Words Only Hurt When They Come From Someone You Care About

Words Only Hurt When They Come From Someone You Care About
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Words are powerful. So powerful that they can cause a lot of emotional pain. As if you’d been punched, as if your soul had been split in two and your heart broken into a million pieces.

However, this effect is only powerful if the words come from someone who means a lot to us: a partner, a family member, a friend… Our balance is lost when we feel aggression from someone we have a really close bond with.

The impact of language is surprisingly enduring. Children don’t forget hurtful words easily, and people don’t erase their partner’s verbal aggression from their minds.

Language is not just a bunch of words that are associated with meanings that we inherit and learn from our society and culture. Above all, language is a way to communicate and transmit emotions. Even tone and facial expression can communicate meaning.

Throughout our lives, we may receive comments that are innappropriate, unfortunate, and even malicious. However, we usually let them go, so they don’t leave a lasting mark on our minds. The ones that do leave marks and scars are the ones that come from our loved ones.

Somewhere in the depths of our memory, we all remember that hateful comment that a close family member made. Even today, you might painfully remember certain words or phrases that came from someone you love.

Words that leave scars

stuck in a tree

We should all remember that none of us are immune to blurting something inappropriate that could hurt or bother someone. Even if it’s just saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. However, it becomes a problem when, more than just words, we receive harmful communication and a lack of affection from someone.

Words that lack affection create serious holes in our souls. Holes of loneliness and isolation in small children, and pits of disappointment and bitterness in people who are wounded by their partners.

Paul Watzlawick, an Austrian psychologist and expert in communication and language, came up with an interesting theory that he called “disconfirmation.” He reflected on the destructive power of words in human communication, and the most common ways people use words to destroy.

  • Devaluing: This type of communication uses words that seek to diminish the value of a person. They take away all importance from everything that person says and does, and they use language to discredit and subtracts value from everything they are, their entire essence. It can be really destructive.
  • Disqualification: In this case, one does not seek to devalue, but invalidate. They go one step further and use words like “you are not worth anything,” “you are the most awkward person in the world,” “you are lower than the soles of everyone’s shoes.”
  • Deconfirmation: This type of communication aims to nullify the other person completely. The first two seek to devalue and humiliate, while this one seeks to ignore. It doesn’t matter if the child is good or bad; they will be ignored. It doesn’t matter if the partner is by the side of the person they love; they will be treated like an empty space. As if they didn’t exist…
bird head

How to confront hurtful words

Sometimes, people simply don’t know how to communicate. They lack the appropriate tools to offer emotional intimacy, respect, and recognitionThey’re the kind of people who talk without thinking and hurt others without realizing (at least most of the time).

The first requirement for all forms of communication should be respect.  We’ve been in many of these situations throughout our lives. Feeling pain over words that come from people close to us is something we should know how to face. Here are some helpful hints:

  • We must assess the personality of the other person. It’s possible that either your parents or your sibling has this characteristic: the absence of emotional and respectful communication. If this is how it is, you should try to confront it, but always making clear what it means to say “harmful words.”
  • If their communication is always aggressive and violates your rights up to the point of disqualification, there’s no need to try to strengthen the relationship. This is mistreatment, and as such, you should defend yourself and distance yourself when necessary.
  • In the case of a partner using frequent sarcasm, for example, you should understand that it’s also a type of personal violation. Don’t allow it.
  • Understand from the beginning that they way people choose to use their words says a lot about their personality. If you don’t feel comfortable with their language, you might not fit with that person.

We all have moments when we give or receive hurtful words. If it’s a timely matter, don’t hesitate to voice your displeasure, discomfort, and pain. Make use of “personalization” and make the other person think about how they would feel if they were in your place.

One of the main problems of communication is when we listen to respond instead of listening to understand. This is when hurtful words arise.

frozen broken heart

Images courtesy of “Art in the Dark” and Beth Joole

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.