What to Do When People Let Us Down

What to Do When People Let Us Down

Cover of Goodbye, Perfect by Homaira Kabir

Goodbye, Perfect – The Book

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Here are some insightful perspectives to learn what to do when people let us down and how to deal with disappointment.

We’ve all been in situations when people we love or trusted said or did something that we never expected them to. Maybe they lied to us. Maybe they gaslighted us or said something behind our back that harmed us in some way.

You may feel terribly hurt or enraged when you find out. How could they do this?! When we can’t make sense of someone’s behavior, it’s natural to either want to cut them out from our lives to protect ourselves. Or to attack and shame them to deal with the cognitive dissonance that their actions have caused us.

Often these reactions hurt more than help us, because we usually don’t really know what to do when people let us down. In many situations, it’s not wise or possible to walk away from a relationship. Nor is it ever a great strategy to attack because it causes defensives in the other person and makes a bad situation worse.

Based on many years of personal and professional experience, I’ve come up with a set of questions that will help you respond in a way you won’t regret while protecting yourself from being hurt again.

5 questions to learn what to do when people let us down

#1. Is it true?

Are you sure they did what you believe they did? Did you experience it first-hand, or did someone tell you about it? How can you find out the truth?

#2. How bad was the offense?

Was what they did as you think it was? Or is someone feeding your emotions or telling you it was worse than you think? Are you considering the entire incident or looking at it in isolation?

#3. How important is the relationship?

What’s your relationship with the person who hurt you? Is it important enough to address the incident and work through it? Or is it not worth the time and effort it’ll require?

#4. Why did they do it?

Was it to intentionally cause you harm? Or were they trying to serve or protect themselves without thinking through the consequences? And just maybe they were trying to protect you?

#5. How sincere is their apology?

Do they recognize how they’ve hurt you? Are they eager to make amends to regain your trust? Are they willing to give you time if you’re not yet ready to engage with them?

In my book Goodbye, Perfect, I write about the 3 ‘non-apologies’ and what a sincere apology looks and feels like. Without it, it’s unwise to forget what was done to you because you’ll be putting yourself in harm’s way.

Keep in mind, remembering doesn’t mean we have to hold onto the hurt. Forgiving and forgetting isn’t the same thing. Forgiving is about recognizing that we’re all fallible human beings and holding space for our humanity. Forgetting is about making ourselves vulnerable to the worse angels of our nature.

Consider this comparison as you navigate conflicts and contemplate what to do when people let you down.

A version of this article originally appeared on Psychology Today.

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Homaira Kabir

Homaira Kabir

Written by mentor, author and founder of the Goodbye Perfect Project, Homaira Kabir. Homaira Kabir holds Master’s degrees in Coaching Psychology and in Positive Psychology – the science of human flourishing and wellbeing – from the University of East London. She has just published her latest book ‘Goodbye Perfect: How To Stop Pleasing, Proving and Pushing For Others… and Live For Yourself

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