What happens when you don’t get your way? When you get mad, and then act upon that anger, what is your goal? What would make you happy again, or at least not mad anymore? What is your end game?
Let’s say you go out to dinner. The experience is sub par, and you feel strongly that you didn’t get your money’s worth of food or service. So, on your way home, you whip out your phone and fire off a scathing Yelp review. You disparage the restaurant and its staff for the rest of the universe to see. That’ll teach ‘em!
But what’s your end game?
Is your hope that people will read your review and stop going to the restaurant? Maybe they’ll have to shut the place down…serves those losers right! Is your intent that everyone who works there will lose their jobs? Do you hope the workers’ children grow up in poverty because their parents sucked at serving you last Saturday night? Can we march them naked through town while yelling “SHAME!” at them for having the audacity to make you wait four minutes for your third side of ranch?
At what point in the possible flow of consequences is your righteous anger satisfied? How far does the universe have to bend to accommodate you and make amends for your inconvenience?
Stated more broadly, once something has upset your emotional equilibrium, what’s going to make you feel right again?
In this situation, what you really wanted was validation that you were right in being miffed, an apology, and a refund.
But instead of asking for those things, you decided the best path to getting what you wanted was to: (a) type furiously like an angry freaking loon, (b) publicly embarrass and berate people, (c) discourage others from patronizing their business, and (d) wait for them to guess that your “review” was actually a request for a gift card for a future visit.
A seasoned restaurant manager speaks “angry guest” fluently. She will wade through your antics to make things right.
Less adept managers might instead get defensive – a predictable response to your mismatched “solution” that is going to make you even more angry. Many will never even read your critique. And more will read it and then punish the staff with less shifts, bad sections, or worse. And usually, they won’t respond to your review, so your anger is left unrequited.
In other words, the end game of your rant will be a whole mess of collateral damage en route to not even receiving what you actually wanted. Nice work, loon.
The underlying issue is an all too common trait in modern humanity, not just in wronged casual dining patrons:
When we experience unpleasant emotions, we aggressively fling our negativity in every direction, all the while failing to ask for actual resolution.
Then we’re surprised—or worse, self-assured that our pessimism was justified—when we don’t get what we want.When we experience unpleasant emotions, we aggressively fling our negativity in every direction, all the while failing to ask for actual resolution. Click To Tweet
Some of us show our unhappiness through raising our voice or firing off nasty emails to those who’ve wronged us. Others demonstrate our negative emotions by shutting down and refusing to engage. Or by indulging in self-destructive behaviors. Or by being a martyr. Or through lashing out with personal attacks.
Whatever your “go to” method for showing your negative emotions, the same questions apply:
What’s your end game?
Is your “chosen” method likely to achieve that?
Let’s say you’re sad, bitter, and embarrassed. You got passed over for a promotion you thought you deserved. In turn, you start shutting down at work. To hell with this place! To hell with going above and beyond! They don’t appreciate you, and you’re going to do the bare minimum here until you find a better job somewhere else.
Is your end game, “make them confident they made the best decision in passing you by?”
Your negative emotions are understandable.
But your method of displaying your negative emotions implies you are seeking to validate their decision. And you’re guaranteeing collateral damage, like tarnished professional relationships and a bad reputation in your field.
Maybe what you’re really seeking is to have them know that you’re offended at being passed over. Or to have them reconsider? To transfer you elsewhere where you’ll have a better chance of succeeding? Is your goal to leave this job and find another?
Those are all fine goals, and there’s a direct and honest path to each one of them. And none of those paths require your boss to guess that your pouty martyrdom is a sign that you are secretly an A+ employee that he unwisely overlooked.
Here’s an alternate tack: formulate your thoughts, decide what you really want, and set a meeting to talk to your superiors about it. Look someone in the eye and tell them what you need.
Imagine how much faster and easier everything could be if you sat down with the big boss, looked him in the eye, and said:
I’m frustrated and embarrassed that I didn’t get the promotion. I thought I was a shoe-in, but it appears I was not. In the end, I want you to know that I’m feeling pretty negatively about missing this chance. That being said, I want to know exactly what to do to improve so the next time there’s an opportunity, promoting me will be a no-brainer.
Or maybe your thoughts are more akin to this:
I honestly think you made the wrong decision. I think I was the right choice for the job. I recognize that I don’t know everything about your choice, but I know enough to feel strongly that you’ve made a mistake. I am putting in my notice and will be moving on in two weeks.
It all comes down to what you want from the situation.
I’m guessing your end game is not to get fired for being a sullen, lazy, passive-aggressive douche, even if that is what your actions imply. Just like you didn’t want to have the waiter’s children living out their wildest Tiny Tim fantasies this Christmas because their dad forgot to bring you your seventeenth side of ranch of the evening. You thought it was only your third side of ranch? Well, stories like this get worse as time goes on.
But conveying your disappointment is a perfectly fine aim. That’s especially true if doing so comes with a better chance of a promotion next time…or a professional “good-bye,” preserving your reputation and character as you pack your belongings.
Or an apology and a gift card, for that matter.
If you’re like me, you could rewrite this scenario a hundred more times with different characters and situations:
Your partner took longer getting dressed than you expected, and now you’re both running late to meet up with friends.
Your co-worker screwed up his portion of the spreadsheet and he’s already gone home for the evening.
Your brother was supposed to send you $100 for his half of your parents’ anniversary present, and that was seven months ago.
You have every right to feel negatively about any of these situations. There’s nothing wrong with feeling anger, hurt, embarrassment, sadness, anxiety, or just about any other emotion. Emotions aren’t good or bad, emotions just are.
But there is something wrong with demonstrating those emotions in destructive, ill-advised ways. And it’s especially wrong when your chosen ways are unlikely to achieve your goal.There’s nothing wrong with feeling anger, hurt, embarrassment, sadness, anxiety, or just about any other emotion. Emotions aren’t good or bad, emotions just are. Click To Tweet
For a price, I’ll follow you around and ask you these questions every time I think you need to hear them. That’ll get super annoying for you, I promise.
A better (and cheaper, and less annoying) course of action is for you to spot your own trends and get ahead of them. When you feel yourself resenting someone, angry with someone, hurt by someone, blaming someone, ask yourself:
What’s my end game?
Is my method of expressing these bad feelings likely to achieve my end game?
Or is it mismatched and destined for collateral damage and no resolution?
Jot these questions down on a sticky note and put it somewhere you’ll see it often. Say them out loud until the mantra becomes second nature. Get a picture of me and put a comic book speech bubble on it with these three questions, and pretend I’m asking them.
And when people see your framed picture of a random blog writer and tell you, “dude, that’s weird,” and you want to fight them for making you feel bad, ask yourself:
What’s my end game?
Need some more Hitting The Trifecta right now? Try this one: California Is Hella Stoked It’s Not Mississippi. Or how about this one? 6 Lies About Immigrants Trump Hopes You Believe. I like this one, too: Straight Outta Mar-A-Lago.