How to Communicate Your Hurt Feelings Effectively

Solving relationship problems requires skillful communication.
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Life can often feel like walking into a pricker bush with bare feet. You never know when a barbed comment or other painful event will pierce you. When this happens, it is often best to address the person who hurt your feelings directly so that you can move on without significant damage to your relationship. Doing so means you'll likely avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict.

1 Be Specific about What Hurt Your Feelings

Be specific when communicating about hurt feelings, advises psychologist Larry Alan Nadig, Ph.D., on his website. Being general can open the door for misunderstandings and poor communication. Instead of telling your friend that you feel badly because he acted like a jerk, tell him that you feel badly because you felt excluded when he didn't introduce you to his friend. Being specific about what's bothering you gives the other person an opportunity to fix the problem or correct any misunderstandings that might have occurred.

2 Take Responsibility for Your Feelings

Use "I" statements when talking about your feelings, advises Nadig. When you say "I felt embarrassed when you made fun of my accent," you're addressing your feelings before the behavior, which will help prevent your friend from becoming immediately defensive. Avoid statements like "You were cruel to make fun of my accent." If you use words like these, your friend will focus on convincing you that she's not cruel, rather than on paying attention to your feelings.

3 Communicate in a Timely Manner

If your friend has hurt your feelings, don't hold onto the hurt for days or weeks before addressing it. Doing so may cause your friend to feel tense because he'll sense that something's wrong. This puts everything off balance, says therapist Sue Johnson in the "Psychology Today" article, "Suppressing/Expressing Emotions." Rather, find the courage to communicate your hurt immediately, or at least the same day. Letting him know that you felt sad when he spent lunch talking to his other friends instead of you will help clear the air today.

4 When Talking Isn't the Right Thing to Do

Sometimes, talking about hurt feelings can be futile. For example, letting your ex-girlfriend know that you're devastated because she's dating better looking than you won't solve any problems and may add to your angst. In such cases, deal with your hurt feelings by writing about the situation. In her book "Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions," social psychologist James Pennebaker discusses the use of journaling to heal emotional wounds and move on in life. Writing your feelings down on a blank piece of paper may be the best thing to do in some cases.

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.