How to Tell Someone They Have Hurt You14 min read

When someone has hurt you, it usually means one of the following:

  • What they said/did was generally offensive.
  • What they said/did touched an emotional wound
  • What they said/did prevent you from getting one of your needs met.
  • A nice mix of all the above.

We will discuss them in detail, but first let’s look at the people who do these things and hurt us.

This person can be a toxic person and plain mean. Their intentions usually don’t have the best for you. In such a case, we need to stand up for ourselves.

But not all the hurt comes from our enemies.

Sometimes, our friends, close friends, our partner, or family can hurt us. Their intentions are usually not evil and they are just humans who make mistakes. But it’s this hurt that comes from our closest people that is profoundly painful.

In this case, we need to be assertive and speak up. A lot of good relationships could have been saved by the simple act of assertively telling someone you are mad at them instead of passive-aggressively treating them.

And, believe it or not, many of these relationships can become even stronger if you (both of you) can go through the tough conversation of telling someone they have hurt you.

Now, before we discuss how to do that, let us first discuss what would happen if you didn’t do it.

(Before we continue, this article will discuss how to tell someone you care about that they have hurt you. It will not discuss how to tell mean, toxic people that they have hurt you. The latter is called standing up for yourself, which I have written about a lot on this site and on my book and video series.)

Resentment

Resentment is a destructive emotion.

You feel it when you are treated unfairly.

It eats you from the inside. You grow bitter. You may even have some fantasies of revenge. And it doesn’t care who the person it’s channeled to is.

This can be dangerous when you get bitter and think about revenge or even attempt it. It is the type of emotion that will push you to do horrible things to people indiscriminately. And I am sure that letting that happen is like allowing a devil to control you.

But it can be useful, too.

For people who are too nice, getting in touch with and being aware of their own resentment and bitterness can help them stop being too nice and a doormat.

And yes, those people can be unaware of or are ignoring their resentment. This makes it more destructive and dangerous.

And when it comes to close relationships, resentment can erode them.

When you don’t speak up and tell someone you care about that they have hurt you or are treating you badly, you will resent them. And when enough resentment builds up, it’s over.

You might think that by not telling them you are saving and maintaining the relationship. But that’s wrong. Resentment will grow despite how much you love this person. It’s an evil emotion that doesn’t care about any bond. And no relationship can be healthy when resentment is under the surface.

So, telling them that is crucial. And we will talk about how to do that most efficiently. But before that, we need to talk about the fact that they have hurt you.

Why the hell have they hurt you? And why do you feel this hurt? If they have hurt you, it means that they are bad people who don’t want the best for you, right?

Why have your favorite people hurt you?

For the same reasons I mentioned at the beginning of the article.

Let’s discuss them one by one while keeping the concept of resentment in mind.

What they said/did was generally “offensive”

What does “offensive” here mean?

Well, that’s relative.

And because it’s relative, there is the chance of someone saying something they don’t believe is offensive but it is to you 1But there are things which are widely considered offensive..

Your close friend or partner may hurt you by saying things that you consider offensive. But remember that the way you see the world isn’t the same way they see the world.

And they even can say really offensive things and treat us poorly because of their own insecurities and issues.

Of course, it’s unacceptable to do that.

But if you look a bit deeper, you will find that a lot of us usually use the closest ones to us as our emotional punching bag.

We don’t do it because we hate them. And I don’t excuse this kind of behavior. We usually do it because we feel comfortable with them. Well, too comfortable to the point of taking them for granted.

In the cases I mentioned, it’s a great idea to define what “offensive” is to you personally.

Know exactly what type of words, language, and gestures that you consider offensive. You will be amazed knowing this kind of precision is rare but powerful.

Not everything will or should offend you. No everything should be taken personally. One of the signs of emotional maturity is not taking things personally that often.

From there, after defining what you consider offensive, you need to voice that out. You need to actively tell people that you won’t tolerate this and that. This is what setting boundaries about.

How to do that? We are coming to that. Step by step.

What they said/did touched an emotional wound

Sometimes, the differences in our perception of what is offensive or hurtful come down to our own unique emotional wounds.

Let me explain more.

Emotional wounds are row spots in your emotional body. When touched, they hurt.

They are your insecurities that stem from earlier (usually childhood) unpleasant experiences.

In other words, they are your deepest insecurities.

For instance, some people can be more sensitive to comments about their looks or their financial status. Why? They might have been told they were ugly when they were young, and it did affect them deeply. Or they might have been told they were inadequate or failures who won’t have any future by their parents or teachers when they were in school.

Someone might be sensitive to being compared to anyone else because of the way his/her parents compared them to their sister/brother. A comparison he/she always lost!

Someone might be sensitive to the loud voice while arguing because it always made her feel unsafe as a child.  

These experiences are likely to make them develop such wounds.

And those wounds, once developed, will make them more sensitive to whatever actions or comments that touch them.

I am not saying that you are going to lash out and cry when someone touches one of your emotional wounds.

I am just saying that you would get hurt and feel vulnerable and uncomfortable.

And because loud voice, comparison, and comments about looks and money are normal, the other person is more likely not aware they are touching an emotional wound. Heck, sometimes even the hurt person isn’t aware of these wounds!

I talked about the effects of these emotional wounds in more detail in this article.

So, when you are hurt by someone dear, it can be that they stepped on your foot where it’s wounded. This happens in romantic relationships more often than not.

Again, if you don’t speak up and you stay silent, you will more likely grow resentful.

So, be aware of your emotional wounds, which are unknown to the other person, especially if they are subtle.

Even if you don’t know why you have this wound and why you don’t like, for example, the loud voice, the awareness of its existence can be enough.

With this awareness, expressing yourself can be more assertive and productive.

What they said/did prevented you from getting one of your needs met

This is similar to the above point.

Here it’s just something that you want instead of something that hurts you.

You want to be treated in a specific way that will make you happiest and most comfortable in your interactions.

Maybe it’s about how much you want people to connect with you. Or it’s about how you want people to treat you when you are down. Or it’s about what you want people to give you.

It’s not selfishness to have needs and to ask for them. It’s sexy by the way. It screams confidence and emotional security.

And remember! When you don’t get these needs met, you will more likely feel hurt and betrayed.

But before you accuse everyone around you that they don’t get you or help you out, before you grow resentful, are you asking for what you want and need?

Telling your dear ones here that you were hurt is about asking for your needs and what you want.

Most people who are “givers” fall prey to this trap of being hurt when they don’t “receive”. They give, but they don’t believe it’s legit to receive. They even believe they would be burden-some if they did ask.

But resentment doesn’t care at all about those excuses. It’s a simple, primitive, emotion. It will develop should you suppress your needs and get poor treatment.

And in some cases, the other person isn’t even aware of your need.

Remember the emotional wounds and how subtle they can be. Needs can be similar.

And it’s kind of sad to see a relationship deteriorate because one person got resentful and started to passive-aggressively treat the other one, who is clueless and who has emotional wounds that might get rubbed.  

A nice mix of all the above

Yup, real-life situations are usually a mix of this and that.

Now let’s take everything we learned and talk about the main question this article is attempting to answer…

How to really tell someone they have hurt you??

Having said all the above, you should have an idea about the dynamic of what happens when people hurt each other.

Now, below are guidelines for how to go about the process of telling someone they have hurt you.

Those are not necessarily steps. Those are general and helpful rules and ways of thinking. Use them as such.

Is it worth it?

Decide if what you are going to fight about is worth the fight.

Is it something that you can just let slip? If so, don’t sweat the small stuff!

Try this.

Wait for 24 hours. If it still hurts, if you are still resentful and are growing even more resentful, then it’s probably a good idea to talk.

If not, then it’s probably not worth it.

Pick your battles carefully.

Get clear about your intentions

Why are you going to tell this person that they have hurt you?

Is it to prove them wrong?

Is it to make them feel bad or guilty?

Is it to prove that they have screwed up?

Is it to take revenge?

If those are your intentions, you are doing it wrong.

Tell someone they have hurt you because you care about them and the relationship. Because you care about yourself and don’t want to grow resentful. Because you don’t want resentment to screw you and the relationship up.

You can even start the conversation by stating this!

Quite literally. Tell the person you are doing this because you care about them and you don’t want resentment to destroy your relationship.

Do it for the right reasons.

Don’t attack; talk about your positive needs/how you felt.

Don’t make the focus of the conversation the other person’s mistakes and flaws.

Instead, talk about how you feel and what you want (your positive needs).

It’s an art to be able to put your criticism aside and turn it into clear complaints that make the other person likely to listen to you. Criticism and attacking will likely get the other person to shut down.

To know what that looks like, look at these two examples:

I would like it if you could come early.

You are always late! You are just lazy, goddamn it!

The first one contains a clear positive need/request. The second one contains criticism; criticism is perceived as attacking.

I felt ignored when you didn’t show up yesterday or leave a message. (you may add: I would like to know what happened to you.)

You don’t have any respect for me or our friendship. I was waiting for hours here and you didn’t even bother to call!

The first one contains how you felt; it focuses on yourself and your perspective. It doesn’t contain blame or shame or criticism. We can even take it further and express what we need while being interesting in knowing the other person’s side of the story.

The second one is, well, so immature and self-focused.

Yes, I understand that it’s tempting, and easy, to attack and criticize. But it’s bad for the relationship. And what’s even worse is silence (and resentment and passive-aggression).

Choose the brave action of choosing to focus on your feelings and positive needs instead of attacking.

If you do nothing but this, I believe you can communicate effectively and have better relationships.

The way you see things isn’t the way they see things

Your wounds are different.

Remember, they might not even be aware they have hurt you, let alone hurt you on purpose.

Clear assumptions

Don’t assume anything.

If you do assume, keep your assumptions just assumptions. Don’t believe them and act as if they were facts.

Yes, I am serious. Don’t believe them as solid facts about what that person thinks and feels.

Instead, try to clear them.

You can do that by, surprise, telling the person what you assume. And you don’t make it about them. Then you ask them if you are right.

In most cases, you won’t even have to ask them, for they will tell you straight that this is not what they meant or what happened.

For example, if you assume that your friend hates you because they don’t answer your calls immediately, don’t turn that into a reality. It’s an assumption. Confront them with it saying that you felt ignored and assumed they don’t value you. Remember, without attacking.

Know what you are responsible for and own it

Don’t play the victim role by making them take responsibility for what is actually your responsibility.

In fact, if you believe they are responsible for something, chances are you are too!

Find what you are responsible for and own it.

Know when to stop

Don’t turn it into a competition.

Don’t take it too far.

Don’t try to prove yourself right.

Remember your intentions.

Listen to the other person and take their perspective, feelings, wounds, and opinions into account.

Sometimes, you need to stop and compensate because, remember, you are after better and honest relationships.

Don’t try to change the other person

Your expression of your hurt is just what it is. It’s doesn’t oblige them to change. And you shouldn’t be doing it expecting them to change or to respond in a certain way.

In most cases, you will feel better knowing that you expressed yourself this way. Honesty feels good regardless of the results.

Hey, did you scan through the headlines instead of reading the whole thing?

That’s good. And it’s OK.

I do that with such long articles all the time.

Some of you might have skimmed through the article and just read the last quick tips.

I tried to put enough value into them to help you with those tough conversations with those you care about.

However, I encourage you to read the entire article.

Some pieces of information are found within those long paragraphs you skimmed through. You know, stuff that explains the last tips you read in-depth.

I believe that the tough conversation about being hurt is worth it.

And oh, don’t fall in the trap of thinking that you need to know everything and be 100% ready before having such conversations.

I had most of my toughest conversations not feeling so ready and actually feeling nervous and vulnerable.

All the best. And whether you have read the article or skimmed through it, I wish you amazing relationships with amazing people.

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