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Why the people we like hurt our feelings, and how to remove the sting

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We've all had that moment where someone we like and trust - a boyfriend, our mum or a mate - has blurted out something a bit cutting, or inadvertently spiteful.

Most of the time, the person in question has no intention of hurting us, and perhaps don't even realise that they have.

But it doesn't take away from the fact that we're left feeling a bit bruised; all the more so because we weren't expecting it. We know our enemies, but being insulted by those people we like or love feels like a swing out of nowhere.

In an eye-opening article on Psychology Today this week, clinical psychologist Dr. Barbara Markway outlines six reasons why "nice" people hurt our feelings.

She also talks through what the "speaker" (the person who said it) and the "listener" (the person who heard it) can do to take the sting out of the comment, or avoid the situation altogether:


Reasons why 'good' people hurt our feelings

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1. People say things without thinking 

"I blurt things out without thinking about how the other person might receive the feedback," says Markway. Life is one big game of improvisation, so it's very easy to make a random remark that we don't really mean.

2. People don’t know what kind of feedback you want

We know when we want someone to compliment our work, rather than critique it - but the person we're talking to has no idea. And they can't know what kind of response we want unless we tell them. 

3. People don’t know your triggers

We all have our own minefield of hang-ups - we might not like the shape of our nose, or feel sensitive about the fact that we never finished our degree. People usually aren't aware of these insecurities, and can easily end up accidentally trampling on them with a flippant remark or joke. 

4. People have other things on their mind

People aren't really thinking about the "hurtful" remark when they make it. They're thinking about them; the presentation they have that morning, whether or not they've had a chance to wash their hair, an odd remark someone else made to them. They may not have the time or head space at that moment to take account of your point of view.

5. People have their own stories

According to Markway, "Sometimes people say things and we have no idea why. For example, if someone says something hurtful to you at work, you don’t know if they just had an argument with their teenage daughter, or if they can’t pay their utility bill. We take things personally, but really, it might not have anything to do with us."

6. We let people hurt our feelings

"No one really hurts our feelings," says Markway. "It’s the way we interpret the situation that results in our feelings being hurt or not. I’m reminded of the famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote: 'No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.'"


Communication tips for speakers and listeners

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Markway shares her quick fix tips to avoid hurt feelings...

Quick tips for speakers:

* Take time to for a brief pause before you speak
* Consider, or ask, what kind of feedback the other person may be looking for
* Let someone know if you don’t have the time to talk (and let them know when you will)
* Realize that words have power

Quick tips for listeners:

* Remember, it’s not always about you
* Ask for what you want
* Make sure you’re not embellishing the story (don't play a comment over and over and exaggerate it in your mind)
* Let it go and move on

Photos: ThinkStock

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