If you leave it alone, it will not leave you alone.
Relationships are tough. People are complicated. Life seems to be one learning lesson after another dealing with people and the challenges of being in relationships.
This is true in what I would categorize as both personal and professional relationships, and nearly all of my most important professional relationships have been extremely personal. As an entrepreneur and a partner in business, I have found it nearly impossible to form the kind of bond and trust necessary to run a business without allowing the connections to get personal. I have spent massively more hours with my work colleagues than my family and friends, so it is natural that these relationships would be more than strictly “professional.”
THE ROOT OF RESENTMENT
Over the past decade, many of my most intense learning experiences relationally have been with those with whom I worked. On my inside-out wellness journey, I have realized that I have harbored resentment for the endings of a few of these relationships. Mostly the resentment was caused by disappointment in the ending when I felt disregarded or as though I wasn’t able to communicate and be recognized for what I saw as, at least, my truth about the situation.
Resentment sits in the intersection of hopes and disappointments. We put so much hope and personal sacrifice into a professional relationship, and then all of that seems to be for nothing when we experience extreme disappointment and the death of a relationship, business, and mutual goal. It is deflating, painful, and very personal.
It becomes very hard to address misunderstandings when you don’t think the other person understands, listens or appreciates you. It ends up being a tug of war about who’s right and who’s wrong, and it may become an ego battle which adds a lot more weight to the initial issues.
6 SOURCES OF RESENTMENT & WAYS TO HANDLE
Always having to be right
When someone insists that they’re right all of the time, it comes across as arrogant and it will create pent up resentment.
Defend your right to do things your own way. Speak up quickly and do not allow the feelings to fester. The longer you wait, the more resentment is likely to build up.
Taking advantage of others
When it seems that someone is always intent to get their own way; they have no regard for those around them.
Ask yourself why this person may be that way. Be empathetic to their upbringing and past experiences. Try to use “I” statements to express how their behavior makes you feel. Learn to say “no” with confidence and conviction.
When someone constantly taunts or makes insensitive comments.
Consider the intent of the person, and don’t allow things that aren’t important to become personal. If the other person knows your triggers and intentionally hits them, your resentment may be the warning message. If you feel repeatedly attacked or disregarded, it may be a sign that change needs to happen.
When someone never seems to meet your expectations.
Consider the other person’s nature and habits, and try adjusting your expectations to fit them.
Not being heard
When someone never seems to listen.
Listening is difficult when there are so many external and internal distractions. Try discussing the importance of listening to one another; work to lessen the distractions together; or find a secondary way to communicate your thoughts.
Always being late
When someone seems to always disregard your time by always being late.
Set firm limits and tell the other person how long you’ll wait. Their tardiness is a reflection of their own habits and nature and not a reflection of your importance.
RAMIFICATIONS OF RESENTMENT
The tough part about resentment is that there is usually a valid reason for it, but the ramifications of holding onto the emotion is a poison. If you leave it alone, it will not leave you alone. It is going to spread and digest all of the sweetness of your life. It makes you cynical and bitter, and a bitter heart finds no peace.
Resentment leads to a place of victimhood. It will always impede your life and your career. If you seethe in resentment, you’ll likely be difficult to live with and work with, and even if you can’t recognize it, you’ll emit a toxicity few people will want to be around. The emotional effects of deep resentment will take over your life and your ability to approach all other relationships from a healthy perspective.
Resentment will own you if you cannot emotionally move into a place of power. Here are three tools to try to overcome resentment.
Mindreading is deciding what someone else is thinking on your own without any basis of real information. You assume you know their intentions and then you form conclusions.
In order to stop mindreading, gather information. Ask the other person for specific reasons for what they did. You must be open to change and grow through constructive critiques.
Identify your confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire or beliefs. When people would like a certain idea or concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. Once they have formed a view, they embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. ( Source)
You must make a conscious effort to recognize your biases and actively seek facts and truth outside of your own perspective. Keep in mind, everyone has confirmation bias and it is helpful to have this understanding in all relationships.
Don’t keep your resentment locked up.
Communicate. The key to having complicated professional conversations is to focus on being open, honest, and willing to learn. Be specific about your thought processes and your disappointment, and remember to listen to their reasoning as well. This is not the moment to be defensive. Listen as much as you talk, and make sure you’re listening with intention.
An important piece of moving past resentment is the practice of empathy. The beginning of the issue was actually a battle for empathy — a deep need and desire to be understood. The fight was actually over who’s deserving of empathy, whose experience mattered, whose pain should have been considered, and whose experience was valid. Partners struggle to extend empathy because it would be the same as admitting they are wrong.
If everyone could always step into one another’s shoes, we would have so many less issues and problems. Since we cannot live in everyone else’s life stories and experiences, we must harness empathy as a foundation to all relations.
Steps to rebuild empathy:
- Alone: Be aware of (don’t dwell on, but understand) your imperfections and past discretions and all of the ways you have been extended grace. As a Christian, I personally focus on my undeserved grace from Jesus and let that permeate my heart to eliminate pride and delusion.
- Together: Set an intention together to recreate empathy — start with a conscious decision that’s named.
- Together: Agree to press the restart button on your relationship.
- Together: Take turns in communicating. One partner has the opportunity bring up anything difficult or less than positive to the other, he/she is heard and understood fully, without rebuttal. Then, the next day the other partner has the same opportunity.
Although these steps can seem cumbersome, it encourages non-defensive listening and empathy. The idea is to address resentments in a safe way immediately to prevent them from poisoning deeper. It is designed to address resentments in a safe way, as soon as they arise, to prevent them from crystallizing into a new field of resentment.
The most wonderful part of relationships, the blessing I have experienced time and time again, is the opportunity to receive and give empathy and feel the exchange. It is a treasure in life.
It is important to realize that not all relationships should be repaired. There’s no question that you should sever ties if you’re being abused, and this could be physically, verbally, emotionally or spiritually. Sadly, this does happen in the workplace more often than anyone would like to admit. I personally have experienced emotional and spiritual abuse, and the healing has had to happen through a deep personal forgiveness process outside of reconciliation.
There are also relationships that you may have to walk away from, or find ways to work around in a deeply flawed coworker relationship. A couple of examples would be when a single incident is so horrible (harassment) or a behavior is persistent over long stretches of time (a consistently verbally abusive boss). It might also be the case that the relationship can no longer be effective because you have attempted to take steps to heal and your efforts are not reciprocated. In these very difficult instances, it is important to walk away and learn from the experience. Use the experience to build stronger foundations for your future relationships. Don’t let these relationships define you and poison you from the inside-out. Find a way to process through personal forgiveness and healing. (I can provide more resources for such experiences, if anyone is in need.)
I have always heard the analogy that holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will make someone else sick. In order to lead a healthy life and lead others effectively, you cannot be burdened and poisoned with resentment from your past relationships. It will find a way to rear its ugly head in every relationship you have. Free yourself and those around you from this trap by consciously dealing with it.
My hope is that this information will help you on your journey, as you identify any resentment and harness techniques that can serve for positive change in your professional (which are really personal) relationships. The goal is to create healthy, mindful, authentic communication in your life now, which will keep you from drinking that poison in the future.
Originally published at https://www.alexismaida.com on April 30, 2020.