6 Steps To Respond To Hurtful People

When someone hurts our feelings, it is hard to see beyond three choices:

  • Have an angry confrontation
  • Say nothing but get even
  • Say nothing and feel bad

Three examples:

  • Bill felt angry at recent actions from his neighborhood HOA board. He fired off an angry email to the president. The president became defensive and forwarded his letter to all other board members. As a result, the HOA saw Bill as unreasonable and his problem continued.
  • Marie, an overworked waitress, felt irritated at a difficult costumer’s demands. She remained sweet to the costumer’s face but spit in their food before bringing it to their table.
  • Sally felt bad when her friends left her out and then posted pictures on Facebook. She didn’t say anything to them but became sad and withdrawn causing her friends to think she was moody.

None of the above choices feel good. If you use angry words, YOU appear to have the problem. Hiding your feelings often leads to hiding your actions such as the waitress spitting in the rude costumer’s food behind their back. If you say nothing and don’t defend yourself, you can end up depressed

So how do you respond to mean people?

Dr. Herriot Lerner, best selling author of Dance Of Anger, understands the relationship tight rope. She cites research showing people take in very little information if they sense negative content. They either become defensive or tune out. So if you want to share negative feelings with someone use as few of words as possible and follow her simple formula.

6 Steps

  1. Send a handwritten message in a card, no emails
  2. Start with a positive
  3. Focus on your own feelings not on the offender’s behavior
  4. Speak your perspective or values with dignity and clarity
  5. Invite further connection
  6. Kept it short, don’t over talk

Katie wanted to let her mother in law know it wasn’t ok to show favoritism to her daughter over her son. She picked out a pleasant Hallmark card and wrote 5 sentences. Katie wrote:

  1. “Thank you for all the thoughtful gifts you’ve given our family over the years.” (Positive)

2. “But I feel bad when Amy receives gifts and Walter does not.” (Feelings)

3.  “I want both my children to be treated as if they matter equally to you.” (Values)

4.  “You are an important person in our family’s life.”  (Positive)

5.  “I look forward to seeing you over the holidays.” (Invite further connection)

Katie didn’t hear anything about her card from her mother in law, but during her next visit, she brought lovely gifts for both children and the problem went away. Katie was glad she expressed her feelings and nipped the problem without major contention.

We all struggle when people hurt our feelings. Follow the 6 step formula when you want to keep the friendship and speak up for your feelings. If someone doesn’t respond to your letter, you might want to check out Dr. Lerner’s book, “Why Won’t You Apologize?’ or consider letting the friendship go.


“Like” my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UtahMentalHealthServices

Other helpful articles: https://utahmentalhealthservices.com/2015/11/10/how-to-fight-fair-with-unfair-people/