Have you ever sat in a room with people you resented? Did you put on a pretentious smile, attempt to flatter them in some way, and yet, seethe inside about the uncomfortable meeting? At some point, most of us experience this horrible situation. And it’s not easy to communicate with positive results when an offense comes between two or more people. In this post, I will talk about some different ways to get past resentment in couple and group situations.
What is Resentment and How Does it Happen?
Well, resentment is what happens before unforgiving attitudes and judgement. It occurs when another person does or says something that attacks or insults you in some way. At the beginning stages of an offense, you can usually fix it fairly easily. Often, it’s just a misunderstanding or an oversight that causes the resentment. With communication these things can be worked out. It is when they go unchecked for a long period of time or ignored all together that they become dangerous to the relationship. In some cases, resentment gets stronger because the other person continues to do the same offensive thing over and over again. You see this often with children in larger families (including my own).
Forced Communication Doesn’t Work
I remember while working with all women at a small business, everyone in the company was forced to sit in a room and tell their co-workers and bosses what they thought of them, good and bad. Most of us were already angry at the owner for various reasons and didn’t even want to be there. Fortunately, for the boss, we had a professional mediator who refereed our meeting. As for us, the employees, we resented the fact that he was even there. At the time, it seemed to insult our intelligence. The forced communication came slowly and when it did, harsh statements of discontentment were aimed at the owner. Unfortunately, that company never did resolve its problems and eventually went out of business.
The Pieces of the Whole
The whole thing could have been avoided if each person had the chance to express themselves individually to the other person. In the above example, that never happened. The feelings of displeasure and indignation escalated to the point that they negatively affected the whole organization and even outside relationships. Putting a group together to resolve issues that derive from one-on-one relationships is not a good idea. It’s like trying to put the roof on a house that has weak support beams. The house won’t stand for long with the weight of the roof pressing down. This can be especially true in family units where the parents have issues with one another. The family as a whole will not be happy if the parents are at sorts. Equally, business leaders have to be spot on with communication and handling individual disputes quickly and efficiently.
How Do You Get Over Resentment?
I truly believe that the process to overcome resentment is a lot like forgiving someone. Though, it may not be as difficult and emotionally involved as spiritual forgiveness, it may take some time to think through the reasons the resentment occurred in the first place. If you are dead set against talking to the other person, then you might not be able to resolve the issue easily. Pride is a driver of most problems like this; it could be your pride or theirs that gets in the way. Someone has to be willing to break the silence and express their feelings. It may take another person to help mediate the talk, but don’t involve more people than absolutely necessary.
When each of you has completely let go of any offenses, you can then discuss how to avoid the situation in the future and move on. This process is so important if you want to keep your relationships in tact and thriving. Even the best of friends and the closest families have occasional problems.
Key Points to Overcoming Resentment
- Immediately recognize your feelings.
- Don’t discuss them with someone not involved.
- As soon as possible, go to the other person and express your grievance.
- Let them know why you are hurt and how it has affected you.
- Listen to their point of view.
- Set boundaries for the future so it doesn’t happen again.
- Give yourself time to heal.
- Learn and grow from the situation.
If you follow these guidelines, I believe you will have better success at communicating with the other person. Also, when the offenses spread to more than two people, you must deal with each person separately before putting the group together. People need their feelings validated; they need to be heard. Once they know that you care about them as individuals, they will more likely respond favorably to the group’s goals.
For those of you who want to explore this topic further, Pema Chodron’s audio book, Don’t Bite the Hook: Finding Freedom from Anger, Resentment, and Other Destructive Emotions will enlighten you on many levels. Though her perspective is that of a Buddhist, her interpretations of Shantideva’s poem are accessible and applicable to anyone’s life regardless of your religion or lack thereof. She has the ability to tap into all the the “hooks” that catch us and make us want to fuel the fire of our own anger, irritation etc.