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JessiesMom

Sticks and Stones Can......

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So - here is the situation that has gotten me thinking.

My mother said something that my sister thought sounded hateful and mean. My sister called Mom on it saying, "That sounded kinda mean Mom." My mother replied, "Well, you know that I am not a mean person." (I would seriously question that statement, because I think that if you constantly say hateful things - defining you as mean is not out of line. - however, that is not the point of my musing.)

Here is what I am wondering about - how responsible are we for how our words or actions land? In other words, if my words hurt you - is that on me or is it on you?

A related questions is - how is the best way to deal with a situation where you have unintentionally hurt someone?

I'll give you another example. Yesterday at dinner, my daughter was giving me the silent treatment. I asked her what was going on and she communicated (in writing) that she was angry. I asked why. It transpired that she was upset because I had asked her to replace the salad fork she had given me when she was setting the table with a dinner fork. I apologized and told her that she had every right to feel the way she did (even though it seemed like a pretty minor offense in my mind.) 

The difference between these two stories, as I see it, is that whereas my mother did not take responsibility (or at least soothe the wound) for the hurt that her words had caused, I chose to. Perhaps another difference is that whereas my mother's response indicated that the feeling of hurt my sister had experienced was unjustified. 

I am open to other opinions - anyone have any?

 

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The answer is people shouldn't intentionally hurt people and we wouldn't have to worry about it.  If someone has to constantly tell you they aren't mean or tell you they are a good person what does that say?  If you are good people will just know you are.  You won't have to constantly explain your actions.  You handled your situation fine by apologizing and really nobody is going to expect that they hurt someone's feelings by asking them to put down a different fork.

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1 hour ago, sober4life said:

nobody is going to expect that they hurt someone's feelings by asking them to put down a different fork.

She is 10 and something of a drama queen (she has been compared to Rachel Berry from Glee once or twice). I can only imagine what the teenage years are going to be like.

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I think it is always good to acknowledge another's feelings. That is important. Yet if you don't realize you did anything wrong then the other person has the responsibility to ask you about it. Maybe they took it hard for some reason that is inside them that you aren't aware of. Misunderstandings are understandable for us humans. Yet I do think that we need to take responsibility and acknowledge our part and make amends if needed. If we think we have hurt someone's feelings, we can ask them about it and clear the air.

BW

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I agree with holding ourselves accountable. Any person at any given age could have any level of emotional sensitivity. And since that sensitivity is the product of past experience, it is unfair to put the responsibility on them. ESPECIALLY a child.

There is nothing shameful about acknowledging when we hurt someone’s feelings. They need to know that (no matter how absurd it might seem to us) their feelings are always valid. Only after they’ve been validated will they be open to possible correction.

But when the emotions and feelings of a child, man, or woman are not validated there is no chance for rationalizing and modifying the reaction.

Too many people get hung up on “why does that upset you? It wouldn’t upset me so it shouldn’t upset you. I don’t want to hear it. Just get over it.” They don’t want to hear it because they don’t have the capacity to understand it or empathize with it. I hate those people. I hate them for what they do to ‘us’. They are narcissistic sociopaths that have no place in any interpersonal relationship. At the risk of displaying my unchecked anger, I wish they would all die.

I’m not a behavioral expert. But having lived in darkness for 30+ years I think I’ve enough experience to say that most (maybe all) of us are in this forum in part because our feelings were not validated at some in our lives.

So as far as I’m concerned, you behaved correctly regarding the fork. F**k what anyone else thinks.

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On 6/18/2019 at 9:06 AM, JessiesMom said:

how responsible are we for how our words or actions land? In other words, if my words hurt you - is that on me or is it on you?

Thank you for giving this look into your family's interactions, it really raises some interesting questions. 

To answer your question, Maybe it's not one or the other?

I can be compassionate and empathetic yet still hurt someone's feelings.

You can be thick-skinned and still feel the bite of a perceived slight.

I can believe I did nothing wrong and you can still feel hurt.

In each of these, there can be room for both to be true. 

Our emotions do belong to ourselves and yet other people's words and actions do affect those emotions -- so what happens?

I think we get caught in a trap of "is it right that I feel this way and is it right that you feel that way?" But if you can trust -- really trust -- that each person has some measure of validity in how she feels, maybe you can get unstuck from the who-is-to-blame and do-you-have-good-reason-for-reacting cycle  -- which is really a struggle over who is right. Does that make sense?

Do you want to be right or do you want to be in a relationship? -- I heard this quote and I really like the underlying message.

On 6/18/2019 at 9:06 AM, JessiesMom said:

how is the best way to deal with a situation where you have unintentionally hurt someone?

If the relationship is valuable and not hopeless, try to make a repair.

In the example you gave, your mother's effort at a repair seems similar to saying, "I didn't mean to be hurtful". Did that sound defensive? I dont know, maybe she feels wronged or even confused that her daughter shouldn't know that she's not an unkind person. As the examples above were meant to show, nobody has to be unkind in order to hurt another.

Your repair with your daughter included an apology and validation of your daughter's feelings. In doing so, I think you communicated to your daughter that it's safe to express her emotions to you -- she doesn't have to shut down and stew -- which is great. That seems different to me than how your mother communicated to your sister. I wonder if your mother was there to observe your behavior? It's possible to model to our own parents a more effective way to behave, to communicate. I try to and the results are, well... I don't know! I hope it's working. 

And finally, was it clear to your daughter that your desire for another fork is valid -- even if she felt a little slighted by your fork preference? 

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