“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” ― Dalai Lama
From time to time, we’ve all hurt someone. It’s known as being human. We don’t mean to do it most of the time, but sometimes we say or do the wrong thing unintentionally.
And intention is the point here. The words of wisdom from the Dalai Lama above ARE words most of us try to live by. We generally attempt to avoid hurting individuals on a regular basis. In fact, often we are so afraid of hurting others that we will go to great lengths to avoid putting them in a vulnerable position, offending them or hurting their feelings.
Have you ever gone to a dinner party you didn’t want to go to, but instead of calling and canceling, you went because you didn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings? You were miserable, and constantly felt that way throughout the event, but at least you didn’t risk offending the host by staying home.
It happens on a regular basis. And it’s something we do to ourselves.
However, in ordinary life, we must consider how to avoid hurting others without placing ourselves in unpleasant situations.
Here are ten things to think about when it comes to human interactions and our (admirable) desire not to hurt others.
1) No one can understand what you’re going through.
Don’t assume that your feelings regarding a problem are shared by others. Rather than assigning a universal sentiment to a problem, if you want an opinion, ask individuals what they think and then make a decision that is right for you. You don’t have to follow their advice, but listening will usually make them feel good as they got to offer their help.
2) Don’t impose unreasonable demands on others.
Assuming that another person should act a specific way is one of the quickest ways to hurt someone’s feelings, including your own. It’s simple to do, and we humans do it all the time.
We believe we know how others should behave and live their lives. It’s really none of our business what other people do, so don’t make things difficult for yourself. Getting upset because someone does not act or behave in the way you think they should – unless their behavior is dangerous – is pointless, and often judgmental enough that you will hurt the other person.
3) Think about what you want to get out of the circumstance.
Consider your options before taking action. If you’re attempting to persuade someone to do something with you, you should think about why you’re doing it in the first place.
If you don’t want to hurt someone, don’t make them do something only to please you. Consider what you want as well as what they might want. If you know, for example, a friend is not a fan of big, noisy, crowds don’t make them feel like they have to attend your massive anniversary party, invite them out for a quiet celebratory coffee instead. You’ll still get to celebrate with them, but they won’t feel awkward doing so.
4) Don’t say things that are hurtful to others.
Even if you’re “joking about” with friends, there are a variety of socially undesirable expressions that have been generally adopted as “offensive,” so keep those words out of your lexicon.
They’re a source of concern, and you never know who might be listening. Cancel culture is an overused buzzword at this point, but what you say MIGHT still be used against you.
5) What doesn’t hurts you may hurt someone else.
You don’t mind, maybe, if someone jokes about your red hair, or the fact that you are not very tall. And if that’s the case, congratulations on having the self-confidence to think that way.
You could make the mistake of assuming that just because you wouldn’t mind if someone did the same thing to you, you can apply your feelings to someone else. For some being called ‘short’, even if they are, is upsetting, so don’t make those kinds of statements.
6) Don’t Try to Make Others Agree with Your Opinions
Religion, politics, and money used to be taboo topics that were not to be addressed in public, but people are no longer as sensitive to those themes, and they are often discussed. In one way, a freer discourse is good, but it can also lead to a lot of hurt feelings.
If you believe something, don’t try to persuade others that their beliefs are incorrect. It is not your responsibility to “educate” others about your viewpoints.
7) Avoid excluding people.
It’s easy to leave someone out of a conversation, especially in a crowd, so think about your audience when you’re conversing to prevent offending anyone in the gathering.
8) Keep in mind that you, too, are not flawless.
Remember that we’re all simply trying to get along and do the right thing before you pass judgment on someone.
Some people are better at it than others, but it does not give us the right to judge the other person.
9) Avoid discussing your appearance.
Nothing makes people feel more uncomfortable than talking about how fat you are or how fat someone else is all day. That isn’t a topic for the public to discuss.
Do something about your body if you have an issue with it. When it comes to your body, though, don’t put that expectation on others and don’t wait for affirmation from others.
10) Don’t text things that should be said in person.
Even for difficult interactions, we now rely on text, social media and IM services. When was the last time you sent a paper birthday card? Most of us now just post a quick message and some emojis on the birthday person’s Facebook wall instead. And because everyone does it, most people don’t mind, and appreciate even that thought.
However, if you want to prevent hurting someone’s feelings, make sure they understand what you’re saying by conducting critical conversations in person or, at the absolute least, over the phone. Some things still need to be said in person, and taking the time to do so will almost always be the better choice in the end.