I know I’ve taken on too much when I start getting resentful.
In addition to being a single mom, seeing clients, and studying part-time for my MBA, I recently volunteered to coordinate two different immigrant solidarity groups in my area. I love this work and it gives me so much energy. But I recently noticed that was starting to feel worn out and resentful.
These are some of the early warning signs I notice when I’m getting resentful: When I need to ask for help, my tone is sharper than usual or I don’t ask at all, because I think it’ll be too much work to ask. When someone asks me a question, I feel annoyed and give them an abrupt answer. I feel drained and uncomfortable in my body. Sound familiar?
As soon as I notice that I’m starting to feel resentful, I pause and take the steps I’m about to share with you. But before I share these steps, let me ask you this—
Do you sometimes take on more than you can handle and then get irritable because other people aren’t working as hard as you?
If your answer is yes, you probably want to learn how to get other people to help you more. You don’t want to feel resentful. You’d really rather just enjoy what you do. You want to have healthy connections with the people in your life.
When we get resentful, not only do we suffer, but our work suffers. We’re less likely to make the impact we want. Other people are less likely to get the support they need from us to take on leadership roles. We’re more likely to burn out.
We owe it to ourselves and the people we care about to learn how to let go of resentment and receive the support we need.
Read on to learn five steps to help you do just that.
1. Pay Attention to Your Body.
In order to let go of resentment and ask for help in a way that people will actually respond to, you need to be aware that you’re resentful in the first place. The way to do this is to pay attention to your body. Do you feel tightness in your jaw? Heat in your arms and shoulders? Anxiety in your solar plexus?
Before you read on, take a moment to close your eyes and scan your body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Simply notice any emotions or physical sensations that you feel, without trying to change how you feel.
2. Identify What You Need.
Once you’ve taken time to feel what you feel, your next step is to take a step back and find out what you truly need. Marshall Rosenberg, the creator of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), developed a very useful framework to help us understand our needs. He wrote that all humans have the same universal needs, we just choose different strategies to meet them.
For example, let’s say you’re upset with your partner for not doing the dishes. On one hand, you really want them to do the dishes. And, on the other hand, washing the dishes is simply one strategy to meet a deeper need such as support or cooperation or order. When you identify your deeper need, it makes it easier to discover strategies you might not have seen before.
Before you read on, I invite you to check out the NVC list of needs and discover your current unmet needs. If your list is long, try to pinpoint the top two or three needs that would make the biggest difference right now. Taking time with this step will give you the perspective you need to start meeting your needs and making more effective requests.
3. Identify Specific Actions & Requests.
When we believe others aren’t doing their fair share, we can make hurtful generalizations that lead us to be even less likely to get help. When was the last time you said, “You never…!” or “You always…!” Not only are these statements untrue—it’s rare that anyone ever does anything all the time—the person on the receiving end is unlikely to feel inspired to help you. Instead, they’re likely to shut down and stop listening.
Before you even have a conversation asking for help, it’s important to identify specific actions you need to take and requests you can make. Your request may be for your partner to do dishes three days a week. Or, for your boss to help you identify the top priorities at work, rather than throwing more tasks at you than you can handle. Or, you may simply want to ask a friend to listen to you.
Before reading on, I invite you to pause and write down all of your to-do items. For each to-do item, ask yourself if someone else might be able to help you with the task. If you don’t yet have a to-do list yet, this may require an investment of time. But I promise it’s worth it; I sometimes see clients get resentful simply because they’re holding a massive to-do list in their heads. Writing down all of your actions and requests on a continuous basis will not only help you let go of resentment but stay out of resentment, as well.
4. Have the Conversation.
Once you’ve identified your feelings, needs, and requests, it’s time to actually ask for help. The simple Non-Violent Communication process can be very helpful here. It follows four steps:
1. What happened.
2. How do you feel.
3. Your need(s).
4. Your request(s).
For example, if your boss keeps asking you to do more than you can handle, you may begin the conversation like this, “I want to talk to you about how we can find a way for me to do my work effectively without burning out. In the last couple of weeks, you’ve been asking me to do one thing, and then by the end of the day, you’ve asked me to do something else. My to-do list is so long that in order to complete it, I’d need to work way longer than forty hours to complete it. I’m feeling very overwhelmed and uncertain about how to be effective and handle my workload. Can we please look at my to-do list and set clear priorities? And, can we please create a system to prioritize from now on?”
Of course, your tone of voice and body language make all the difference. Make sure that you’re in a calm frame of mind before having the conversation, and bring your attention to your breath or take a break if you get upset.
5. Take Time Before Saying Yes.
From now on, when you’re considering taking on a new responsibility, I encourage you to follow the steps we outlined above. First, pay attention to how you feel in your body as you consider the request. Then, identify any unmet needs. You may realize that you won’t be able to meet important needs if you take on the request, or you may discover that this new request actually meets your needs. Next, identify your next action or request. This may look like saying yes or saying no or giving a qualified response, such as “Yes, I can do this, as long as these other things happen.” Finally, have the conversation.
So what did I do? Exactly what I’m encouraging you to do here. I checked out the NVC needs list and realized that I needed more rest and more support. I let a couple of my teammates know that I was feeling overwhelmed and made some very specific requests. And, I scheduled a whole day for rest at the end of that week. And, yes, the resentment subsided and I got back to enjoying my work.
Practicing these steps consistently—both when I notice any resentment rising and as a daily practice— is key to keeping me out of resentment. And, they are key to helping you receive the support you deserve.
Now it’s your turn—
What’s one thing that helps you let go of resentment? I’d love to hear from you below! And, as always, please share this article with a friend who you think would benefit. Thank you!