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"Bah Humbug" Prevention

It’s the most terrible time of the year

Disappointment is merely an unmet expectation; it’s only when you imbue it with negative meanings that it becomes painful.

World English Dictionary


dys-        prefix

  1. diseased, abnormal, or faulty: dysentery; dyslexia
  2. difficult or painful: dysuria, dysthymia
  3. unfavorable or bad: dylogistic

[via Latin from Greek dus- ]

How many people do you know that handle disappointment well?

First of all, what does that look like?

It is the ability to realize and accept that something you expected has not happened without your becoming angry at someone else, angry at yourself, complaining, whining or feeling sorry for yourself… and then being able to focus on making the best of it and aiming for the best possible outcome now that what you expected didn’t happen.

If instead of handling it with poise and aplomb, you become upset and strike out at others or yourself, disappointment turns into dysappointment, where you experience pain and hurt over the disappointment.

If you think of disappointment as dis + appointment and by that an expectation of a certain outcome, i.e. an appointment with a result, that just didn’t happen, you realize that a disappointment is neutral.  It becomes painful only when you apply a different meaning to it, as in, “That shouldn’t have happened,” “That wasn’t fair,” “It’s not right.”  When you apply such meanings they appear to justify your reacting emotionally to it.  However when you change those meanings, your need to react emotionally goes away.*

Prevent disappointment from turning into dysappointment

If you can recognize the extra meaning you are putting on it and that doing so only causes you pain, you have the possibility of taking that meaning off it and alleviating the pain and more importantly prevent  needlessly striking out, striking back or hurting yourself.

So the next time something doesn’t happen that you expected, instead of thinking, “That shouldn’t have happened,” think, “That’s just one of the things that happen that I don’t like or didn’t expect and furthermore if I handle it well, it’s a tremendous opportunity for poise.” And if you’re like most people, manifesting and demonstrating poise is one of the most respect and esteem worthy ways you can act in life.


BATNA is a term coined by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 bestseller, Getting to YESIt stands for the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement which means that when you are going into a negotiation, it is best to have a back up alternative so that you don’t have all your eggs in one basket and are able to proceed even if the negotiation fails.  Having that also makes you less brittle, less emotional and causes you less stress during the negotiation.

BSCTFC stands for Best Second Choice To a First Choice.  One of the most common examples of this in when high schoolers are applying to college.  They and their parents are told to have a first choice, a couple second choice(s) and several “safety” choices.  This process is also very revealing of students and parents who handle disappointment well and those who handle it poorly.  Those who handle it well can end up in a “safety” and still have an excellent experience.  Those who handle it poorly may not even apply beyond a first and a second choice, because the dysappointment if they don’t get their way is intolerable.

The more poorly someone handles disappointment and not getting their way, the more they are likely to react negatively and angrily and push back when they are told to have a “back up” plan.

Try a Little Perspective

About twenty five years ago an elderly woman came to see me who was bent over with severe arthritis and walked very slowly with the use of a cane and looked like the hag in the movie Snow White.  Despite the pain she must have been having she had a radiant smile. When I asked her what she seemed so happy about she replied, “I was just thinking how great this cane is going to look when I am in a wheel chair in five years.”

If you look at your present through the eyes of your future and focus on what you still have that you might not in the future and then appreciate it, it’s amazing how much dysappointment can go away.

Be Grateful then Multiply

Finally, if every day you can think of someone who was there for you and who stood up for you in public, stood by you in a crisis and stood up to you in private and prevented you from doing something foolish AND then reached out to them or their family to give them a Power Thank You, you will will realize that you can’t be grateful and dysappointed at the same time.


Reader Comments (3)

I am not sure where I learned this, it may have come from a previos blog article of yours, but it works for me.

I go into negotiations and client meetings with a three stage expectation. Wish, want and walk are the three touchstones.

Wish represents the best possible outcome. This where I win the grand prize, hit the lottery, drive away with a Bentley, look like a hero, and can retire wealthy from one day of effort.

Want represents the typical good outcome. This is the level where If get a good deal for my money, drive away with the expectation that I will be able to afford to fix my existing car and maybe get a new car some day, feel like a valued colleague or respected prefessional, and get a return which is commensurate with my efforts.

Walk is where the deal is clearly so one sided or the client so hard to work with that i decline to avail myself of the opportunity. I need to remind myself not to take offense when an offer like this is made. I just say to myself, "they are looking for someone else."

I build in some leeway on the Want level. If the people are nice and need my help then I can live with low or no pay. I can't do it too often though. I do not compromise on my Walk criteria.

I have experienced far less disappointment since I started to use this system.

December 25, 2012 | Registered Commentertom olofsson

Great article, and, Tom, I really like that process. I might have to use it going forward.

December 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterKevin D

I agree with Kevin. Tom those tips are a great way to approach negotiations and thank you for possibly giving me credit for it, but I can't take it since they came from somewhere else. Thank you for contributing Tom and Kevin.

January 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterMark Goulston
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