We often find ourselves in situations where we do not get our needs met and in some cases it could be an obstacle interfering with our ability to get what we want.
The feeling we get from such experiences is called frustration. We often feel frustrated when we are confronted with struggles that cannot be easily resolved.
Surely, no one enjoys frustration, but some people can handle it better than others. Those people who easily get frustrated are said to have low frustration tolerance or LFT in short.
Tiny (not her real name), grew up an A student right from her primary through to tertiary education. Being a top academic achiever, Tiny became a source of pride in her family and envy at her school. Tiny, being the only girl in a family of five, got “military protection” from her brothers both at school and on the street. Her parents encouraged her brothers to avoid arguments with her, in order to ‘‘protect’’ the only girl in the family.
After graduating for her first degree, Tiny got a job at company x and was placed under the supervision of Mr Ketenegile (not his real name), a very angry man who has his own unresolved social issues. No matter how hard she tried to execute her work well, Tiny would get spiteful comments from her supervisor, Ketenegile. After one, seemingly very long month stay at company x, Tiny quit her job and stayed for two financially difficult years at home before she got her second job. Tiny realised that her second job had more of the likes of Mr Ketenegile than her first job. She began to form a perception that bad luck was following her because of her history as an outstanding achiever. She got so frustrated that her motivation to work went down, hence affected her performance negatively. Tiny has low frustration tolerance (LFT).
As a general rule, we develop low frustration tolerance when we live a life with few frustrating situations (overprotected life). Tiny has not developed the skills to handle difficult people because her brothers have always done that for her at the playing ground. Even though Tiny’s jobs had opportunities waiting to be tapped into for both professional and personal growth, she could not see them because she got clouded by her low tolerance for frustration. Instead she started “peeling off”, as evidenced by her resignation from her first job as well as her declining performance in her second job.
Low frustration tolerance does not only create self-defeating behaviors, but it also gives rise to procrastination. If we find it difficult to manage situations that we do not enjoy, we put things off and sometimes avoid doing them altogether. This can be a problem because in order to achieve many of the things that add value in our lives requires us to step out
There was also nothing wrong in leaving an unsatisfactory job, but there was something wrong with Tiny’s reason for leaving the job; her inability to work with difficult people. She was trying to escape something she was going to have to face probably for the rest of her career life.
What Tiny missed is that her low frustration tolerance was not only costing her happiness and growth, but it was also costing her a name. A friend of mine (not necessarily a Motswana) told me how she and her other friends once missed out on a grand opportunity to work in a place of their dreams. This missed opportunity required them to do a job which needed corporate effort, and they were turned down on the basis that they came from a community which had a reputation for having poor work ethics. She narrated how she was told that people from her community behaved in a way that when one goes astray, the whole lot follows suit, just like goats. This behavior could mean that her community generally has low frustration tolerance.
Low frustration tolerance stems largely from black and white thinking. We demand that things must go our way and believe that unless they do, the situation is intolerable. We magnify our suffering by exaggerating the consequences of those situations and develop paranoia.
Lesego (not her real name), on the other hand, comes from a family of five; two brothers, mother, father and herself just like Tiny. Her experiences however differ from Tiny’s in the sense that she comes from a family background where children are encouraged to argue their views out objectively and reach creative compromises, irrespective of their gender ratio. Her family however, does not ignore her special needs as a girl child.
The arguments and creative compromises she gets engaged in with her brothers, helped Lesego to handle her own peers and other people she later gets to work with well, without compromising her core values.
The path of least resistance is tempting because it is the easy way out of a frustrating situation. All we need to do is to keep on doing what we have always done, and this might not always be possible. Tiny’s brothers or parents could not be available to protect her in the workplace. Developing a tendency to choose the easiest way out costs us opportunities to improve our circumstances or feel in control. We remain victims.
*VICTORIA SEIKETSO SETHIBE
Do you have low frustration tolerance or know anybody who does? You can forward your enquiries or comments to 77525433, 71443707 or 71411140.