How to Handle When Someone
Lets You Down

Disappointed Young Woman

It’s human nature to feel disappointed, hurt, angry and even a bit betrayed when someone lets you down.  But despite these feelings, it is important to consider your emotions and keep control.  If for no other reason, so that you can move forward and find resolution.

Your immediate response sets the tone of how you will manage to be honest and clear, remain respectful, and leave room for kindness.

Finding Clarity

Some situations call for a fact-finding mission in order for you to face what has happened.  Emotions can cloud your judgment and keep you from making the right next steps.  To check in on the facts, ask these questions:

  • What were your expectations and were they clearly communicated?
  • What has happened that alerted you to the situation?
  • Have you verified information?
  • Does the other person know there is a problem?

There are instances when the other person or people involved have no idea you may feel let down and, therefore, have no idea there is even an issue.  Finding clarity via the facts of the situation can help you decide if you need to let it go, or if you should confront the other person.

Clearing the Air

Clear communication is the key to clearing the air.  When you confront someone who has caused you hurt or disappointment, doing so with the intent to resolve rather than to blame or seek revenge will bring appropriate closure to the situation.

  • State the problem to the other person.  Honest expression of feelings are sometimes necessary and nothing to be ashamed of.  “Tim, I admit I’m surprised and am feeling some disappointment. I’d like to talk about this soon.”
  • Were the other person’s expectations the same as yours?
  • Were there any mitigating factors that would help explain what happened?

There is always more than one side to a story, which means there are facts and assumptions that could be hidden from you.  Until you have enough information to move forward, take care how you speak about the issue. 

  • Hold back on expressing an emotional response to others about your feelings.
  • Do not discuss the situation with anyone other than a trusted confidant.
  • Sharing your disappointment indiscriminately will only contribute to the gossip mill. Choose words and confidants carefully.

When You Receive an Apology

An apology is a show of good will.  However, accepting one from the person who lets you down doesn’t mean you have to make amends. 

When you receive an apology, but your feelings aren't yet aligned . . .

  • Accept the apology graciously.  "Tina, I appreciate your apology.  Thank you."  Show sincerity by making eye contact.
  • If the situation warrants further discussion, set aside a different time to reset concurrent expectations.  "Tony, thank you for your apology.  But could we let this lie awhile and talk soon about how we might go forward from here?"

Regardless, always remain courteous, considerate, respectful and honest - the core of what grounds etiquette and good relationships.  The person who has erred or apologizes no doubt feels bad.  Even if you choose not to continue your relationship in its former capacity, your courtesy can be of great comfort.

Going forward

Do your best to set any resentment or hard feelings aside, especially if you see this person regularly. 

However, boundaries may change and new parameters may be set.  Consider why you might or might not continue your relationship with the person who let you down.  Can you trust them?

Etiquette assists ethical action in that there are ways of phrasing responses and messages that are needed to smooth out difficult moments.  Doing the right thing can be accompanied with kindness and kindness requires honesty.  

Enjoying positive relationships is the ultimate goal.  Etiquette involves chosen behavior that helps others feel valued.  Work through the margins of the challenging situation of being let down in a respectful and caring way.

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