I recently had lunch with a young man I mentor. He described how he is wrestling with properly dealing with a group of peers who hurt him in the past. It seems he grew significantly faster than them in some areas, and the gap created tension. I shared with him four principles to follow when we feel hurt by others. Allow me to share them with you as well.
When facing hurt caused by others, whether in life or leadership, there are four essential principles that can help us navigate such situations effectively.
The initial step to take when we’ve been hurt is to seek personal growth. Despite the pain coming from external sources, directing our energy inwardly helps us build an internal shield. Rational contemplation of the other person’s actions acts as shield or filter, which often diminishes the impact of their words or behavior. It’s crucial to recognize heightened emotions in either party and allow time to settle before addressing one another. Asking questions like, “Am I being too sensitive?” or seeking new skills to handle the situation enables us to consider alternate perspectives.
While one cannot force another person to grow, planting seeds and fostering an environment conducive to growth is certainly a favorable option for us, particularly as leaders because we are already positioned to impact our culture. Communicate respectfully about the behaviors that have caused pain. Then be willing to create growth opportunities for them either in this conversation or a subsequent one, or even by suggesting activities for mutual development in which a third party can speak to growth, like at a conference or through a book you read together. Choosing the right time and approach for these conversations is essential to ensure receptiveness and understanding.
If the previous steps don’t yield the desired outcome, or if the hurt persists significantly, then setting clear boundaries becomes crucial. Communicating boundaries when both parties are calm and connected is vital. These conversations are usually best held during times when you already connect, like weekly meetings, and rarely ever in the heat of a moment. Boundaries aren’t about severing ties, but rather working to maintain healthy relationships within respectful limits.
In situations where the hurt persists despite efforts to address it, or if the behavior is egregious, creating distance becomes necessary. Enduring ongoing hurt for the sake of a relationship isn’t a sign of strength. Rather, it’s detrimental to both individuals. Creating distance doesn’t necessarily mean completely cutting off a relationship but may involve disassociating from toxic environments or people.
This is a vast topic, and the four steps above are an abbreviated version of what I want to share with you. If this is a topic that you want to read more about or share with your team, please know I am working on an e-book that goes into much more detail on the above points. Stay tuned.