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Ignoring Feelings

Sheryl: A Case Study

Sheryl, an extremely passive woman, typically withholds her true feelings about problematic situations. She came home tired from work one evening to a kitchen table covered with a partially empty bread bag, an open peanut butter jar with a knife stuck in it, and an empty milk carton. She was angry with her son, the culprit, but he had already left with his friends. Her husband, Bob, walked in and, with ideal timing, asked, “What’s for dinner?” Sheryl coldly replied that there was nothing left to eat, and they would have to go to the store.

She grudgingly dragged herself to the store and began taking her frustrations out on the groceries. Aisle after aisle, she slammed cans and boxes into the cart. Bob asked her what was wrong, but she snapped “Nothing,” and slammed more food into the grocery cart. Finally, Sheryl stopped in the frozen food section and lashed out, “I’m tired and angry that John left that mess. I don’t want to shop, and I’m just plain frustrated and angry at the whole situation.”

Bob started to laugh uproariously. Upon seeing her husband’s spontaneous laughter, Sheryl also started to chuckle and asked Bob why he was laughing. He replied, “Do you realize that in the 20 years we’ve been married, you’ve never shared your feelings? I never knew if you were mad at me or what. I’m just relieved it’s not me you’re mad at.”


A benefit of voicing critical feedback is that it can uncover problems early and serve as the first step to solving them. In the long run, good critical feedback saves time. Without feedback, minor problems go unsolved and often grow into major crises. Critical feedback, given correctly, encourages both the critic and the receiver to learn and grow.


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