, do a little analysis. Take a look at what is going on. Watch the transactions. Feel into the push-pull of the relationship. Learn to make requests. Learn to make and fulfill promises. 

Insight into this process will have you grow up quickly. What will I grow into, you ask? You may grow personal integrity. You may develop the ability to keep a commitment, and to spot those who don’t. You may learn to make requests all over the place … and if you learn that you will not be disappointed.


In the comments below, share your most powerful insight from this post about dealing with disappointment, making requests, and receiving promises. What has been your experience? 

Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests. Contact Brian online or at (616) 608-4440 with your questions.


Posted on September 14, 2016 .