What to do when you feel angry and obligated

Imagine this – you’re on your way to work, running late because the kids were slow to get moving, or you slept in, or you simply lost your keys. You have a hectic day ahead and an urgent message from your boss or client comes through which has shifted your priorities around in a way you couldn’t have imagined.

Then you get a call from a colleague whose car won’t start and needs a ride to work, or who can’t come in at all because her house is flooding and needs you to complete something for her, or it’s your mother who suddenly on this day needs you to do something urgently for her. There couldn’t be a worse time to ask for your help, but you feel obligated. Angry and obligated.
We feel like we have to help our colleagues, clients, boss, family… people who reach out like this. The result of saying no would probably put a lot of strain on that relationship.
The problem is that we feel that we don’t have a choice, and if we don’t have a choice we begin to resent the situation. We get angry at the person who asked because they know, deep down, that the simple act of asking puts a lot of pressure on us.

The good news is you do have a choice!

So you’ve been ‘forced’ into helping or doing a favour for someone, and you might even be tempted to give them a snippet of your displeasure – even giving them the silent treatment. But where’s the benefit in that? The choice you have is internal, and it relates to the way you look at the situation and the mood you decide to take away from it.
The impulse, that first thought, is one of anger – but you need to make a conscious decision over your mood. If you are going to take that frustration with you throughout the day then you are the one who will suffer the most. You miss out on positive interactions and you will also predispose yourself to getting increasingly angry at the inevitable irritants that arise throughout the day.

So I’m just supposed to ‘think away my anger’?

It’s not about pretending it isn’t an inconvenience. Of course it’s irritating – but if you are not open to the benefits of a situation, you are missing out. A sudden request or favour that you’re doing for someone is a great chance to reconnect with them. You might actually learn a few things about the person and their situation you didn’t previously know.
Consider a disruption to your normal routine (the one that has already caused you so much frustration) as a challenge. Instead of effortless automatic mode and running on autopilot, you now have an entirely new set of thoughts and potential idea-starters that you wouldn’t have had if things had gone to the standard plan. If you’re not open to it all you will simply fixate on frustration – it becomes your core focus – and be angry and upset.
But if you consider it an opportunity to see the world slightly differently for a day then it might just be enough to spark something new.
See if next time you feel overloaded by unreasonable requests you can enjoy going out of your way to turn around an annoyed feeling of being inconvenienced into a pleasurable situation.
Eve Ash, psychologist and CEO of Seven Dimensions, has produced over 500 business films, including some hilarious comedy films (www.7d-tv.com) and is a widely acclaimed public speaker (www.eveash.com).

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