How to tell someone they hurt you without them becoming defensive? Whether they hurt you on purpose or with ignorance, asking them to change can be difficult. Especially if you’re not sure whether they will listen to you or if they are willing to listen.
It’s important that you pay attention to your own emotions and know your limits before bringing up any sort of sensitive topic with someone else, especially if you’re in a romantic relationship or friendship with them.
When you want to tell someone they are hurting you emotionally, there are several ways you can choose to go about it.
Each method has different benefits and drawbacks, so knowing how to tell someone they are hurting you will help you decide which one is best for your particular situation.
Below, I have written four different ways and 5 steps on how to tell someone they hurt you so that you can use the right one in the right situation, depending on your relationship with the person and what kind of reaction you hope to get out of them.
Recommended reading for you: 15 situations when someone you love hurts you deeply
What to do when someone hurts you emotionally?
When dealing with someone who hurts you emotionally can be painful, there are often times when one person will be upset with another.
In those cases, knowing how to go about bringing up a serious issue can be challenging. Communicating after an argument is just as difficult.
It’s easy to get caught up in our own emotions and worry about whether or not it’s too late for an apology.
Or, we might feel that it’s best not to discuss what happened at all because we don’t want things to get worse than they already are.
Even though it’s often difficult, telling your loved one that he or she has hurt you is incredibly important. How can your loved one know how to change if he or she doesn’t know what’s wrong in order to fix it?
The first step is getting clear about what was said or done that caused pain. The second step is deciding whether your heart wants forgiveness or justice.
Remember, justice can never bring back lost love, but it may be necessary for setting boundaries and moving forward with peace of mind.
It’s best to forgive as soon as possible. While keeping a grudge against someone is easy, holding on to negative feelings only hurts yourself.
Allow some time to process your emotions before trying to speak directly with him or her again, particularly if you’re angry at his or her actions.
That way you’ll have a better chance of saying what needs to be said without letting emotion overtake rational thought.
Recommended reading for you: What to do when someone hurts you emotionally? (complete guide)
How to tell someone they hurt you?
Sometimes when we feel hurt by another person, we aren’t sure how to deal with it. We may be worried about making things worse or becoming too dependent on them.
But hiding our feelings doesn’t help us in any way. It can actually do more harm than good in some situations, like if that person is a romantic partner or friend with whom we spend a lot of time.
If your partner treats you poorly, for example, hiding your hurt and not addressing it could lead them to continue mistreating you—or even make them think they didn’t do anything wrong in the first place!
So try bringing up how you feel in an indirect but clear way instead of avoiding talking about it altogether; because communication is always better than pretending everything is okay.
Below, let’s discuss the different ways how to deal with someone who hurt you emotionally?
4 ways to tell someone they hurt your feelings.
1. Start with how you’re feeling.
Try saying something like, I feel hurt when…, I get upset when…, or It hurts me when…
Instead of using vague terms like this bothers me or I don’t like it when…, try being more specific by saying why it makes you feel bad.
For example: When I hear that my opinions aren’t valid or respected, I get very hurt and frustrated because I want my views taken seriously.
That’s important to me. If I’m not listening to a group discussion in class or at work, it feels isolating and invalidating.
2. Don’t blame them that they hurt you.
If you’re nervous about how your partner will react, don’t make it about them. Make it about what you feel, not how they affect your feelings.
For example, I want us to be able to talk about things in a way that’s not hurtful or upsetting, but when we fight like we did yesterday, I get really sad and feel like crying.
When I feel that way I just want to leave because it makes me so upset. And when we’re fighting like that, it doesn’t feel like our relationship is healthy or secure at all.
3. Express your needs and genuine commitment in your relationship.
Another way to express your feelings without making it about how you feel about them is by expressing your needs.
For example, I want us to be able to resolve things when we’re having a disagreement instead of ignoring what’s really going on.
And I need us to figure out a way for our arguments not to lead us into negative cycles where we get more and more frustrated with each other.
I have a lot of love and respect for you, but right now, it’s difficult for me to feel secure in our relationship because of all these unresolved issues that keep coming up between us over and over again.
4. Be prepared for the conversation and consequences.
And finally, if you’re worried about how your partner will react, try rehearsing what you want to say beforehand.
It may seem like overkill, but just taking a few minutes to plan out what you want to say can help increase your confidence.
So that when it comes time for talking about it, you’ll feel more prepared and assured.
Another way of preparing is by checking in with yourself beforehand so that no matter what your partner says or does, you’ll be able to stay calm and collected throughout.
By practicing mindfulness meditation every day (more on that here), tuning in to how we feel inside can give us some distance from our feelings—making it easier for us to control our emotions even in heated situations.
Recommended reading: What to say to someone who has hurt you deeply?
5 steps to tell someone they hurt you with examples
1. Decide when and where you want to talk with your partner about it.
Telling a friend, family member, or significant other that their behavior is hurting you may be one of the most difficult things you ever do.
And even if your concern is genuine, it may not go over well. Before approaching someone about their emotional abuse, make sure to choose your time wisely —and take care in how you deliver your message.
It’s best to speak with someone who’s alone and whom you know will listen—not around other people or when they’re in an uncomfortable situation (like while driving).
Calmly and clearly let them know why their behavior is causing you pain and ask them to please consider changing.
Make sure it’s actually an abusive situation and not just a personality conflict; emotional abusers can be hard to spot.
If there really is an issue with emotional abuse, approach it carefully—and only after trying other ways of addressing your concerns (such as leaving them alone and coming back when they’re calmer).
People aren’t likely to respond well if their actions are called abusive; start with something like I care about us before saying anything more specific about what’s wrong.
2. Be clear, but not accusatory
It’s important that your friend/partner knows what they are doing, but it might be better not to come right out and say You really hurt my feelings.
Approach it more gently by saying I am sensitive about that issue, or It really bothers me when you say things like that. I wish you wouldn’t. Then lay out why it hurts your feelings so much.
If she/he apologizes, good! If not, try asking them if they understand what they said, or restate why it bothers you so much.
For example, I know that when I say something is stupid it comes off as me being mean. Please don’t take it personally when I do that. Can we agree to just not use that word around each other in a negative way?
I know we all have used that word when we have been mad at each other and were saying something was stupid or sucks or whatever.
But I wish we could stop using these words when talking about our relationship because they hurt my feelings. Thanks!
Then ask him/her what they think about your request. Be prepared for a disagreement, and keep in mind that she might not even realize she hurts your feelings by saying certain things.
3. Use I Statements
Use I statements when you confront that they hurt you emotionally. It’s important to say what your needs and feelings were, but also how you want them to change or why their behavior was hurtful.
So instead of accusing them of something, put yourself in a positive light and ask for what you need.
An example: I felt disrespected by what you said because it made me feel like my opinion isn’t important to you.
So instead of saying, You always talk down to me. And then asking what he or she can do differently or how he or she can change.
For instance, I want you to treat me with respect. I’d like for us to make decisions together instead of arguing about what we should do all of the time.
This way, it gets them thinking about their behavior rather than making them feel attacked.
Remember, these aren’t just your feelings—this is how their behavior affects you and other people who care about you, too.
Because if no one told them their behavior was hurtful or disrespectful, then it would never change.
It might take some time before they start changing their ways because he or she has probably gotten away with these behaviors for quite some time now.
But if they hear your honest feelings and what it means for your relationship often enough, eventually things will start to change.
4. Don’t just assume their intentions
They might think it’s funny, or they might not realize what kind of effect their behavior is having on you. When in doubt, talk to them about how their actions make you feel.
Open up an honest dialogue and stay calm while doing so. This will likely get them thinking about why their words or actions upset you, which can sometimes be all it takes for them to adjust their behavior in your favor.
For example, You may not realize that when you say I never help around here it makes me feel like I’m not doing enough for our family.
Can we talk about other ways we can express gratitude towards each other?
Further, asking questions instead of accusing someone by saying You always do (So and so) allows for a more constructive conversation because rather than asking What did I do? they ask Why do you think I did xyz?
It allows space for you to respond with concrete examples of times when they acted in a certain way. This is especially useful if there have been multiple times when they behaved in a way that makes you feel bad about yourself.
5. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood (acknowledge and validate their experience)
When you communicate with someone that they hurt you, it’s very important that you first understand where they are coming from.
In other words, see if there were any extenuating circumstances, or some other situation going on in their life, which might have affected how they interacted with you.
If so, help them feel heard and validated by acknowledging what was going on for them at that time. This will also allow them to see how they can learn from their behavior and approach issues differently next time.
For example, let’s say someone says, Every time I talk to you, you criticize me. In a typical situation where a person is not using active listening skills, their reaction might be, That’s not true.
I don’t criticize you at all! If anything, I offer constructive criticism. You just can’t take it because your self-esteem is too low! Maybe if you were a better communicator and etc.,
Whether it’s a family member, friend, or acquaintance, telling someone that their words or actions have upset you can be difficult. Sometimes people can say or do things without even realizing how hurtful those actions are to others.
In these situations, it can be tough to find a tactful way how to tell someone they hurt you and bring up what’s been said or done
Just, take a breath and tune into your feelings. Before you do anything, just take a few moments to slow down and pay attention to how you’re feeling on an emotional level.
Get in touch with what it is that’s making you uncomfortable—the hurt, sadness, frustration—and let yourself really feel it before doing anything else.
Figure out exactly what it is that is bothering you about what they said or did.
Remember, though, that pointing out specific instances isn’t going to fix whatever made you upset in the first place; there needs to be more of a systemic change if it’s going to really improve things between both of you.
Recommended reading: How to stop being emotionally attached to someone?
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