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4 Simple Tips for Confronting Someone Who Hurt You

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“To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.” -Unknown

For many years I maintained a relationship that I was not happy with. I’m sure a lot of people have been there, or are there right now. I didn’t feel there was equality in the relationship; I always seemed to be the one giving, yet I consistently felt I was getting nothing out of it.

A close friend of mine asked me why I tolerated the behavior of the person in question.

As usual, a few excuses passed through my mind: the other person was going through a rough time; I felt I should be there for them; they probably wouldn’t respond to how I was feeling anyway, so I should strive to be the “better person.”

I let these excuses wear on for over a decade, until one day I realized I needed to make a change.

There was no point in silently wishing this person would be better, or hoping they would eventually acknowledge I deserved the same respect and support I gave them.

After more than 10 years without change, I wondered what on earth I was expecting. Did I think this person would suddenly have an epiphany, maybe another 10 years later? Gently, slowly, I started to realize that I had to do something I had never done.

I decided to confront them about it, without aggression or anger. The next time they treated me in a way that I thought was unacceptable, I would say something. I would let them know that they were being unfair or unkind. I wouldn’t try to sugar coat it—I would just be honest about how I felt.

The moment came and I said what I needed to say. I was willing to accept that they may never agree with me or apologize, but I had to be true to myself. I had to say something, with no expectations—just a commitment to stand up for myself when it was necessary.

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” ~Spencer Johnson

To my great surprise, I received an apology. I would have been okay without it—having come to the conclusion that purely standing up for my beliefs was enough for me—but the heartfelt apology made me realize how unnecessarily I had sacrificed myself and my needs. Since then, my relationship with this person has greatly improved.

I’m not suggesting that we go around telling everybody exactly what we think of them all the time; nor am I advocating generating negativity in your relationships over minor events.

What I’m saying is that if you genuinely feel wronged by somebody else, you are the person responsible for making them aware. It helps us all when we’re willing to teach each other to be better, and not shy away from it because it is painful or embarrassing.

The next time you feel you have been unfairly treated by another, take these steps to address it:

1. Think on it.

Before you confront this person, think about the situation. Have you truly been treated badly? Is there anything else that may be contributing to your emotions? Bounce the situation off a trusted friend, with no agenda other than to explore it. Take some time to understand your feelings. If you still feel the same, you are probably onto something.

2. Consider the triggers.

If you decide that you are being wronged and you wish to speak up, think about the situations and encounters with this person that tend to upset you.

What usually triggers you? How do you feel when they upset you? Do you get a sensation of feeling hot or tight in the chest? It’s important to explore this, because when you confront them you need to be prepared to do so calmly and rationally.

If you choose to speak up when you are feeling emotional, you may undermine your point. Be aware of the triggers within yourself so that you can feel them without letting them control you. The calmer you are, the less likely you are to appear irrational or melodramatic.

3. Set reasonable expectations.

Before you approach the individual, be prepared for the possibility that you will say your piece and they will disagree with you.

If you go into this with an expectation of an apology or acknowledgement of being in the wrong, you may feel like speaking your mind didn’t “work.” Remember, you are standing up for yourself to be true to yourself. That’s the important part—which means you need to be open to the potential consequences. And you need to know how you will respond if this doesn’t pan out as you’d hoped.

Be prepared, also, for new information that may make you re-consider your position. Enter the situation with an open-heart, a desire to communicate clearly, and a willing to find a resolution, if possible.

4. Choose your words carefully.

Know what you are going to say in advance. Be honest and straightforward. There’s no need to drag up previous incidents; they are not relevant here. Focus on precisely what has happened that has upset you and explain your reasoning.

Listen to their response. If they are willing to engage you on it, be open to this. Perhaps there is something for you to learn. If they respond with anger or aggression, be gentle but firm in your position. Remember, this is an opportunity to stand up for your truth. You will feel proud of yourself if you can be clear and honest, even if the outcome isn’t what you hope it will be.

Relationships can be difficult. I empathise with the pain, worry, and anxiety you may feel when communicating your needs to someone you care about. It might feel like an impossible challenge, but remember:

“Each time we face a fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.” ~Anonymous

Photo by Ing. Jose Herrera

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About Raeeka

Raeeka runs a website lovemindbodyheart.com where she provides free meditation and yoga videos, e-books, and consultations to help you live your best life.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Anonymous

    Very insightful post – I’m definitely sharing.

    @HeatherEColeman:twitter 

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Thank you Heather, I’m glad you found it useful :]

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Great, congratulations :] It’s very free-ing when you don’t expect it. When it comes anyway – that’s just a wonderful bonus.

  • http://twitter.com/TammiTan Tammi

    The same thing happened to me a few months ago. After thinking it over for quite a while, I decided to calmly tell the person how I felt. I didn’t get an apology, the person became extremely defensive and subsequently the friendship ended. But it was a blessing in disguise, because as it turns out, this person had been doing some dishonest things all along.

  • Sasalool

    Great post,, nicely written
    I’m goning through the same situation and I was lost for a while and didn’t know what to do??
    I learnt this recently , that if I chose to confront this person, I should do it when I am calm and rational, and I can do this only when I don’t expect an apology or compassion from the other person, I do it only to stand up to myself
    I am in a similar relationship for the last 2 years and I just recently came to this conclusion,
    I didn’t confront this person yet but I feel I’m gonna do so soon
    Sometimes you need some time ( even if it’s years) to learn such a simple fact, but I guess it’s ok , it shows how much u care about this person, and how much struggle u feel inside before u find your peace,
    the peace of knowing that you did everything you can to show this person how much u care about him,and now it’s time to trust the other person and give him the chance to show you how much he cares about you

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Hi Tammi, I’m sorry to hear that but I’m glad that you were able to communicate how you felt.

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Good luck!

  • http://twitter.com/BeadLavada Erica Rodman

    It is definitely difficult to decide when enough is enough in terms of maintaining a relationship with someone who has hurt you in the past. I recently chose to end a friendship because I finally realized that my expectations just weren’t reasonable.

    I love how all of the posts relate so well to something real in my life. :-)

  • Hari B Kurup

    Surprise! Few days back I did something similar and explained it to a friend.

    They did apologize for some part, I wasn’t expecting any though. :)

  • Raeeka

    I’m sorry to hear that Erica, but it’s good to do that & understand your own expectations in relation to what the other person can offer.

    I’m glad you are finding it useful!

  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie @ Wise At Work

    Raeeka. I so liked your points about: (1) staying calm [John Gottman calls this the "soft start-up"]; (2) not dredging up past incidents;  (3) not expecting any outcomes; and (4) keeping open and curious.

    I really believe if we did more of this in all of our conversations, we might be getting closer to world peace! Thanks so much for making this content so accessible.

    Warmly.
    Susie

  • Raeeka

    So glad you found it useful Susie :]

  • Anonymous

    Another point I think is important is that we avoid telling the person WHY we think they do what they do, analyzing them or stereotyping them, e.g.: because of your mother, because you’re insecure, because you don’t respect women, etc.  First of all we don’t really know and it tends to make people more defensive and liable to reject what you are saying about your own personal experience if you turn it into a generality or a character critique. Just say what hurt you, how you felt and what you want.

  • Pingback: 4 tips for confronting someone who hurt you | Mindful girl, joyful girl.

  • http://www.heartonsleeveweakatknees.com Raeeka

    Yes, I absolutely agree. :]

  • karen

    EVEN IF THEIR  RESPONSE ISN’T POSITIVE, WHAT U HAVE SAID HAS BEEN HEARD BY THEIR SUBCONCIOUS AND AFTER THEY HAVE TIME TO DIGEST WHAT U SAID THEY MAY B MORE POSITIVE..OR NOT. EITHER WAY, U WILL HAVE MORE INFO RE THE RELATIONSHIP.

  • Srich__1

    Thank you very much for you wise words of wisdom.LOL! You nailed it! Everything that I needed to hear to further my relationship with my boyfriend, and if it doesn’t work out well at least I had my TRUTH, because I am on my last leg.

    I do give you great honor for enduring that treatment for 10 years. I have for 2 years and I’m at my wits end. You are a great woman and give you the best wishes in life. God bless you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Susan-Lang/1174363424 Susan Lang

    I looked at this page before calling my ex boss whom I had a big falling out with. While I was not perfect she really treated me badly. I guess I wanted to say my piece politely. Well, I said when I called her E___________ I would like to speak with you and she hung up on me. Never will I give her the opportunity to do that again. Sometimes confronting someone can give you peace in that knowing you tried. Later that night- last night I called and left a voicemail and basically said my piece in an honest but respectful way. I ended with giving her my phone number and saying you probably won’t call me and I am not calling you if you are going to hang up on me. I know I will never hear from her again. I am sad but I know I did what I could. It sucks when someone treats another person that way.

  • Guest

    I came across this website through a Google search, and then found this post.  I was already planning on talking to my boyfriend about why I felt hurt about something he did over the weekend (decided not to spend New Year’s Eve with me – shouldn’t you want to be with your girlfriend on New Year’s Eve??) and the wisdom and insights from others has been very helpful.  It is hard not to have expectations in a relationship.  At any rate, I’m prepared to explain why I was hurt, and ask if he is truly wanting to be in this relationship with me. 

  • Pingback: Coffee Reads of the Week - man's guide to a woman's wardrobe - coffeechatwithperpie » coffeechatwithperpie

  • Kellie Marie4

    I recently was fired by text by my boss after posting on fb that I needed a vacation from everyone and everything and that I was tired of shitty attitudes. I did not mention names or my work. I worked there 4 yrs and have nvr been in any trouble what so ever. I was not talked too given a chance nothing just fired. I removed comment and apologized. I also filed unemployment and it’s currently pending bc they state misconduct. Im 35 single income and I’ve work since I was 14. I worked very hard took pride in and loved my job. I’m heartbroken. I thought we were like family i cant believe this has happened. Im a happy person w a positive attitude i feel wronged. I have to survive too…and if I’m denied unemployment while looking for a job im going to Be screwed even worse than I already am.

  • Thaloc

    I have to commend you, this article, for me, was one of those guiding lights we sometimes need to get on the right path. It managed to go beyond the usual self help and really get to the point of why being calm and telling the other person why they have hurt you–without expecting anything in return–is one of the strongest things we can do in our relationships, any relationship. Thank you.

  • Mara

    Hi Raeeka. I could really use your advice on this myself. I used to be friends with a guy I met during my senior year in college. During that year, we spent some time together and got very intimate. It happened a couple of times and I would let him have his way simply because I had developed deep feelings for him. Eventually, he got tired of me and decided that no communication will make me disappear. He gave me no warning, no explanations, nothing. He just stopped contacting me entirely. Every time I’d try to call him or make plans to meet, he would have an excuse. Even his friends started acting weird and distant with me. Eventually I graduated and I wanted so much to see him one last time and say good bye but he didn’t bother at all. We bumped into each other at the graduation party and made eye contact but he quickly looked away and pretended not to see me. Unfortunately for me, I boarded the plane the next morning in tears. Lord knows how many times I’ve shed tears from how used I felt and still feel. I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to help get my mind of things. I have no answers since I have never confronted him and, therefore, am finding it hard to move on. I don’t know how to confront him since I’ve tried that once before and he simply brushed it off and said I was over-thinking it. The problem here is that he doesn’t realize what he’s done. He doesn’t know how much he’s hurt me and seems to think this is not a big deal. All of this has taken a huge toll on both my self confidence and dignity. It’s been six months since this mess started and one month since I last saw him (when he avoided me). I am so confused, I do not know whether to confront him or simple “suck it up” and let it go. Moreover, I don’t know what I want to say to him if I do confront him. I am filled with pain that I can just burst. Should I simply be honest with him about how I feel and how much he’s hurt me?

  • AK

    @disqus_d0JxoYHskR:disqus hi, i can relate to what you’ve been through and i feel really bad for you since you’re still in that phase where you think one last conversation with that guy might help you.On the contrary, its going to mess you up even more since a guy like him, who finds it alright to just use people and then move on, will never bother telling you what he actually felt, or the reason why he left.But i’m sure if you keep all your emotions aside and think practically over what happened with you, it’s a simple case of you letting someone take advantage of you without having tested his sincerity.You don’t have to feel bad or wasted or worthless though, since no matter what you do, or even if you spend years with people, you’d never know what they have on their mind or what they want to extract out of you.You’d see the people closest to you change within a fraction of a second, and you’ll be left shocked.I’ve been through that and i just sat there thinking who this girl was that i had been in a relationship with for almost two years.was she the person that I had known for the past 2 years or is she the person that I just saw recently? God only knows.
    I’d suggest you to stop lingering on to the sweet things he said or the gestures that he made to make you feel like you were that one person he always wanted, easier said than done i know, but if you kept insisting on WHY, like “why did it happen to me?”, or “Why can’t he be that person in my life”…well you’re hurting yourself even more that way.AND as much as i hate to tell you this, since i hated it when people would tell me this, you experienced this for a reason and it’s probably going to prepare you for something more substantial in life.And most of all, it will take time for your your wounds to heal, you just have to learn to rely on GOD.This is one of the many ways of God to make people realize that he is around and how much they need Him.

  • Vivienne

    Is writing a letter affective, if having a confrontational discussion too intense? I’d prefer a letter and then if the reader feels they want to respond, they can call. It’s just that these discussions can be highly emotional and end in tears. It’s more important to get ones points across clearly and succinctly.

  • Surrealian

    I recently contacted a girl who I had thought was a friend of mine in my “college years”. She lived next door to a guy I had very strong feelings for and when I showed up to finally ask him out, I saw her and I immediately felt a “cattiness”. She wasn’t nice at all but did the fake smile and told me she and the guy were now dating. She made it clear (body language and her choice of words) that I better not do anything. I therefore left, and I admit I was so sad. Well, aside from that, he and I are now together and I found out that he and that girl never dated. I got the guts to try to ask her why she said that when they weren’t. I got no apology but some bs about “living in the present” and how I let my “fear” dictate my choice of not asking him out then. That’s not the case, I respect people’s relationship, so it went against my morals to approach him since she declared they were together. Also, if I had approached him, I’d have been known for “stealing him” from her. Anyways, this girl immediately admitted “dating” wasn’t the right word, but then when she asked why and I explained it, she was so rude about it. I simply wanted to know why she lied to me, when she knew how I felt about him. I accept the fact that she’s simply a b**ch and she can’t admit or own up to anything she’s done to upset or hurt someone’s feelings.

  • Debbie

    I am in this situation with a close friend of mine who I feel treated me badly a while back. When I confronted her about it I got excuses, justification for her actions, even going so far as to pschyo analysing me telling me that I am projecting my unhappiness with my life onto her and blaming her instead of my family for the situation that happened between us. I keep standing firm saying if the situation were reversed I would have never treated her that way. That is not the way friends act towards each other. She says sorry one minute and that she just wants things to go back to the way they were before this happened but then in the same breath says she refuses to admit she did anything *wrong* and has asked me to agree to disagree . That feels wrong to me as it leaves me open to it happening again. If she doesn’t get it ,that what she did was wrong in that it had a severe affect on our friendship, than how can I just say ok, everything is fine again???

  • Luanne Seaman

    I realize this is a 10 month old comment, but I really hope things worked out for you.