When it comes to upsets and conflict, one of the worst things you can do is respond in a way that is dismissive or minimizing. The last thing in the world people want to hear is you telling them their upset isn’t really a problem. That response is not calming. It won’t reassure them. And it certainly isn’t endearing. They also don’t want to hear about your issues when they’re trying to talk about theirs. Below are five statements that are dismissive and should be avoided in disagreements and upsets at all times:
1. “It’s not that big a deal.”
2. “You’re too sensitive.”
3. “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
4. “Can’t we just have a good night?”
5. “You think that’s bad, what about what you did to me?!”
When someone is trying to speak to you about something that happened—or even something you did that they’re not happy about—listen. L-i-s-t-e-n. Don’t defend. Don’t tell the person to “calm down.” Don’t turn the tables and start talking about the things you’re upset about. Simply listen and try to understand where they are coming from.
If you did something that the other person finds upsetting, own it—don’t minimize it. If the other person says something is hard, don’t tell them, “it’s not that hard.” What the person needs most is acknowledgement and understanding. Helpful responses to upset sound like:
1. “I’m sorry you’re upset about my actions. I can see why you were hurt by what I said. I promise to be more considerate next time.”
2. “It sucks that you’re going through a hard time. Would you like a hug?”
3. “I didn’t realize that hurt your feelings. I’m really sorry about that.”
4. “Wow, that sounds hard.”
5. “That same thing happened to me years ago and I remember how hard it was. I’m here for you if you need me.”
Relationships are about connection, not competition or selfishness. Whether you’re talking to a friend, parent, sister or spouse, be strong enough to hear their upsets. Be compassionate enough to be a shoulder for them to lean on. And be relational enough to provide support. Don’t try to fix it, make the issue out to be “nothing big,” or get them to move on from it. The quickest way to work through something is to go through it, not jump over it or pretend it’s not really something. And NEVER spin their upset into your upset by making it all about you.
Challenge: Relationships require love, compassion, limits, understanding and support—from both sides. When you’re upset—speak about what’s bothering you in a grounded, respectful way. When others are upset, listen to their upset and support them through it. If you screwed up, be accountable for your actions and repair them.