Handling Disappointment

There’s a movie called The Invention of Lying, where the premise is that EVERYBODY speaks their true thoughts and feelings.  It’s not done with malice, but said in a matter of fact way.  Things like “I don’t want to go out with you because you don’t make enough money,” or whatever reason people might have is said without any emotion at all.  Later in the movie, the main character (played by Ricky Gervais) decides to lie to people and create the life he wants, and because everyone else is still telling the truth, they assume he is as well, so he gets away with all sorts of stuff.

But the first part of that movie is what I’m more fascinated with.

We live in a society where people don’t always want you to tell them the truth.  They say they do, but in many cases they really only want to hear the nice truths.  They don’t want to hear the “I don’t want to go out with you because . . .” truths, because their feelings might get hurt, and nobody likes to feel bad about themselves.  So as children we’re taught to only say nice things to/about others.  Phrases like “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” get drilled into our psyche.

Because of this, we’re taught how to lie, but more importantly, we’re not taught how to handle rejection well, which I think is why it hurts so much when we eventually feel it.  Then we become scared of that feeling, and that can escalate into being afraid of trying to do many things in life, because of our finely-honed fear of rejection that has built up over the years.

While I think it’s a good idea to teach our kids to say nice things, I think it’s just as important to teach them how to deliver “bad” news in a less painful manner.  And I think we MUST teach our kids how to handle the “bad” news that might come their way, so that they’re not afraid of it.

That way, when they ask someone out, or try to apply for a job, they might be better able to handle it with nothing more than a casual shrug and Better luck next time thought. The other benefit of being able to handle rejection or “bad” news better is that we wouldn’t have to lie to someone when we don’t have anything “nice” to say.

Letting someone down CAN be done in less hurtful ways, while still maintaining your honesty and integrity.  Beginning your rejection with a “Thanks, but” can go a long way to make the following words easier to swallow, and adding “sorry” to the end of some refusals/rejections also helps.

One of my favorite examples of the polite rejection is done by the character Phoebe on Friends.  In the following episode, she’s asked if she wants to go over to Ross’ apartment and help the guys put together his new furniture . . .

It’s a funny moment, yes, but it’s also a great example of how you can deliver “bad” news without being mean about it.  Just matter of fact.

Another necessary aspect to people learning how to handle disappointing news is to teach them that everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, and that they don’t HAVE to like you, or the food you want to share with them, or whatever.  But ALSO, just because someone else doesn’t like you, or the food, or whatever, doesn’t mean that NOBODY will ever like/want those things.  Teach them that it’s okay that not everyone likes them or what they say and they won’t be as devastated when rejection comes their way.

Thankfully, many parents already do this (mine did), and I do realize these suggestions won’t always alleviate the bad feelings associated with rejection, but over time, I hope these steps will make it easier for us to be truly honest with others about how we feel and what we want–or don’t want–in life.


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Craig
    May 17, 2013 @ 08:40:10

    I think that feeds over into a general cultural effect too. My friends and I were talking the other day about the custom when you go to another country, that you should eat whatever they deem to serve you. Sometimes you may be disgusted by whatever it is, and I’m sure there are oodles of stories involving post-dinner vomiting. But you can’t refuse this, or you offend the presenting culture. Who made that rule up? I think If I’m going to be pressured into a “eating, or offending” situation, I should have some input or at least fore-knowledge of the menu. If you’re a vegetarian, and the host is serving a meat dish, how about offending YOU and your culture?
    It was slightly off topic, but I’m tying it in by the people in the other culture not being able to take rejection about someone not wanting to eat a dish they spent time and effort preparing.


    • Alyx Morgan
      May 17, 2013 @ 09:07:33

      I don’t think it’s off-topic at all, Craig. You make a great point. I’ve known for a while that–were I ever to travel to China or Japan–I wouldn’t be eating at anyone’s home because 1) I don’t want to offend anyone; & 2) I’m SURE they’d offer me something to eat that I would turn my nose up at, thereby offending them.

      It would be great if just saying “Thank you for making such an effort for me. I truly appreciate it.” would be sufficient to not offend someone.

      Thanks for visiting & putting in your two cents.


  2. Dana Fredsti
    May 17, 2013 @ 09:37:36

    It’s a balancing act to find the right combination of honesty and good manners to deal with various situations that involve rejection. I believe in being honest, but it really is equally important to me to do it in a way that makes the other person feel respected instead of rejected… and it’s not always easy.


    • Alyx Morgan
      May 17, 2013 @ 10:06:57

      You’re right, Dana, that it’s not always easy . . . that’s kind of my point. Maybe if we taught that to children, it WOULD be easier as adults. Besides, if someone has bad breath or whatever, but nobody says anything – because they don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings – how will said person ever know of their halitosis (or bad writing, or whathaveyou)?

      Thanks for stopping by today.


    • Craig
      May 17, 2013 @ 10:54:47

      Let’s also not gloss over the fact that it’s the other person’s choice to be offended or not. You can do your best to deliver the message as well as you can, but you ultimately can’t control how the other person will accept the news.


  3. Maddy
    May 17, 2013 @ 09:53:27

    I’m surrounded by it here — both my boys rarely, if ever, lie — but they’re also learning to be kind about it. Instead of telling me that dinner is disgusting and inedible, they tell me it’s horrible but thanks for trying.


    • Alyx Morgan
      May 17, 2013 @ 10:08:36

      LOL Well, I’m glad your boys rarely lie, Maddy. And maybe they could learn to say “I didn’t like it, but thanks for trying.” instead. Because, again, what they find inedible, someone else might truly enjoy.


  4. Kathy Downs
    May 19, 2013 @ 11:01:25

    And, then, regarding food in particular, it is courteous to ask if your expected guest has any food allergies or food dislikes. And it is equally courteous if you are a guest, to explain about food allergies or food dislikes.

    I think learning how to give and receive criticism is very important and I think the foundation of that is learning how to be courteous to others and to practice the golden rule, Do Unto Others…..



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