The impact of upsets on my experience of being alive

When was the last time you were upset?

“…people get upset…[in]…three basic areas:

1. undelivered communication

2. thwarted intention

3. unfulfilled expectation

–Josselyne Herman-Saccio

Mother and teenage daughter having an argument Image by
Image by

Does this sound familiar?

On my worst days in the past…

In the past, when I have been upset, my first tendency has been to localize the source of the upset to another person. I assigned blame.

As I did so, I made them accountable for the upset. In doing so, I gave all the power to them. I was a victim.

I fumed.

In the shower every morning, I ranted and blamed and replayed the circumstances and events in my mind. I rehashed the event in a way that I got the last world, even if I didn’t get what I wanted.

My wife said sometimes my arguments in the shower scared her.

I was enraged.

Through all this, I likely did not communicate my upset in a way that addressed my grievance or created a circumstance to get what I wanted.

If you’ve ever worked on a team or in a business, you know as well as I the cost of being perceived as “not a team player” or “rocking the boat”.

However, my failure to reach out and create connection did not stop at work.

I experienced loss of connection, and the result was distance between myself and others.

Eventually, I experienced a loss of friendship, or affiliation, or a breakup, or divorce.

I had a personal history littered with dead relationships. I harbored resentments.


I had bosses whose references I would not request. I had no idea how they really felt: I had not engaged them constructively.  I killed off our relationships, and in doing so I isolated myself.

I was frustrated, I was bitter, I hurt deeply, and I was alone.

Photo by mwangi gatheca on Unsplash
Frustrated. Angry. Alone.

Wouldn’t this be better?

On my best days, and in the future…

I recognize my emotional state from the upset.

  • Usually it shows up as a sense of confusion, maybe a flush across my face, maybe I literally see red.
  • Likely I experience a tightness in my stomach and chest, a feeling like I have a weight on my chest, pressuring my breathing.
  • I may experience a quickening of my breathing rate.

I notice it for a moment.

I call it what it is: an upset.

I say, “I’m feeling frustrated” or “I’m feeling let down” or “It seems like we’re not seeing eye to eye”.

I look for common ground. “What do you see is preventing this working out?” or “What results do you see are possible here?” or “Is this the best possible result?”

My job is to fully explore and understand the concerns and perspectives of other parties. Where they win, I can win.

I have learned in life where anyone’s left with  disempowerment or upset, eventually we’ll all lose anyway.

My teams are strong and committed to their missions. The results we deliver are desirable and valuable. We improve continuously.

Trust is high, respect is present, we like each other.

We get along, and we win together, as a team, committed to one another.

Everybody wins.

Everything that increases staff turnover or diminishes the effectiveness of your teams ultimately saps the life force of your business and the continuity of your business cash flows.

For more information

The definition of Upsets