If someone says to you, “You hurt my feelings,” how much evidence do you require before apologizing?
What if you don’t agree that what you did was hurtful?
What if you never meant to hurt the person? Should you still apologize even though you meant no harm?
What if they’re hurt or angry about something that’s either ridiculously minor or entirely imaginary, and they won’t let it go?
Now they’ve got YOU feeling hurt, angry, or both. Why are they being so unreasonable?
To find out, let’s put ourselves on the other side of this situation.
Have you ever had your feelings hurt? Of course you have.
Picture the Shoe On the Other Foot
Let’s say that someone said or did (or didn’t do) something that hurt your feelings. It may have been a small thing on the face of it, but it really stung you.
Imagine that you muster the courage to approach them about it.
You tell them you’re hurt or annoyed, and they start asking for evidence.
But maybe you find it’s hard to put into words; all you know for certain is how you feel.
Try to imagine what it’s like on the receiving end of responses like these:
“That’s not such a big deal.”
“You shouldn’t have taken it that way; that’s not how I meant it.”
“I did my best; I’m not perfect.”
How satisfying are those responses? How close do you feel to the person who’s saying these things?
Do you see why it’s hard to let go of how you feel?
What to Do When You Hurt Someone’s Feelings
Now let’s hop back over to the other side, where you accidentally hurt someone else’s feelings.
You can do your very best, and someone can still get upset with you. Good people sometimes step on each other’s toes in relationships; it’s part of the territory.
The fact that someone has a problem with you doesn’t make you bad, or mean that you’re a failure at relationships.
So try not to take it personally when you hurt someone’s feelings. Instead:
Be open. Your defensiveness will make a bad situation worse. This is not about you. Just be there for them right now.
Be curious. Listen. Gather information about this person, your behavior, and how things went wrong.
Be empathetic. The person is obviously upset. If you care at all about them, offer them a bit of validation.
Be warm. After you’ve listened and found something you can feel good about apologizing for (even if it was just that you were a little clueless in that moment), thank them for telling you, and let them know how important they are to you.
Let me know how it goes.