Your employee is late? Your child made a mess by spilling milk on the floor? The part you are awaiting impatiently in order to repair the tractor hasn’t arrived yet? You go on vacation, and it rains every day? You made a bad financial decision?
What do all these situations have in common? They have the potential to frustrate you.
Tolerance for frustration is a crucial skill in the healthy management of emotions. In fact, those with a low tolerance for frustration experience negative effects, and that affects others through conflict, ineffectiveness, negative work environment, stress, and it also affects their health over the long term. Because the emotions are contagious, they affect the people around the person who is constantly frustrated about everything and nothing.
But what is the source of this intolerance for frustration? In fact, its origins lie in the often unconscious, irrational and unrealistic ideas we have about ourselves, life and other people.
Here are some unrealistic beliefs that lead to frustration:
Life is fair: You never take a vacation, and the one time you do, it rains. You ask why it is happening to you. It isn’t fair. But who said that life is fair?
Other people must always do and say what I expect: Employees come in late. In fact, expecting an employee to always be on time is unrealistic. Even you may sometimes arrive late for work or a meeting.
Events will always go as anticipated: They told you that the part for your tractor would come in on Tuesday, but it didn’t. Oh well, events don’t always go as planned.
I must be perfect and skilled in every area. Have you made a bad investment? Remember that, like most people, you are neither perfect nor skilled in every area. You will certainly make bad decisions from time to time and won’t be successful at everything you try.
Developing our tolerance for frustration involves becoming more realistic about life, others and ourselves. All of us have these irrational beliefs, and the events that occur in our lives are in themselves occasions that always bring those beliefs up. Developing our tolerance for frustration allows us to recover all our physical, intellectual and emotional energy that we will then be able to channel into constructive projects. Each hour lost in frustration is a wasted hour that we will never recover. Furthermore, that condition affects everyone around us.
What can we do to decrease the intensity and duration of our frustration?
- Identify the irrational belief at the root of our frustration;
- Listen to our inner monologue, and change the vocabulary:
- It’s horrible, unacceptable, intolerable, hell, unfair;
- It’s disappointing, difficult and annoying, but that’s life as well;
- Identify the real seriousness of the event: what are the real consequences on our lives on a scale of one (trivial) to 10 (extreme)?
- Relativize: what consequences will these situations have on our lives 20 years from now?
- Ask ourselves if we have any power over the situation: if yes, act; if no, let it go;
- Remind ourselves that life isn’t perfect just as no person is perfect either.
Finally, realize that life with someone who demonstrates a low tolerance for frustration can become frustrating after awhile.
Work Psychologist, professionnal speaker, author and business coach