Creating the Mean Things Others Say

Have you ever heard somebody say something rude and then been deeply offended? Chances are you know this sort of situation all too well. However, what you might not know is that you are a key contributor to how people are able to offend you.

In the midst of my schooling for becoming a certified coach, there was a saying I learned: “What people say is about them. What you hear is about you.”

Now, this saying may not make sense initially, but allow me to give you a physical example. First, imagine that there is a student who just failed a test, and in a moment of anger he stomps over to the teacher and tells her that she is an absolute idiot. Now, let’s say this teacher is a super genius with several degrees and accolades and is renowned for her effective teaching style and is very confident in her own abilities.

So, would this teacher be upset at the student’s comment? Chances are that this teacher is very comfortable and confident with her intelligence, she has no reason to identify or connect herself with the idea of being stupid, and as a result the comment just bounces harmlessly off of her leaving her unaffected.  It is more likely that the teacher would be more concerned about the student, realizing that his comment is really a result of his own problems, and that he may need help.

So, let’s change the scenario. This time the teacher is a just an ordinary high-school teacher. All her life people have referred to her as a ditsy blond and she has had to constantly prove herself to be a smart person. Imagine again, a student says something like “you are an idiot”. This teacher is much more likely to become very upset by this comment and find herself either exploding at the student or wanting to hide and cry from the statement.

So, why does this happen? The answer is that how we respond to an insult is based on how we see ourselves. Every single person in the world, whether big or small, has fears in life. Whenever a person’s actions upset you, you get upset because somewhere in the back of your mind a part of you has just further confirmed that your fear could be very real. We as people want to feel safe. This is true even when that sense of safety could be false; so, when somebody tells you are stupid and you are scared it could be true, you lash out.

The important point I want to make is that in any situation, whether you believe or not, you are always a part of what makes the situation happen. Pay attention to what upsets you, and how you contribute to it. Understanding what affects us and why is a major step toward achieving higher standards of everyday living.

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