Dealing With Frustration

Frustration is an inevitable aspect of the human condition; the question is “Are you dealing with it effectively?

There are three ways in which we typically deal with frustration. We:

  • Nurture it.
  • Set it aside.
  • Avoid it.

Let’s explore each of these in more detail to see the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Nurture frustration

Our natural tendency is to nurture frustration…to perpetuate it until we exhaust ourselves. If you’re thinking “That’s not me,” answer this question “What do you do when frustrated? Do you press harder or step away from the effort?”

If you answered, as most of us did, that you pressed harder, you perpetuated your frustration. Indeed, you intensified your frustration and distanced yourself further from your desired goal.

Set frustration aside

You also know that when you finally step back from your efforts and your frustration subsides, the solution to achieving your goal appears quickly…and it’s much simpler than you expected.

Avoiding frustration

Of course, the best way of dealing with frustration is to limit the number of frustrating events you experience. Frustration is primarily the result of unrealistic expectations. We assume that a task will be easier than it is. A seemingly obvious approach turns out to be terribly misguided. We set an unrealistic deadline for accomplishing our goal. These are just a few examples of  unrealistic expectations that plague us all by virtue of our humanity.

Avoiding frustration is a matter of reevaluating our gut instinct when it comes to expectation. Questions like:

  • Am I assuming that everything is going to go as planned? Or have I built in some cushion to help me avoid frustration?
  • Am I too certain that this approach will work? Or have I developed alternative approaches in case this one doesn’t work?
  • Do I view failed attempts as an indication that I need to try harder? Or do I reevaluate what I’m doing after having stepped away from the effort?
  • Am I approaching this effort with the mindset that if I don’t get the desired result, I”m going to learn something that will help accelerate the attainment of my goal?

There is one area in which avoiding frustration is difficult. That’s when we try to help another person overcome a challenge. The vast majority of us are caring individuals who want what’s best for others. Consequently, we invest time and emotional energy to that end.

When you make repeated attempts to help a person and they respond with “reasons” why your suggestions won’t work, or they agree but fail to act upon your guidance, it’s difficult to know whether to walk away or to continue your efforts to help them.The lack of results becomes a source of frustration and may, at times, diminish your confidence in your abilities.

For you

Here’s what’s worked for me in dealing with frustration.

In my attempts to help others, I set a limit to the number of attempts I’ll make before having a candid conversation with them. If the person hasn’t acted upon any of three suggestions, I say to them “I’m not sure that this is enough of problem for you to warrant you acting upon it. If that’s the case, that’s fine. That’s your choice to make.” In cases in which I suspect the person has adopted a victim mentality, I”ll say “One of the things that I learned years ago is that I can’t care more than the person I’m trying to help. I sense that I care more than you do.”

With these statements I’m letting the person know that I’m not going to continue to help them unless they demonstrate a willingness to do something to improve their lot in life. Experience has taught me that I’ll typically get one of two reactions. 

The person will either say “You’re right. I don’t intend to do anything to effect a change.” Or they’ll tell me the real reason why they’re not acting upon my suggestions. If they open up with honest communication, I’ll make one more attempt to help. But if they don’t take action, I’m done.

When I experience frustration as  a result of unrealistic expectations, I’ve learned to avoid frustration by simply positioning my efforts in a way that time isn’t an issue. I’ve found that if I embark on an effort and allow plenty of time to deal with the unexpected, I rarely get frustrated.

As I experience frustration, I’ve learned to quickly step away from my efforts to allow my frustration to subside, then act quickly upon the ideas that come to mind as a result of having let go of the emotion.

It’s interesting how frustration, when quickly set aside, becomes a source of tremendous creativity. It’s as if the emotion blocks the subconscious mind’s ability to form solutions. As the frustration subsides, the subconscious mind is free to focus on finding solutions…something it does extremely well, and very quickly, when emotions are no longer involved.

For our kids

When kids get frustrated, share with them your experiences. Let them know that when you press harder, frustration intensifies and the solution becomes more elusive. But when you step away from the effort, your frustration wanes and your subconscious mind quickly comes up with alternative approaches to solve the problem.

With respect to their dealings with others, encourage them to help others whenever possible. But also let them know that when their efforts begin to hurt them, to frustrate them and cause them to begin to question their abilities, it’s time to have a candid conversation with the person using the language suggested above.

They’ll appreciate that you took the time to teach them how to deal with frustration.

These lessons will put the kids in your life light years ahead of their contemporaries in enjoying life and greater success in whatever they choose to do.

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your experience in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. William Prenatt

    Dale, As always great wisdom! One thing that i found very effective with people who weren’t performing up to their potential was when I told the person that it seemed like the achievement of the goal seemed more important to me than it was to them. I found that to be an effective communications tool!

    Merry Christmas!

    • dfurtwengler

      Great tip, Bill. It causes people to rethink what it is that they truly want. If it’s still what they want, they become more focused and act more decisively. If the goal is no longer appealing, they can redirect their efforts accordingly. Merry Christmas to you as well, my friend.

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