open the doorHurt feelings happen. What distinguishes healthy relationships from dysfunctional ones is the way we respond to each other when our feelings are hurt.

If we confront and blame the other party under the assumption that they intended to cause us pain, they often become defensive because they feel deeply misunderstood. And it’s quite rare for two upset and defensive people to have a productive dialogue.

Instead we might broach the subject in this way: I believe that you did not intend to hurt or offend me, and I wanted to share my reaction when I heard you say that I am not a good team player. I felt upset and disappointed, because it’s important to me to make a valuable contribution to our process. I wondered if we could talk about what you are seeing and experiencing that led you to say that.

Here’s the thing — in the rare case where the person actually DID intend to disparage you, this response takes the wind right out of their sails and reveals you as … a team player! Taking the high road shows your true character, and allows the other party to gracefully step out of their petty moment while saving face. And that’s a win-win outcome.

Giving the benefit of the doubt opens doors. Assuming malicious intent closes them.

ps: If you are consistently assuming that people intend to hurt or harm you, and find it very difficult to give the benefit of the doubt, you might find that counseling can help you change that perception so you can inhabit a kinder world.