Sometimes it’s hard. We only have our own eyes to see through. We only have our own perspective to judge things from. We only have our own experiences to actually relate to. That’s not to say we shouldn’t emphatically try to relate to the experiences of others (but don’t let it overwhelm you, and know when to step away!).
Every once in a while I have an argument with someone, or simply say or do something that needs to be discussed. Discussing problems, I’ve found, is much more productive then arguing. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Especially if I’ve done something, even inadvertently, that hurts or irritates someone else.
I can take things so personally. In a fairly self-centered way I think things are often about me or directed toward me. Never in a good way though. Always in a negative way, a criticism, or a way that threatens my self-esteem. In a way that makes me believe I’ve done something wrong or makes me feel as though I have that is completely out of proportion and detrimental to the situation I’m in. Even when discussing a problem that you may have caused or been involved in, not every single thing is about you, you know?
It’s hard listening to other people’s feelings sometimes. Especially when another person’s words and feelings can trigger your own insecurities or feelings of inadequacy. It’s important to be able to listen to their words though, and recognize:
- what they are actually saying
- how it applies to them
- how it applies to the situation
- then how it applies to you – if it does at all –
- determine if they’re actually aiming to hurt you
- or if your triggers are pulling more meaning from their words than there actually are
It’s very difficult for me to hear that the way I reacted to something effects someone in a certain way without immediately berating myself and feeling like a failure or like they’re trying to tell me I’m worthless. It’s very rare (now) that someone actually berates me or tells me I’m worthless. I think because something I may have said or done is creating a negative response in that person, which they in turn are telling me about, it causes me to feel guilty, like I let them down, and therefore someone who isn’t worthy of their love or attention – worthless. The accompanying depression and anxiety are not fun.
Anytime you talk to another person, are friends with someone, or are actually involved romantically – that is a relationship – regardless of how brief or long term. You effect the other person just as the other person affects you.
It’s important to keep an open mind concerning feedback from others, especially if you’re trying to resolve a problem. Remember that if you’re both actively trying to resolve a problem, then you both think the other person is worth the effort to work through the issue. Otherwise there would be no point.
Not everybody is a wordsmith. Sometimes people get the words wrong, but the intent is right. I can be literal to fault. This is a flaw of mine. I tend to say exactly what I mean, exactly how I mean it, and I’m meticulous about it. Other people aren’t like this. People are symbolic, metaphoric, or just not great at picking the words they mean. It’s important to take a breath and ask for elaboration instead of jumping on something that sounds bad, feels hurtful, or simply isn’t what you want to hear (and sometimes you will hear things you don’t want to hear). The important thing is to ensure that you understand what they actually mean, not just the words they use to say it. Communication is key.
Try to keep in mind what feelings you may also be imposing on their words that make them feel more hurtful than they actually are. This is the hard part for me. I grew up with a father who reinforced that nothing I ever did was good enough. After a couple decades of that, I’m not sure I’ll ever believe I’m good enough. And enough abusive relationships that were verballing, mentally, and emotionally degrading, not to mention humiliating – it’s almost easier to impose those feelings onto a perceived negative situation.
Confronting problems is not negative. Discussing problems, even if they’re something you did, is not necessarily a negative. It’s a means to grow the relationship you have with that person and ensure that what you have flourishes in the long term. My therapist used to say that people that never argued were often in more trouble than people that do (this has a diminishing return – if you only argue, all the time - that’s not healthy either).
Things to remember:
- Take responsibility for yourself
- Do not place blame
- State the problem
- Do not argue over fault (blame)
- Acknowledge how each other feel and why – especially if something was triggering
- Find a solution
- What caused the problem and how can we approach the situation differently in the future
- How can we act differently so this doesn’t happen again
Above all, listen to what each other have to say, and try not to personalize things that the other person does not intend to direct at you. Try to recognize when your own feelings may be triggered and trying to latch onto the situation. This will help make difficult conversations a little easier to manage. I know I’ve needed that.