After last week’s post (Are Those Hurt Feelings Justified?) I received the following question in a comment from Anya:
“Now that you’ve validated the other person’s hurt feelings, what do you do with your own hurt feelings? Especially if you still feel on some level that you were unfairly attacked, singled out, or judged? Is this a point where you just have to let it go?”
I’ve heard the question before, and it’s a good one, so I thought I’d address it in this week’s post.
Who’s the Victim Here?
Once someone’s told you that you hurt their feelings, they officially become the Injured Party.
That means this is officially not a good time to let them know they hurt YOUR feelings by claiming you hurt theirs.
But that doesn’t mean you have to just suck it up and let it go.
Your feelings are important, and when they go “Ouch!,” it’s time to turn curiosity and compassion on yourself.
Here’s what to do if you feel hurt because someone said you hurt them:
1. Keep it to yourself.
At least for now, healing your emotions must be an inside job. The other person is this week’s injured party, and you must let them have that role.
2. Name that feeling.
You know you feel BAD about them saying (or implying) you hurt them. But what exactly is that badness?
- Is it fear that you’ve damaged the relationship?
- Are you insulted that they see you as a thoughtless, heartless or socially inept person?
- Is it shame because you did a bad thing and got in trouble for it?
Name that feeling; just doing so will bring a surprising amount of relief.
3. Own it.
Tell yourself the truth. E.g., “I feel ashamed that I said that thing to So-and-So and hurt her feelings in the process. It makes me believe I’m not the good person I want to be.”
Recognize that any desire you may feel to make So-and-So wrong for being hurt, is self-protective.
4. Apologize. Complete Steps 1 through 3 first for best results. Then see my post on how to apologize.
More On Taking Ownership of Your Feelings
Instead of blaming the other person for getting hurt, or for not expressing their hurt in a constructive way, begin with the end in mind by protecting yourself.
Create a more complete and accurate story in your own mind that describes what happened. Tell it to yourself in the privacy of your own thoughts.
For example, instead of this:
“She’s so sensitive!”
Consider something like this:
“I said something that hurt her feelings. And now that I think about it, maybe I even meant to hurt her, if I’m being completely honest with myself. That doesn’t make me evil. I just wasn’t feeling generous toward her in that moment. I wonder why?”
Exploring your own feelings with integrity will teach you about this particular relationship, and about yourself.
Do you often feel hurt by that person? Maybe that’s why you said what you said. You’ve been the injured party for too long, but you haven’t said anything about it. Not directly, anyway.
Or it might be that you just don’t know the person well enough. You definitely never meant to be hurtful, but you stumbled upon a tender spot you didn’t know was there.
Again, that doesn’t make you terrible. We all make mistakes.
Whether you “secretly” meant to hurt them or it was an unfortunate accident, you can safely take your own side. Just make sure to do so privately, so you don’t escalate the conflict.
Thanks very much to Anya for the question that inspired this post. I’m sure there’s more to say, but I’ll let you fill in the blanks in the Comments section.