Dissatisfaction – What You Feel vs. What You Say – #MTtalk Roundup » Mind Tools Blog
#MTtalk Roundup: Emapthy

Dissatisfaction – What You Feel vs. What You Say – #MTtalk Roundup

February 19, 2019

“Be dissatisfied with what is, but remain visionary of what can be done.”

– Ziad K. Abdelnour, CEO Blackhawk Partners Inc.

Can you imagine a world where all of us were satisfied with everything all the time? If that was the case, I’d probably have written this blog with a quill on parchment, and you wouldn’t be reading it on a screen.

Although we constantly strive for satisfaction, dissatisfaction channeled correctly can be a very useful emotion. Without dissatisfaction, there would be no change or progress.

Saying How You Feel

When talking about social and/or emotional intelligence, we are often told to be careful about the way we say things, as it can influence how others hear and interpret them.

For example, while you may want to voice your dissatisfaction, you don’t want to come across as a whiner or a complainer. It’s also better to voice your dissatisfaction before you feel so angry and frustrated that you’re no longer able to control how your emotions influence your tone of voice.

If you come across as whining and complaining, people might not take you seriously. If you sound frustrated and angry, your amplified emotions might drown your message.

Let’s explore four factors that could influence how you voice your dissatisfaction:

1. Threshold of Dissatisfaction

When I’m training my dog, he eventually reaches a point when he stops paying attention. I need to give him more and more high-value treats to keep the process going. When that happens, I know he’s reached his threshold for that session. If I push him further, he starts to show aggression, because he has no mental energy left to regulate his behavior.

If you have voiced your dissatisfaction many times, but there’s no recognizable change in your situation, you might also reach your threshold and then find it difficult to get the message across in a reasonable way the next time.

2. Resentment

If you bottle up dissatisfaction for too long, it may lead to feelings of resentment toward a person, people or an organization. Resentment isn’t a healthy emotion: it could cause you to act or react negatively when you eventually muster the courage to say what you feel. Or, it may simply bubble over without any constraint and without leading to a productive conclusion.

3. Disrespect

If you’re treated in a way that you feel is disrespectful, you may find it difficult to voice your dissatisfaction in a clear, calm and coherent way. Also, if you feel unheard, you’re likely to feel disrespected, too, even if it’s on an unconscious level.

4. Pressure

If you’re under a lot of pressure, and the issue you feel dissatisfied about adds to that pressure, you might find it difficult to talk about it without amplifying your emotions. Feeling overwhelmed triggers a number of fight-or-flight responses that bypass the logical, rational and analytical thinking processes.

Finding Balance at Times of Dissatisfaction

What can you do to remain balanced? Here are a few tips that work for me:

Ask for help: don’t bottle up what you feel until you feel resentful. If the issue is important enough, ask for help sooner rather than later. Remember, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of maturity.

Manage your stress level: first, if you need to take some things off your plate to manage your stress, then do so without delay. Humans are better at handling short bursts of acute stress – we’re not wired for chronic stress, it’s bad for our mental, physical and emotional health. Second, ask someone you trust to help you to think about the best way to voice your dissatisfaction. What might sound reasonable to you in your stressed state might not sound reasonable or respectful to others.

Think creatively: if you’re able to absorb your dissatisfaction for a while, it may push you to think more creatively and come up with plans to deal with the situation. It may also increase your resilience.

Dissatisfaction: What You Feel vs. What You Say

In last Friday’s #MTtalk we discussed dissatisfaction. Here are the questions we asked and some of the responses:

Q1. What is the point of voicing your dissatisfaction?

@Ganesh_Sabari Dissatisfaction = Perceived promise > actual delivery.

@harrisonia The point of expressing my dissatisfaction is to inform with the hope for change (improvement, reduction or demolition).

Q2. What is the difference between expressing dissatisfaction and complaining?

There’s a fine line between expressing dissatisfaction and complaining, but our participants helped to clarify the difference:

@s_narmadhaa Complaining is whining. Expressing dissatisfaction is voicing an opinion in a measured and balanced way. It’s not accusatory.

@Jikster2009 I believe it’s the intention behind it. If you really want to make a difference and improve things, it needs to be constructive and not just complaining. Sometimes complainers do want their voice heard but have no realistic course of action.

@sittingpretty61 Expression of dissatisfaction is a more sophisticated cognitive thought process to express the desire without expecting change and mind reading. Complaining is passive, and expresses a more hopeless position rather than suggesting a new change.

Q3. Why do we sometimes hide our dissatisfaction?

Different fears, such as the fear of being victimized, fear of a person, or fear of being seen as disrespectful seem to be the main reasons that we hide our dissatisfaction.

@PG_pmp We feel the other person may feel bad or take it as a complaint, and many times we are unable to gather courage to show our dissatisfaction.

@toniwriter In the workplace, it’s usually due to status management and fearing negative consequences to our positions or jobs as a whole. We get handicapped by bureaucracy.

@PIPability Many people don’t want to hurt another’s feelings. Expressing dissatisfaction can lead to conflict, which scares so many. I do ask myself if expressing dissatisfaction will lead to anything positive. If not, I won’t say anything.

Q4. What external factors have prevented you from voicing your dissatisfaction?

@AdrienneBean9 The fear that I won’t be able to express it properly, and I will be laughed at or ignored.

@KrisGiere When I was younger, fear of losing my job or retaliation. As I get older, only harming those I work with stops me.

@tweetgayusri Time frame can be a big factor. If we are going to be with someone for a limited time, there is no point in addressing the passing cloud unless it thunders heavily.

Q5. What might be some of the costs to you from hiding your dissatisfaction (particularly for prolonged periods of time)?

If you don’t talk about your dissatisfaction, you can start feeling helpless, hopeless, stressed, and even depressed. If you bottle up your feelings for too long they might come out at the wrong time, in the wrong way. More thoughts include:

@lg217 The cost will be your health. You will get high-level stress and your stomach will be in knots. You can get sick from keeping it in for long period of time. It is best to speak your mind and don’t hold back.

@_TomGReid There can be health issues that manifest in odd ways; you might also begin to train yourself that something that is abnormal or wrong (violates your principles) is OK. You can lose your moral anchor.

Q6. How does it affect you if what you feel and what you say are incongruent?

@GenePetrovLMC Not good. I need all parts of me to be in alignment. Then I can be of better use to myself, my family, friends, colleagues, clients, and everyone else. And then I can better live out my purpose.

@MarkC_Avgi In many instances, I feel that I am being a hypocrite, which I cannot stand for. It is really tough to not speak my mind at times.

@Midgie_MT shared an interesting thought about the physical effect of personal incongruence. She said, “My body now speaks to me (or rather I hear it!) loud and clear when I am not being congruent between what I am feeling and what I say/do. I am now aware of the tension that manifests in my physical body, including chest pains!”

Q7. Is feeling dissatisfied necessarily bad?

@hopegovind There is nothing wrong with feeling dissatisfied. This means you have absolute ability to express yourself.

@adaolasunmade Absolutely not. On the contrary, being satisfied with everything all the time is bad. There’ll be no change or progress without dissatisfaction.

Q8. What might be some of the benefits or gains from hiding your dissatisfaction?

@B2the7 Some of the benefits are keeping the peace, and keeping from hurting or disrespecting someone else.

Q9. What impact does other people’s dissatisfaction have on you, and yours on them?

@FelixJAkande The motivation to do more is a big one for me. I get motivated when complaints come up. That’s when the true improvements come in.

@SabrinaCadini I use a positive approach as often as possible. If someone expresses dissatisfaction, I help to find a solution without being negatively impacted. If I have to share a dissatisfaction, I always think of a solution before talking about it.

Q10. How can you voice your dissatisfaction in a way that will be heard?

@MicheleDD_MT Be respectful. Be clear on your “why.” What needs are not being met? Talk about the impact on you, your life, your work. Be part of the solution: what if we…? Can we work together to…?

@Yolande_MT Don’t amplify how you feel. Drama can drown the message.

@BrainBlenderTec Be insightful and offer a solution, as people are tired of the screamed moral outrage and are now tuning out.

Thank you to everyone who took part in our discussion. To read all the tweets, see the Wakelet collection of this chat.

Coming Up

Prolonged dissatisfaction can be a severe test of your ability to regulate your emotions. Next time on #MTtalk, we’re going to talk about the art of self-regulation. In our Twitter poll this week, we want to know which factor is most likely to have a negative impact on your ability to regulate your emotions. Please vote in our Twitter poll, here.


In the meantime, here are some resources relating to our discussion on dissatisfaction:

Beckhard and Harris’ Change Equation

Top 10 Personal Morale Boosters

Herzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene Factors

Creating Job Satisfaction

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Building Your Self-Confidence

How to Manage Passive-Aggressive People

The Perceptions of Organizational Politics Scale

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Please note that we reserve the right to remove comments that we feel are off-topic or offensive. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

View our Privacy Policy.