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How Not to Manage Your Frustration (Or, How I Screwed Up)

how to manage your frustration | Red Cape Revolution can help

People are messy.

I say this all the time to my clients and speaking audiences. What I mean is that we don’t always operate in the way that makes the most sense for the situation at hand. We’re blessed and burdened with feelings . . . nothing more than feelings . . . which we can let work for us or against us.

This week, I lost that battle. My feelings got the better of me; actually, one feeling in particular. It’s that old nemesis FRUSTRATION.

Here is the story of how NOT to do what I did. 

How Not to Manage Your Frustration

First, let’s set the stage. As I’ve shared earlier, I’m in the process of moving and making myself uncomfortable intentionally.  (I’m succeeding.)

So, I have a seemingly never-shortening list of items on my to-do list. I’m pretty good at saying no to things that don’t matter, but when you’re moving, there suddenly appear a lot more yeses than normal.

I won’t bore you with the specifics (some are in the stories below), but let’s just say that the small and large annoyances added up and my patience ran out.

I got nasty. I am not normally nasty, nor do I like to be nasty or to be around nasty people. I actually work hard to live a life that’s positive, kind, and to be around positive and kind people.

But I saw the dark side, Luke. Thankfully, I’ve now leaned toward the light, but with a sore bum from my virtual kick in the pants.

You too will be frustrated some day soon. Don’t do what I did. Here’s what not to do.

1. When someone else is involved, conveniently forget that they’re a person, too.

I called my phone and internet provider to cancel my service. The first recording stated that they’re busy and to call back later. So I did. Four times.

On the fifth time, I had walked to the printer after dialing, and had the phone on speaker so didn’t hang up immediately. And found that after about 5 seconds, my call went into the regular queue.

I was so shocked that I called back again and recorded it.

And reached a representative in less than 10 minutes who handled my call quickly and efficiently.

At that point, still reeling from the stupid customer service experience I had prior to reaching her, I was not very nice. And I wish I could call back and find her and apologize. Because I know her company’s wacky way to provide “service” isn’t something she can control, or may even know about.

She handled her job with grace and speed. But I forgot she was a person and didn’t treat her with the polite respect she should have received. I’m sorry.

2. Don’t get real about what’s important.

When a simple hour-long oil change turned into “you-need-a-new-battery-&-alternator- and-our-tech-is-out-sick,” I found myself car-less exactly when I had been planning on a number of meetings to attend and errands to complete.

Me, re-enacting my week of frustration (not a pretty look)
Me, re-enacting my week of frustration (not a pretty look)

I fought with the service person for a while—-the car had been running fine, what did YOU do? Etc. But inside I knew the battery was several years old and the replacement probably made sense.

But it wasn’t in my plan. And I didn’t see any room to change my plan. Until I got real about what’s important.

While the meetings I had planned were important, they could be changed. And did.

While the errands I had planned needed to be completed, they could wait. And did.

What was likely more important is that I didn’t get stranded somewhere on the Georgia-Florida line in a couple weeks. Or in my own driveway when the moving truck was headed in. So I got real, and got over myself.

3. Keep drinking caffeine.

On and off over the years, I’ve had a powerful Diet Coke habit. It’s been in check the past few months, but this week, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

Wired and carbonated are good feelings sometimes, but this week, it just made me anxious and burpy.

4. Don’t breathe.

Several times, I caught myself short of breath. While sitting at my desk. Even I’m not that out-of-shape.

I was so tight and mentally sticky that I was forgetting the most human of actions: to breathe.

So I got my buns off the chair, and got outside for a walk. And opened my mouth to breathe.

I often use my walks as extended professional development time, listening to podcasts from business leaders and marketing professionals. But now that I was breathing again, I started thinking again, and decided to play my favorite digital music game which I call iPod 8-Ball.

You play iPod 8-Ball just like Magic 8-Ball you had when you were a kid: ask it a question and then shuffle your music.

And so I asked: “What do I need to do to get out of this crappy mood?”

And Magic iPod answered by choosing a song called “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today,” from the musical Avenue Q. (This isn’t the Broadway version, but you’ll get the idea.)

Yes, things are now better.