I was recently asked, “When we’re upset with someone is it because we see our reflection in their behavior?” Sometimes, yes, but not every time.

There are four reasons we get upset with people.

  1. They mirror us.
  2. They hurt us.
  3. They harm us.
  4. They offend us.

This one’s a tricky one because it takes swallowing your pride to admit you see yourself in their behavior. How do you know if the annoyance, the nuisance, the irritation is a reflection of you? Ask yourself, “Have I ever acted this way?” Although you may have answered with a small, whispering “yes”, sorry to break it to you, a yes is still a yes. If you can identify ever so slightly with the negative behavior, find a position of understanding before resolving. If someone is reacting emotionally to you, and you have in the past reacted emotionally to someone else, how did you get over it? What did you need to help you resolve? Then offer that same helpful resource in resolving this conflict.


Hurt is a normal part of relationships. Your feelings can get hurt. You may feel misunderstood, rejected, overlooked, ignored, dismissed, patronized, insulted, provoked, challenged, the list goes on. This is normal. Being hurt is the lowest form of offense. We get upset if the car in front of us slams on their breaks, or we spill coffee on our shirt or the dirty dishes are still in the sink. If you experience hurt – good news! – it’s fixable and resolvable. Stay in it and figure out how to amend the situation. Avoid phrases like “You are” and “You never” etc. If someone hurts you, share the specific story of what hurt you. The story, not how it made you feel, is key to the resolve. If you only share how you feel it comes across as accusatory.


If a human being speaks threateningly to you, is physically aggressive, verbally aggressive, demoralizing, bullying you, demands submission, dominates you with fear, calls you names, and so on, you are in harm’s reach. And you need to seek help and you need to be rescued. Here’s the good news: you can stand up with confidence against aggression of all forms. You are a delightful human being worthy of love, respect and honor. You have one life to live, and your life is not at the mercy of a mean oppressor.   Aggressive behavior is very intimidating and can quickly paralyze our thoughts and our ability to express our thoughts. You have a voice and your voice matters. Even the slightest verbal statement will liberate you. You can start with a simple phrase such as, “This is not ok with me.” Please seek out help.


When you feel a human offends you, find out why their behavior is offensive. For example, if they are making racial discriminatory comments, then yes that makes sense that you’re offended. If it’s not that blatant, then perhaps they are offending your personal core values. For example, if your core value is that your words and actions match and people can count on you, but you have a friend that is unreliable and not following through on their commitments, then you’re values are offended. To resolve core value offenses, share your experience/story and share what is important to you and what you value. Find that shared value and try again.

Karen Thrall

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