By Rhonda Scharf, CSP
Have you ever had a situation where someone said something and it hit you right in the gut? Hurt right to the core? Made you want to cry? Me, too! I hate that feeling, too. It usually hits me when I’m least expecting it (then again, when do you expect something like that?).
I had one of those experiences this week and I just didn’t see it coming. I think that is why it hurt so much… because I wasn’t prepared for it. If I’m in a situation where someone can say something to hurt me, I usually can see it coming (think Christmas dinner, family time, job performance review, etc.). In those cases I get myself ready, just in case. Not that my family habitually slams me against the wall… they don’t. I do know that in some situations people can say things that aren’t meant to hurt you, but they hurt anyway. So in those situations, I’m a little more cognizant of those hurtful sayings that just might end up being shot my way.
This situation that I just experienced wasn’t one of those that I could remotely predict was going to happen, so it hit me full in the face and knocked me to my knees. The trick is what to do with that kind of experience.
Firstly, I wanted to cry. I didn’t, but I certainly wanted to. The “helpful feedback” I received was not perceived as helpful, and it certainly didn’t feel “helpful”. This feedback came in the form of a letter. As soon as I read it, I put it down and walked away. I didn’t want to read it twenty times and get angry or upset. I needed air. I needed to walk away. That was the first step.
The second thing I did was show it to my husband. He was a little shocked, too. If your significant other isn’t around get someone else who can make you feel better. All I needed was for someone to listen to my frustration, anger and shock. He didn’t need to say anything, just listen. He did say some supportive things anyways, and that did feel nice.
Then for the second time that day, I left it alone. I didn’t even read the letter again over his shoulder (as much as I wanted to).
The next day I spoke to a friend about it, and also received great support. They can often help put things into perspective in a way that we can’t seem to do. I still didn’t read the letter again.
I’m just about to respond to it… several days later. I’m sure that if I had written the response when I first received the letter, it would look very different from what I am about to say.
We need air in those situations. When someone knocks the wind out of you, you need to get your wind back before you do anything else. To respond to those situations in anger or frustration only makes matters worse. How much air, you ask? Depends on you, and on the situation. At the very minimum 24 hours.
Friends are a wonderful thing to have. They help put things into perspective. Think about the hurtful thing that was said and put it into context. Are these comments representative of what everyone is saying? Of course not! Think about all the great things people say about you and compare those wonderful things to the one hurtful thing that is causing you pain today. The positive column is much larger.
Statistically speaking, about 2% of the world’s population isn’t going to like you. Doesn’t really matter what you try to do, they will not like you. A small percentage of that 2% feels the need to tell you that they don’t like you, and sometimes that information comes across a little harsher than we would like. Any yes, it does matter sometimes. Like you, I wish it didn’t matter when I meet those 2%.
Walkaway, talk to friends, think, then respond if it is necessary. Most times it isn’t necessary to respond. In the end, do what makes you feel best for you (but only after you’ve given yourself time to weigh all the options).