The Blog.

Noticing resentment

22 Jul 2022 | Being Human

Sometimes our fight/flight instinct is really easy to spot – like when we’re in complete procrastination or avoidance mode, or when we’re gripped by email rage (like road rage but with email).

Other times it’s more subtle. It doesn’t look like panic or rage. It looks more like resentment, defensiveness, feeling got at, taken advantage of, overlooked, or simply WTF or FFS!

Here are a few that came up in recent conversations:

  • Can’t you see how hard I’ve been working? (on being inundated with questions immediately on return from a heavy shift)
  • It’s as if they just expect me to drop everything and jump on a call (on being asked by a client if they could jump on a Zoom call in 15 minutes)
  • There’s another person taking the piss / I can’t trust (when a new recruit isn’t performing as expected)
  • I don’t think I’m in their good books anymore

When we take a closer look at these statements, they all have a common underlying story. A story that has sides. They’re either for me or against me. A story that adds meaning or judgement onto someone’s behaviour.

  • They’re taking the piss.
  • They don’t like me anymore.
  • I can’t trust them (or they don’t trust me)
  • They think I’m… (I’m being judged)
  • They just don’t care

It all puts us on the defensive, where our lizard brain goes to work defending, protecting, distancing – trying to keep us safe.

Except, what if it’s not a fight?

  • What if that question that’s got us feeling put out or put upon is just that – a question, not a demand, or even a request?
  • What if that gap in performance has more to do with a gap in clarity, skills or expectation – than wilful disobedience or incompetence?
  • What if that person’s abrupt message doesn’t mean they’re pissed off with us – but is just a short message?

I remember years ago, finding someone really hard work to interact with. They were so abrupt I always felt like I’d offended them in some way. It made me feel on edge, as if any moment they were going to turn on me.

What helped me back then was naming the behaviour, rather than the intention.

“He’s just doing direct” I’d tell myself.

I found out years later that he’d been struggling with alcoholism, which explains some.

But in any case, deliberately choosing to just label the behaviour as “he’s doing direct” meant that I was able to interact without being drawn into battle (or appeasement) mode. It made the whole thing less inflammatory.

More recently, a colleague was making a change to one of our slides, when our MD asked us Ninjas the question “is this slide used in other decks?”

I responded to say ‘yes’ but I didn’t know which ones off the top of my head. I’d have to look through all the decks to be able to say.

I remember feeling a bit irritated at the time. I had a lot going on that day, and while I’m familiar with the decks because I use them, I felt that the responsibility for looking after them, knowing them well, and knowing where updates needed to be cascaded fell with our other colleague. If someone needed to check through the decks it should be them, not me!

But guess what?

Take another look at the question: “Is this slide used in other decks?”

The answer is yes. Just yes! The question wasn’t “which decks” – I’d read that into the question!

Next time you find yourself resentful – ask yourself – what have I read into this that’s causing resentment? What story am I telling myself about this?

And even if I’m 99% convinced that story is true – what perspectives, responses, possibilities might be open to me if I choose not to rely on or run with that story?

Let me know if this resonates with you.

4 Comments

  1. Barbara Marks

    Resonates loud and clear. I am constantly resentful. Here is the most recent scenario.

    The creator of the company begins the day, spewing question after question without allowing time to answer. Almost always, this leads into the person demoralizing the individual. And can go as far as taking personal blows. “You’d never get hired by another company. You just don’t have what it takes.” “You’ll never make it in the real world.” Look at you.” “HELLO, IS ANYBODY HOME?” “Why don’t you take care of yourself.” “You look like you’ve been living in a concentration camp.”

    I know who I am and what I am capable of if a different approach is taken. Sometimes a reply is forced after the f-it button gets hit. “Did you hire me with the intent that I “F$&@“ up your company or would you like to get work done.” Yep, engaged and got drawn into that black hole. FIGHT! Defense.

    It’s not easy dealing with something like this on a daily basis. Some worse than others. And do notice that I’ve started questioning myself by thinking, “Maybe they’re right? I’ll need to up my game in the performance arena (already exhausted, emotionally and physically) only to realize that will get scrutized later.

    This is an extreme case that will have an unfavorable outcome for all.

    A collegue approached me and said, “If you ever leave the company, I’m leaving as well.”🤦‍♀️

    This is an extreme case that will have an unfavorable outcome for all.

    There are oversight committees for everything financial. There should be oversight committees that audit for the mental state and emotional maturity of a company. Starting with the creator.

    How can any individual step into any position with a positive mindset and confidence only to fall victim to this.

    I’ve been looking to provide my service elsewhere. This, whatever “this” is, has me on defense though. And left me struggling to TRUST other company’s.”

    What critical information is being with-held because they need to fill a hole? Are they being disengenuous? I look at employee turn-over if available, apps with company reviews, What could I have done different?🤦‍♀️

    Reply
    • Grace Marshall

      That sounds intense and utterly exhausting Barbara, I’m not surprised you feel this way. Especially as you’re dealing not only with your own fight/flight response but it sounds like you’re on the receiving end of someone else’s too.

      Sometimes distance and respite is needed before we can see beyond the fight/flight instinct, so I hope you’re able to find or create those moments – however fleeting or imperfect they might be to begin with. As for building trust with a new company, check out the video in the Working Together section of the resources page. And “how did this position become available” is a great question to ask in an interview!

      Reply
  2. Rikki

    This soooooo resonates with me. Thank you.
    You’re totally right, I am learning that my perceptions are not always to be trusted – they conceive & write a narrative that at its conclusion only bears a passing resemblance to the actual event!

    Reply
    • Grace Marshall

      You’re so welcome Rikki. Glad you found it useful. Hope it helps you to write a more helpful story!

      Reply

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About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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