Why Someone’s Disappointment Hurts More than Their Anger

Why is it so painful to hear ‘I’m disappointed in you’?

This post at Psychology Today was initially published as: ‘I’m Not Angry, I’m Just Disappointed’ (authors select initial titles and images, but these are sometimes edited).

This post was prompted by my research for a forthcoming chapter on trust, distrust and epistemic injustice.  For the chapter, idea was that we can harm people by extending either trust or distrust when neither is appropriate, but also that we can harm people by taking an overly-dispassionate attitude (neither trust nor distrust) when something more engaged would be appropriate.  (As I have argued elsewhere, these mistakes are easily overlooked when we focus on mistakenly trusting when distrust is due, or mistakenly distrusting when trust is due.)  For the post, I used Strawson on reactive attitudes to think about why sometimes engaged anger is more easily received than disengaged disappointment or disdain.  (Reading Darwall was also very helpful.)

On further reflection, I think there is much more to say about all this, perhaps via connections with objectification…maybe one day.