5 steps to dealing with people who let you down

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We all have them in our lives. Those friends, colleagues or family members who have wonderful qualities and we like them as individuals …yet they often seem to let us down and leave us feeling a little – well – disappointed. So, what to do? Tell them they’re unreliable, remove them from your birthday card list or just put up and shut up? Psychologist Anoushka Beh shares some step-by-step advice on coping with the just-a-bit-rubbish acquaintance. 


1. Don’t make assumptions

“Sometimes, when we expect someone to be there for us and they’re not, it hurts and we can spiral into making negative assumptions about ourselves – or them – as a bid to make sense of the situation. Before you start berating the other person, take a breath and reflect. Is this a new pattern involving them that you’re witnessing? Could something in their lives changed that’s preventing them from being there in the way they use to be – a new job, a new partner? Once you’ve calmed down, consider speaking with them for clarity about what’s happening in their lives. Keep it non-accusational – they may be experiencing difficulties that are affecting their behaviour that no-one knows about. Then take some time from one another to focus on the below.”


2. They are who they are

“After talking frankly together, you may discover that being continuously supportive is not one of this person’t strong points. You may even discover that they’re there for you, just not in the way you need or expect, which is also okay (you can’t make people be something they’re not). Reflect on your initial expectations around the friendship and address these. Re-focus on their good qualities and chances are you’ll see that the relationship is still nourishing and positive in your life. However, if you discover there really aren’t many positives re-evaluate whether its healthy for this person to remain in your life.”


3. Remember that you’re not perfect!

“Evaluate whether you’ve been behaving in a way that could have contributed to them pulling back or being more inconsiderate than you’d like. Are you allowing them to observe and truly understand your need for support? Have you been pushing them away when you need space? Are you there for them in the way you’d like them to be there for you? When we need support we can sometimes slip into reflective patterns of behaviour that are not conducive to inviting in support. Use this an an opportunity to see if there’s room for growth on your end too.”


4. Evaluate your friend-selection criterion

“Through assessing yourself, you may discover it’s not just this person, but many who let you down. If this is the case, think about why you might be attracting and tolerating this dynamic. Do you believe you deserve nurturing friendships? Think about those you consider to be close to who’re a good reflection of the qualities in people that you admire. This will assist you in making decisions about new peope who come into your life, and whether they will be able to meet your needs (and you theirs).”   


5. Be prepared to let go

“Once you’ve taken time out from the individual, if they continue to cause destruction, this is will be disappointing . However, sometimes we have to let go of that which isn’t serving us to provide space for new opportunities. You don’t have to go about this with ‘drama, drama, drama’, simply create more distance between you and the other person. In grieving the loss, honour this choice as a an example of prioritising and looking after you, because no-one is more important or deserving.”


For more on Anoushka’s work log onto www.abehpsych.com