A reader asks, “Bob, how do you know if someone is trying to hurt your feelings or you’re just taking something the wrong way?”
Thank you for your question. It’s one I’m sure most of us have struggled with at some time in our lives. And, depending upon the situation, it can actually be quite debilitating. As human beings, we certainly don’t want to feel anyone – whether stranger or close friend or family member – would ever want to intentionally hurt us.
However, in terms of your question, I’m not sure there is any one correct answer.
We need to consider that much of what we take personally simply isn’t personal at all. It’s much more the result of our transferring our belief system unto others. In other words, since we think a certain way, we assume they do, as well (i.e., their saying this could only mean that). And, that is usually far from true.
An excellent explanation of this phenomenon is found in the classic, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Two of his four “agreements” are, “Don’t Make Assumptions” and “Don’t Take Things Personally.” These are two things we as human being do on a constant and continual basis. We make major decisions based on very limited information. And, it all goes back to our “belief systems” (Agreements).
Yes, there are questions you can ask yourself that – using logic – will indeed help you to better determine that person’s intent. But, be careful; be very careful to make sure you don’t assume your logic/beliefs/agreements are their logic/beliefs/agreements.
So, what’s the best way to determine their intent? Ask them. Of course, depending upon the person and situational context, this might not be feasible. For example, the stranger who walks past you with a scowl on their face. He or she might not have even noticed you because they are deep in thought, having just heard their kid got suspended from school. But, probably best not to ask. 🙂
During my many years of living in anger, I often took things personally that, looking back on it were, much more than likely, not personal at all. And, when I think of the vast amount of time I wasted and energy I spent by letting this control much of my life, it still brings a sadness to me (which is why I don’t think of it too often).
So, is someone trying to hurt your feelings? Are you simply taking what they’re saying the wrong way?
I don’t know for sure, but the chances are great it was nothing personal. After all, most people are far too busy thinking of themselves to be thinking about hurting you. And, maybe that’s not such a bad thing to keep in mind.
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