Think before you speak
Resentment has been described as taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
Dr. Mark Goulston has said, “Until you look each other in the eye, offer a heartfelt apology, make and keep a commitment to not doing what you did to hurt or disrespect the other person, you may get past an argument, but you haven't gotten over it.”
Resentment isn't really about forgiving someone for their misdeeds. Resentment is really failing to ask someone for forgiveness because of your own perceptions, behaviors and attitude. The other person may have been wrong in their behaviors, but when we carry it around on our backs afterwards, it is really only hurting ourselves.
Dr. Goulston recommends that we count to three when we are feeling angry at someone else. He suggests that we think of the first thing we feel like saying when we are angry and then don't say it. Just breathe. Typically, our automatic impulse is to say or do something to protect ourselves. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it is exactly the wrong thing to do if we are trying to form a relationship with the other person.
Then think of the second thing we may want to say to the person and don't say that either. Take another breath instead. Usually the second thing that comes out of our mouths is done out of retaliation. We want to punish the person for their behavior in some way. Again, probably not the best idea if we are trying to be an equal, working relationship with another person.
Finally, think of the third thing we may want to say or do and then say or do that. By this point, if you have been able to work through the first two steps, you are more in a position to create a solution to the problem rather than defend or attack. When we get to this point, we are in a much better position to find resolution.
Troy Love is an adjunct professor at Arizona Western College and the president of Courageous Journeys Counseling and Consulting Services. He can be reached at 276-9535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.