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Do You Have a Fear of Disappointing Others? How to Conquer It for Good

Do You Have a Fear of Disappointing Others? How to Conquer It for Good

It’s completely normal to care and worry, but once we allow the fear of disappointing others to take over, we’re simply hitting our own head against the wall.

Somewhere along the way, society seems to have glorified this feeling to be something positive as it means you care, but the fear of disappointing others can be a powerful negative emotion that can eat away from your own happiness.

This article takes you through 6 steps that will help you conquer the fear of disappointing others.

1. Accept You’ll Never Be Enough (In the Eyes of Others)

This may sound harsh, but it’s important to remember that if your goal is to please everyone – then you’re setting yourself up to fail. Even if you act exactly (how you think is) right, there will always be people with different perspectives and views on how things should be. The idea that you can please everyone is unfortunately delusional, because it’s simply impossible.

Strangers, family, and friends all have different ideas about what’s wrong or right. Their idea of good behavior might be somewhat close to each other, or really really far away from each other – in the end it doesn’t matter, because they will never completely align with each other which means you will always fail and disappoint someone.

Mark Manson explains our differences as humans like this:[1]

”The questions is not whether we evaluate ourselves against others; rather, the question is by what stand do we measure ourselves.” 

So, to sum up this theory: We measure everything from success to happiness (and in this case what’s wrong or right) completely different. We have different values, which means we measure things according to own (different) metrics.

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We like the idea of perfection, but as soon as we realize we’re most definitely not anywhere near that, and we won’t ever be enough in everyone’s eyes, then you can start growing and letting go of the fear.

2. Really Push Yourself out of Your Comfort Zone

A comfort zone is nice and comfy, but it stands in the way of growth. We can’t ever move forward and go further, if we stand still – and that’s exactly what you do in your comfort zone. You’re standing still in a frozen moment that you’re familiar with and know all too well.

Sometimes the only way to conquer fear is through pushing yourself into uncomfortable situations, but it can of course be extremely scary to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Start out with something small. It can be a task that you’ve been putting off, because the whole idea of this scenario makes you feel uncomfortable. It can be anything from telling your partner something that’s been on your mind (but you’re afraid of their reaction or letting them down) to taking a fitness class that you feel you aren’t fit enough to take.

We all started out with baby steps once.

Even when you just push yourself to do one little thing, you’ll be left with a big relief and feel much stronger, because nine out of ten times it’s never as scary or uncomfortable as we had imagined in our head. After you’ve felt how good it feels to conquer you fears – big or small – you’ll automatically want to challenge yourself more and more.

If you’re still wondering if it’s necessary to step out of your comfort zone, here’s the answer for you.

3. Analyze Your Behavior

Sometimes we need to take a step back and take a look at ourselves. Why are your reaction like this? Where does your fear come from? Do you get anxious about it and why?

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It helps to take a deeper look. Therapy can be a great option if you want another (and professional) perspective, or you can try to go back and look at your past yourself.

The fear of disappointing others is very normal, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not a trait in ourselves that has been created because of our childhood, a trauma, or past relationships. The way we react to others is often more about ourselves than them.

One example of our behavior towards others can be explained through the attachment theory:[2]

”The basic premise is that we’re not all the same when it comes to intimacy and commitment. Instead, we each have a relatively consistent ‘attachment style… This, the theory claims, is largely down to our upbringing. But it can also be influenced in later life by our adult relationships, seeing a psychologist or suffering trauma.”

While this attachment theory takes premise in romantic relationships and how we react to intimacy and commitment, the theory is still very useful when you’re trying to understand why you have a fear of disappointing others around you.

The attachment theory has different attachment styles that relates back to our upbringing. If you take a closer look at the different styles and how the types react in situations, it’s fairly easy to place yourself. This will help you get a better understanding of yourself, as well as why you react a certain way, and where this fear comes from.

4. Set up Boundaries

It’s important to set up boundaries in your life, especially emotional boundaries. Don’t let people mistake your kindness for weakness.

If you’re reading this, then you’re most likely interested in pleasing people around you. Which is definitely not a bad thing. You want to make people happy and you enjoy helping others, but if you’re always acting this way towards everyone, then you’ll come across people who’ll take advantage of it at one point.

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Take a look at the different relationships in your life and learn to set up boundaries: How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

5. Don’t Personalize People’s Reactions

The reason why someone reacts or acts towards you in a certain way may often not even be about you. You may be fearful of saying no to someone, because you fear their reaction, but how do you know the reaction you’ll get it based on you and not other factors?

Let’s say a person invites you to a party and you’re afraid of saying no, because it would disappoint them – how do you actually know this? Maybe you’re telling yourself that you know this person and therefore you know they’ll react negatively, or you’ve seen them react a certain way towards another person that said no, but maybe none of this had anything to do with you and whether or not you’re disappointing them.

The person might react angry or upset to the outside world simply because that’s how this person reacts to news that don’t align with their plan (but this doesn’t mean they think anything negatively about you). Or the person might seem upset, because they don’t want to jump up and down of joy after you just told them you weren’t showing up.

Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D explains it like this:[3]

“Personalization sounds like this: If I don’t get what I want it means I am not good enough and don’t deserve it. When you overly personalize a disappointment, you make it about who you are as a person and do not take into account the many situational factors that had nothing to do with you”.

Don’t (over) analyze situations and personalize people’s reactions to your actions. Base your actions on your values and what you know.

6. Revaluate Your Own Values

If you want to let go of the fear of disappointing others, then you need to figure out who you are exactly first. What are your values? What do you want to stand for? Are you acting accordingly to who you want to be – and if not – what can you do to change this?

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Our own core values are tricky to figure out completely. It takes time and it’s a never-ending process, because we (hopefully) don’t ever stop moving and growing. We change over time; we grow and so does our mind.

But if we don’t take the necessary time to get to know ourselves, revaluate our values, and understand what we want for ourselves, then we’ll fall into the pressure of what others think and we’ll get easily effected by their opinion of us.

If you’d like to figure out your own values better, take a look at this article: Knowing My Values Has Filled up the Long-Existed Missing Gap in My Life

The Bottom Line

Fear can be scary and overwhelming, so we need to be able to go back to our gut instinct and rely on that.

The more comfortable and good you feel about your own actions, the easier it will be to let go of the stress and fear of disappointing others.

In the end, people may not be pleased with your actions – but this way you will be.

More About Conquering Fear

Featured photo credit: Eye for Ebony via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Maria Jensen

Specializes in personal and professional development.

Feeling Frustrated in Life? 8 Ways to Get Back on Track 4 Simple Steps to Start Living a Positive Life Common Fears of Every Job Seeker (and How to Deal with Them) Do You Have a Fear of Disappointing Others? How to Conquer It for Good How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others & Celebrate Your Uniqueness

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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