When Words Hurt More than Broken Bones

Whenever two people are engaged in a relationship where they care about each other or care about the same thing, it is inevitable that sooner or later, cross words will erupt.

black print on white

From the book, Coping With Bullying in Schools, by Brendan Byrne (1994)

From there, it’s a skip to harsh words and a jump to hurtful words, and before you know it, words have been said that aren’t really meant and can never be unsaid.

Horrible, hateful, mean words fueled not by the moment or the failings of the other person, but by our own past, reignited by the present. Words that lash the soul and break the heart.

We’ve all been there.

Thanks to all the attention on bullying, we’ve come to acknowledge what anyone who has ever bullied, or been bullied, already knew: words leave lasting marks that hurt much more than any broken bone.

Repairing the Hurt Caused by Our Words

But, you don’t have to be a bully or encounter a bully in order to experience words that leave lasting marks. When we’ve damaged a relationship in our personal or professional life with hurtful words, we need to go beyond a simple apology if we are to restore the relationship and strengthen it.

We all know that we must apologize as soon as possible after our argument.  We do it because we respect the other person and we choose to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. We hope our apology will soothe the pain and repair the damage we’ve caused. Yet, we sense the apology is not enough, we know we must rebuild the relationship.

Words got us into this mess. Words can get us out just as well.

A rightly worded apology sets the stage for a new conversation that can begin to repair the damage to the relationship and set it back on course.

Finding the Right Words

The follow-up conversation can begin with an agreement that you both have the same goals of unconditional acceptance, respect and a desire to continue to work together to reach these goals. You may need to recognize and acknowledge that the two of you are more likely to disagree than to agree, but that your differences of opinion are not a barrier to your continued relationship. Finally, focus on what you can bring to the relationship, not on what you want to get from it because giving is the only way to build and maintain a real connection between you.

Our ability to communicate is one of our most important skills because it is through our words plus our actions that we develop and maintain relationships. Communicating well in the moment is not nearly as easy as giving a well-rehearsed presentation or dealing with common or anticipated events.

When we blow it by blowing up, we can begin to repair the damage first by giving a heartfelt apology for what we said and did. When we follow that first step with an honest conversation that focuses on working together to achieve a common goal and on what we ourselves can do, not what we expect the other person to do, our reward will be a stronger relationship.

Life Is Honest, Open and True: We all want to be known as kind and caring people. No matter what hurtful words we might blurt out in the heat of the moment, we can still be someone who strives to make others feel better about themselves and to have strong and lasting relationships.

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0 Responses to When Words Hurt More than Broken Bones

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  7. My friend John wrote this in response on another site, and gave me permission to share it here:
    Sometimes we are unaware that we have even offended someone, or have done something that they simply don’t like. Such was the case with a photographer friend I know. Sadly he elected to cut off all communication with me, and de-friended me on social media. It was not until after I discovered this and contacted him did he first tell me I had said and done something trivial, which he did not like.

    Despite my “falling on the sword” and profusely apologizing it was all to no avail. He’s claims we’re still friends, and he knows full well that I was not doing, or saying anything malicious. Basically it was a misunderstanding blown out of proportion.
    Still it’s hard to be friends with anyone who doesn’t ever mention to you that something’s wrong, then they go off and don’t want to communicate, or too stay in touch any more… But still say that want to remain friends, and also claims that he’s accepted your apology. In my view that’s not a friend!

    Sometimes it’s not what you’ve said, or what you did. In my case I had no clue that I’d offended this person. Thus the bigger issue at times is when people simply chose to not communicate, or say nothing and keep it a secret. If you don’t speak up and say something, then how’s any friend supposed to ever know?

    True friends care about how someone else feels, and for their feelings. When they know they’ve done something wrong, or have offended, then they say something do something to correct it!

    The people, who aren’t your real friends and who simply blow you off and then fade away, those people were never really were your friend to begin with, and sadly you must accepte it and move on!

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