A few days ago, Chris Brogan wrote a post called Take Back Your Strings. In this post, Chris writes that we really should not embrace the idea that people are disappointed in us. He suggests that people feeling disappointed is really more about them, not so much about you. I verbalized over in the comments section that I found the post kind of disconcerting. It’s been almost a week, and it’s still rolling around in my head.
What we are saying when we say we’re disappointed
After initially reading the post, I said that sometimes disappointment can be code for other things. When a person does something and you say you’re disappointed in them, you aren’t always saying, “Man, I thought you could do better.” Sometimes you’re saying, “I’m really worried that you’re doing this.” Sometimes you’re saying, “I don’t understand what you’re doing or why you’re doing it.” Sometimes you’re more let down than disappointed. Sometimes you’re actually disappointed in yourself. The English language is surprisingly limiting sometimes, so we use one word, disappointment, to express all of these things.
If you want the accolades, ya gotta take the crap
After thinking more about this post though, I think what really is rattling around in my head is the idea that we don’t have to listen when people say they are disappointed in us. It hurts when people say that, without question. You are being judged, or at least it seems that way. It’s easy to say, “Sticks and stones” and shrug it off.
In the online world, however, there seems to be a decrease in patience when it comes to anything other than agreement or fastidious support. I think that is the thought stream that Chris’s post awakened in my head. How many times have arguments begun because a person begs to differ? How many times has a failure to agree been interpreted as an attack? How many times has a concern snowballed into a virtual fistfight? I’m seeing it more and more, and it feels like a lot of people are adopting the idea that disappointment is in the eye of the beholder.
Here’s how I see it though. If you want to get the nice blog comments, the retweets, the Facebook “likes,” and the Google Plus shares, then it’s only fair that you also accept that sometimes people will disagree with you. Sometimes they may evaluate something you’ve said or done and not feel real good about it. Disappointment is the price we pay for all of the nice things we encounter day-in, day-out here in the online world. That is the risk we take every time we sign in to our various accounts. Sure, a post might get a really nice response. Then again, a post might really disappoint people on any given day. If you want the former, you can’t plug your ears to the latter.
No One is Above Reproach
In this insulated online world we live in, it’s easy to get on a path where you think you’re the cat’s meow. I mean, I have 4,000 some people (well, maybe 3,000 and 1,000 bots) following me on Twitter. I couldn’t get 2 people to follow me in fourth grade! Are you kidding? Every day people say they are happy to see me, that they enjoy my writing. The kindness I receive on a regular basis is humbling, but it could also convince me that I’m hot stuff and really know what I’m talking about. No one can tell me nothing, right?
Yeah, not so much.
We are all just people. Sure, we’re here in this reality that exists in little electronic boxes, but we all go potty, we all eat food, we all sleep (well, most of us do). We are all imperfect. We are all capable of deeply disappointing people, and sometimes we do. We’re also immensely fortunate in that we can improve someone’s day or help someone out. Sometimes we do that too.
If Failure is a Great Teacher, Disappointment is its Kissing Cousin
There is a lot of talk about how great it is to fail because nothing teaches you more faster. I view disappointment that way. If I let someone down, I want to learn that lesson right away so I never do it again. I want to learn what people expect of me. Heck, I want to learn what I expect of myself. Without disappointment, you cannot progress. It will just seem like everything you do is spot on and perfect. Nobody is that lucky. Not even LeBron James is that lucky, as he found out. When you disappoint someone, you can track progress as you prove you can do better. When you disappoint yourself, you can prove that your horizons can widen and your depth of experience can grow. I wouldn’t want to throw away that kind of opportunity. I wouldn’t want to stifle my growth by thinking I’m all done growing.
What do you think about this?
Image Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/DGBurns