Frustrations. We all experience them. Some frustrations impact us in bigger ways than others, but the most important thing about frustrations is our reaction to them. In many cases frustrations lead us to make assumptions about the person or situation causing the frustration. These assumptions evoke different emotions in us, which can lead us to behave in a certain way (and if we’re frustrated, our response is not usually a positive one!). Working or living in a hostile environment that results in a lot of frustrations may increase the risk for heart disease and cancer, compromise the immune system, and lower our ability to reason and comprehend.
The good news is that a culture can change. We can train ourselves to give a little space and bless others with grace. I attended a fascinating training about self-defeating habits, led by Ann MacDonald, Director of Training and Development at Winona Health. We learned about frustrations, escalated conflict, and the negativity bias of the brain. There are three reactions that we can have to frustrations:
- Blame others (may lead to hostility and anger)
- Blame ourselves (may lead to depression and hopelessness)
- Search for a reason (allows you to react with curiosity and concern)
Reactions one and two usually complicate the situation and are unproductive in determining a solution or truly understanding the problem. Reaction three empowers us to respond with grace. Use your curiosity to explore the problem. What possible reason could there be for this behavior or action? When you catch yourself before you leap to assumptions, you create space between you and the person or situation that is very valuable. I experienced this for myself a few days after attending the training, and it was eye-opening. I completely misinterpreted the situation! The surface level argument was about diapers, but it turns out there was more to it. We are faced with dozens of disagreements, disappointments, or offenses every day. Take the time to reflect and be curious about the possible reasons, and then react with grace.
This post was inspired by the Self-Defeating Habits of Otherwise Brilliant People training available from Thera Rising International.