Generally, people know when someone is saying something with the intent of being mean. But what happens when someone says something without the intention of hurting you and you feel pained anyway? What if that person is someone you know and care about?
What I have found is that the words that tend to cut me the deepest usually come from the people who would never intentionally aim to hurt me. When it comes to my family or friends saying unintentionally harmful or triggering words, I used to blame myself. I used to think I was too sensitive and I should learn how to take a joke. So I would try to force a smile or fake a laugh because I thought I just needed to “lighten up.”
However, I’ve learned that I have a right to feel. Everyone has that right. If you don’t find something funny, you don’t have to laugh. If something hurts your feelings you don’t have to continue to listen to it. I think the key to giving yourself peace is to find what works for you individually as to how you approach someone. Here are some suggestions that I have found to be helpful in my own life:
- Just sit down and talk to them. They love you so I am sure they will understand if you simply say, “Hey, I know you probably did not mean for what you said to hurt me but it did. Could you please try not to talk about that again?”
- Another option is to leave when a conversation becomes triggering. Tell them that the conversation makes you uncomfortable and then just leave and wait until they are finished.
- You could also do cognitive restructuring. Restructuring means changing your way of thinking about something or the way you view it. Think about what they are saying to you and try to restructure it realistically. If you can, try to remind yourself that they are not trying to hurt you. They may think that it’s ok to joke about a certain subject with you or they may just honestly not know that you could find that topic offensive.
I think that a key component to dealing with the effect of unintentionally hurtful words is to remember that the person saying them is human. They are perfectly imperfect, the same as you and we all have instances when we may accidentally hurt someone. The important thing is to take care of yourself while addressing people respectfully and honestly.
A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt says, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I think this means that people have the power to dictate whether or not someone hurts them. It is easier said than done, but we have the right and the ability to stand up for ourselves and to take care of ourselves. But also remember to be kind to everyone you meet and spread positivity around as much as you can, because our words do have the power to change people, whether we intend for them to or not.