Webster’s dictionary defines resentment as “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.” It is very uncomfortable and yet can be useful if we attend to it.
If you can’t say ‘no,’
your ‘yeses’ don’t mean a thing.
Let go of your attachment to being right,
and suddenly your mind is more open.
We are likely to feel resentful when:
- Others try to tell us what to do, how to run our lives, what we need, what they think is best for us.
- Others tell us what they think we should do, how they think we should feel, how they think we should act.
- Others act in hypocritical ways.
- Others deprive us of what we need.
- We feel falsely accused, judged, prejudged, discriminated against, labeled, ignored, underestimated, or invalidated
- We feel lied to or lied about.
Since these things happen fairly regularly, resentment is a common experience. When resentment enters a relationship, each person functions less well and is less productive. Here we take a look at how it can disrupt a nutrition counseling relationship.
- Situations where you may experience resentment in nutrition counseling:
- A client repeatedly is a no-show, arrives late or cancels at the last minute.
- You respond to phone calls, texts and emails and get more and more of them.
- A client repeatedly pushes you to extend the time of your sessions.
- A client lies to you.
In an institution or group practice, you believe you are being treated unfairly.
- When clients may feel resentment toward us:
- The client does not get a chance to express his needs.
- The counselor does not appear to listen. For example, the client says she does not need to hear about the reasons for the diet and the counselor covers that anyway so it can be documented.
- The counselor tells the client what he needs to do to manage a condition or lower a risk. If the client has not fully accepted the condition or is not yet ready to address the risk, the client will feel resentful.
- A client has unrealistic expectations of the counseling process and this has not been addressed.
As a general rule of thumb, think of resentment as a clue that this situation could have been avoided if a “no” had been said or a request had been made.
How to make your resentment less likely:
- Determine your boundaries with respect to time for sessions and contact outside sessions. Find ways to clearly inform clients of these limits. (Tips #21, Time Boundaries, and #92, Doorknob Questions)
- Determine “no show” and late cancellation policies that meet your needs. Review them briefly with new clients and then stick to them. (Tips #51, Setting Professional Limits Around Fees, and #34, Discussing Fees with Clients)
- Make it a habit to think about any unusual requests before agreeing them. For example, you are asked by your supervisor to take on a new responsibility. You might ask for all the details and then say, “I will think about it and get back to you tomorrow.” This allows you to imagine taking on the responsibility and checking in with your “resentment meter.” If you sense no resentment at all, you can move ahead. If you sense some resentment, is there a request you could make that would make it feel OK? If not, perhaps you need to say no.
- Remind yourself that when clients lie, you will feel resentment. Review the ways to defuse this in Tip #36, When Our Clients Lie to Us.
- Get in the habit of noticing the beginnings of resentment quickly so you can determine what to do before it gets stronger and harder to address. (Tip #16, Handling Your Own Feelings)
- Avoid working with people with whom you have other relationships such as family members, neighbors or co-workers. These sometimes lead to resentment. (Tip #13, Dual Relationships)
- When you notice resentment that is not easy to shake off, seek supervision to sort it out. (Tip #11, Professional Supervision)
Creating an atmosphere that will make client resentment less likely:
- Ask permission before providing advice or information. (Tip #59, A Format for Providing Advice)
- Ask what your client needs from you. (Tip #4, Asking Your Client for Ideas and Direction) Listen carefully and reflect it back even if you know you will not be able to meet the need. If time is too short, talk about the time limits realistically with empathy.
- Be willing to talk openly about understandable disappointment when progress is slower than expected or you see the client’s frustration at how little you can cover in one session or that you are not qualified to address all the client’s needs. Simply reflecting what you hear and expressing empathy goes a long way. (Tips #109, Discouraged Clients, and #58, Grief in Nutrition Counseling)
Once resentment builds, it is draining and can at times pervade much of your life if you let it. It is difficult, though not impossible, to repair a relationship when resentment builds up. Ignoring it will leave an ineffective, unsatisfying relationship. Whichever side you find yourself on, resentful or aware that someone is resentful of you, there are things you can do to move toward repair.
If you are feeling resentment, search for the limit that you need to set. For example, do you need to develop a clearer policy about phone calls between sessions and tell clients about it? Do you need a “no show” policy? Do you need to say no to someone? (Tips #22, Detecting and Avoiding Burnout, and #48, Assertiveness)
When a client experiences resentment toward you, he may decide to not return or will exhibit resistance such as arguing with you or changing the subject. The process of rolling with resistance (Tips #9 and #103) will go a long way toward repairing the break in rapport.