How to Handle Hurtful Words

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Hurtful words can come at you during a fight with your spouse or as a result of a temper outburst from your child. If taken personally, these words can bring about feelings of sadness and anger. It is most likely easier to brush off hurtful words from acquaintances or strangers, especially if you tell yourself they don't really know you. On the other hand, if you are more sensitive by nature, you may have a difficult time getting over a hurtful comment no matter what the source.

Communicate the Hurt

Let the offender know your feelings have been hurt. Keeping it inside can cause you more pain, especially if the hurtful words came from someone with whom you spend a significant amount of time on a regular basis. Simply let your spouse, friend or family member know that a line was crossed and your feelings were hurt. For example, saying "Although you were making a joke, those words really stung" or "Do you realize what you just said really hurt my feelings?" should be enough to encourage the offender to tone down harsh comments.

Avoid Retaliation

In the heat of the moment, anger may arise when someone hurls an insult at you, especially if that someone is your spouse or child. While your first instinct is likely to open your mouth and shout insults right back, this only shows lack of self-control and problem-solving skills, according to Sara Bean, M.Ed., author of "I Hate You, Mom! I Wish You Were Dead! When Kids Say Hurtful Things," published on the EmpoweringParents website. Keep calm, take several deep breaths and let the offender know you are taking some time for yourself. Engage in an activity that is calming and enjoyable until you are both able to talk rationally about the hurtful remarks.


If you find you are highly sensitive to comments that others make, try using light humor, without putting the other person down, to change the subject or lighten the mood. Perhaps you work with someone who takes a bad mood out on everyone at the office. Try making an announcement while the person is in earshot, such as "It looks like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed again." Even if the individual in question is unable to laugh, this tactic can make you feel lighthearted and positive, a perfect combination to defend against negative comments and attitudes.

Just Stop It

Sometimes, the only way to respond to hurtful comments is to directly confront the offending person and request that the negativity end. When humor, body language and subtle hints don't seem to be working and the hurtful comments are having a negative effect on you, take a stand. You may not have the ability to walk away from this person or you may want to avoid destroying the relationship you have. By pointing out how destructive the hurtful comments are, you may salvage your connection before it is too late.