Communication: Reframing Disappointment

Honesty, respect, and love should be the principles that guide communication within families. Sounds good. But certainly easier said than done. No where is this more true than the expression of disappointment.

What is disappointment? It is the feeling that you have been let down by the actions of another. You expected more; they gave you less. Disappointment is a very real feeling, quite common. Feelings are right; they are to be trusted. But what to do with this particular feeling?

Caution is encouraged to those who you use personal feelings of disappointment to change or shape the behavior of a family member. This is not to say that feeling disappointment is wrong. It is certainly not. However, expressions of feelings of disappointment, particularly repeated expressions of disappointment over time, rarely lead to deeper feelings of honesty, respect, and love.

How does your disappointment feel to the individual you have identified as the source of your disappointment? That is the key question. Disappointment feels like a closed system. It feels like an emotional verdict –GUILTY!– pronounced on a past behavior. The sentence: separation, isolation, and judgement.


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