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If you hurt someone’s feeling


Did you mess up? What to do when you hurt someone’s feelings?

In the dancing scene, like every other community, there will be disagreements and conflicts. It’s inevitable and just a fact of life.

In conflicts when the emotion runs hot, you can say and do things that you later regret. Then you will realize how hard it is to apologise and how tricky it is to successfully walk something back.

Most relationship gurus seem to focus on discussion and giving advice to the victims of wrongdoing. Advice directed to the person at fault seems to be much harder to find.

I believe that most times when we hurt someone we do not set out to cause harm. Maybe we weren’t thinking or maybe we were in a vulnerable state ourselves. Maybe we perceive a threat or disrespect from someone when no such offence was intended and then the defence actually turns out to in fact be an aggression.

So how do you even start the forgiveness process when you have hurt someone?

During an interesting discussion on a midsummer night I met a fascinating guy and we talked for hours on the subject of forgiveness. As a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, he shared stories from the process of getting his life back on track. As you might imagine, decades of addiction, violence and as a career criminal left him with a long list of enemies and destroyed relationships. And during his recovery, his guy was an absolute pro on unmessing relationships.

My new friend laid out some really cool and useful techniques to heal relationships, suggested by the recovery program AA Alcoholic Anonymous in the now infamous 12 step program.

The mind blowing thing is that this process does not include asking someone for forgiveness but rather focusing on what you can do to rectify the damage. But before the healing can begin we first make sure to set the stage.

As the first step on the 12 step program is about admitting that you have a problem, the first step in fixing your mess needs to be realizing that you were wrong. And having the ability to feel remorse and regret is in fact a good thing.

There are actually people who are pathologically incapable of admitting they were wrong. This is particularly obvious in the so called “B-spectrum” where people with narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies will fall. So if you can in a natural way sort out where you did wrong in a certain failed interaction there is hope. And as a general advice, if you find a person who only points at you for blame, it’s time to run, because it will never get better.

So you now carry a healthy dose of remorse for your behaviour in a certain situation, and you have a sincere desire to set the situation right.

My friend from the midsummer discussion went on to point out that you should go ahead and initiate a conversation with the person in a way that is respectful and cautious and not making matters worse.

And the most important thing in order to be sincere, you need to focus only on what you did to mess things up and not in any way require or even secretly hope that the other person is willing to assume any blame. Be clear when you invite the person you hurt to talk to you that this conversation is about what you did wrong.

With the person in front of you, you have to be clear about three things.

– Let the person know that you realized you were wrong

– Explain the the person how you believe your action made them feel

– Convey sincerely that you are sorry for what you said and did

And then you shut your mouth, let the person speak for as long as they need and you brace yourself and face the music.

My new and unexpected guide into the realm of forgiveness told me about the numerous times he had to literally bite his tongue to not answer or try to explain or justify his behaviour to people whose life he ruined. But he couldn’t stress enough the importance of letting them speak without interruption before he went on the last and most important part of this process.

The process of forgiveness according to the 12 step program, does not include asking for someone’s forgiveness. Instead of asking for a favour in excusing your behaviour according to the AA you should focus on what you can do to mend the situation.

To make the process complete, you should now ask the person sincerely if there is anything you can do, to set things straight.

Now, anything can happen. The person might ask you to promise to never do it again or have you do something for them. And, if the request is within reason, you do everything you can to fulfil their wishes.

My recovering friend said that in his case, the process had to go on for several years, and that admitting wrongdoing has become a part of his daily routines to not having to make new such lists of people in the future. He also told me the full extent of his relief when enemies could turn to friends and how nice he felt after stopping having to constantly look over his shoulder.

I have had enormous help from the simple advice I got from this single conversation. After his deep dive into the process of forgiveness I also felt encouraged to start taking action in fixing what I did wrong in my own relationships. If he could, so could I, since I have not committed any armed robberies or things like that as far as I can remember!