Hurt Feelings and Lessons to Learn
Let’s talk about hurt feelings. A few months ago, I hurt someone’s feelings. This person asked for feedback on something, and I gave my feedback in a private message. I struggled with how to say it correctly though. Because I was trying to sugarcoat it instead of just being direct and giving examples, I went about saying it in a long way, which sounded worse. That person took it the wrong way and became defensive. I was accused of basically attacking her character and having an ulterior motive. I tried to explain myself and ended up being blocked and reported for bullying and harassment. All of that, just for responding to a post specifically asking for feedback.
I sincerely wasn’t trying to hurt this person. She asked for feedback, I gave it, and I became a “mean” girl. I even read the messages to my husband in case I was blinded by my own feelings. He didn’t think my responses were cause for being blocked and reported at all. I was pretty shocked by how it all escalated.
After a few months of reflection on the situation, I’ve realized there are some lessons to remember from this.
First off, we don’t get to choose whether or not we hurt someone’s feelings. That’s for them to decide, not us. Although I didn’t mean to hurt her, I obviously did, given the defensiveness, accusations towards me, and the outcome. If I had known how things were going to go, then I never would have responded at all since I was not trying to hurt her. And that leads me to the next lesson.
Just because someone says they have grown and can handle feedback in areas where they could improve in, it doesn’t mean they will ACTUALLY handle it well. You always take a risk of hurting someone’s feelings when one wants feedback on ways to improve. So, I suggest you choose your words wisely, which I thought I did, and look where that got me. So maybe the best response is “You’re perfect; therefore, I have no suggestions for how you can improve.” I’m kidding, but I’m thinking that must be the only answer people want to hear anyway, right?
Next lesson. Just because someone says something you think is “mean” doesn’t make them a mean person in general. Being misunderstood, well, sucks. Sometimes good people say or do the wrong things. When you’re dealing with written communication, you have the words on the screen and that’s it. You don’t get to see the look in that person’s eyes, the way they are standing, or hear the tone of their voice. These visual cues can actually help us in understanding someone’s intentions. When you think about this, completely writing someone off over a misunderstood message that hurt your feelings is a bit extreme.
Honestly, I wish I could go back and just hit delete, undo, unsend…anything to just reverse that situation, but I can’t. What’s done is done.
Looking back, I think I overanalyzed how I should have worded things, which made it worse. I should’ve kept it direct but graceful or not responded at all.
This situation has caused me to shut down a bit and take a step back because as that person probably felt betrayed, I did too. I felt betrayed for getting so quickly kicked to the curb for being misunderstood in answering a question. It’s caused me to wonder why I should respond to anyone at all. Why say anything if I risk that happening again? Why even try to connect with people if they can write you off so easily?
We need each other. We need friends. We need to feel connected to other humans.
I really don’t think we should just go around telling everyone they’re perfect every time they ask for feedback. People can’t grow and improve if they don’t see the areas where there’s room to do so. However, there are obviously risks when it comes to asking for feedback and giving feedback. As the inquiring party, you face hearing things you might not be ready to hear, and as the responding party you might get misunderstood or face the risk of losing a friend over hurt feelings.
Be prepared for tough answers when you ask tough questions, and don’t be so quick to write people off, especially over one situation.
May you still be brave enough to speak up…but gracefully.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col 4:6 NIV)