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February 19, 2019

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

Yolande Conradie

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

– Ziad K. Abdelnour, CEO Blackhawk Partners Inc.

About This Week’s Chat

Are you satisfied with the quality of your life? How about your work? Does life seem like a breeze, or do you carry the weight of dissatisfaction around with you? And, perhaps most importantly, do you ever express your dissatisfaction?

When I was thinking about the topic for this week's #MTtalk, I was reminded of a story from Japanese folklore. I first heard it as a child and it's always stayed with me.

The Story of the Stonecutter

There once lived a stonecutter who had to go and work at the house of the village chief. When he saw the luxury and splendor of the house, he wished that he himself could be the village chief. Magically, the stonecutter suddenly found that he'd become the chief!

The next day, a very important official passed by in an open carriage. Everybody, even the village chief, had to bow before him. "If only I could be an important official," the stonecutter thought.

Imagine his happiness when the stonecutter found that he had become the official!

While riding in his carriage, the sun beat down on the stonecutter and he wished to be the powerful sun. His wish was granted – the stonecutter became the sun and shone fiercely down on the earth.

One day, as he was shining down on men working in a field, a big storm cloud passed in front of him and he could no longer see the field. "I wish I was a storm cloud," he thought. And before he knew it, he'd become a storm cloud. 

But then he found himself being pushed around by a strong wind. "Oh, if only I could be the wind!" he cried. Once again his wish was granted, and the stonecutter became the wind. He was able to blow many things around, but the strong rocks and stones resisted him. And so, of course, he wished to become a rock.

The stonecutter became a rock and he felt invincible. Until one day, a lowly stonecutter came and chiseled away at the rock. "The stonecutter is more powerful than the rock," he thought. And he wished to once again become what he had always been: a stonecutter.

Dissatisfaction: Good or Bad?

My father read this story to me and my siblings countless times when we were children. The lesson was never lost on us: the grass is always greener on the other side and dissatisfaction will only send you around in circles.

The story suggests that dissatisfaction is independent of the object of your desire. Even if you attain what you desire, you'll never shake that feeling of dissatisfaction. 

However, I can't help but feel that there may be a positive side to dissatisfaction. If you feel dissatisfied with your life, that feeling could motivate you to seek out new challenges, learn new skills, or pursue your dream career. It could also motivate you to speak up about things that aren't going right in your working relationships or in your organization.

Perhaps the healthiest route would be to seek a balance between feeling content and feeling dissatisfied. As with stress, a little can help motivate you, but too much can be damaging.

But even if you want to express your dissatisfaction, it's not always that simple. Many people struggle to voice their emotions, and many of us try to avoid any form of conflict at all costs, even when a simple conversation with your boss or colleague could fix the problem.

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

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5 comments on “Dissatisfaction – What You Feel vs. What You Say – #MTtalk Roundup”

  1. Hello! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate!
    He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him.
    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Melissa,

      We're glad you found this post relatable! Thanks for sharing.

      Mind Tools Coach

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    1. Hi Juana,
      thank you for your feedback. Happy to hear the content's been useful to you.
      Zala - MT Coach

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