Do You Have a Negative Emotional Response to Other People’s Feelings?

Is it ever OK to tell another person how to feel? Would you, for example, tell someone that they were obliged to like your favourite food or that they weren’t allowed to dislike Brussels sprouts? How would you feel if, when you were frustrated by a perceived injustice, your complaints were received coldly by a person in authority? Nobody wants their hurt feelings to be brushed off with, “You’re too sensitive. Just get over it!”



Our emotions are not really something that we control. They’re mostly involuntary, rooted in a complex cocktail of brain chemistry that controls pleasure, triggers the fight or flight response, and gives us a sense of satisfaction. Neurons fire, chemicals click into place in our brains, and we feel whatever we’re going to feel. There’s no decision to make; it’s just done unconsciously. Odd collections of atoms and molecules strung together do all the deciding for us.

So what’s the point of trying to tell someone how to feel?

An Emotional Response to Another’s Feelings

And yet, this too can be an emotional response, triggered by those selfsame brain chemicals that made the other person feel. The primary teacher who shrinks from confrontation may feel extreme revulsion when two students get in each other’s faces on the playground. The playboy who fears a committed relationship is angered when his girlfriend says, “I love you.” The film buff feels he has been personally insulted because his best friend can’t stand his favourite movie.

So even when we react to someone else’s feelings, it’s an emotional response. We just can get away from feeling!

Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

While there’s no difference in what makes us feel and what makes us react to another person’s emotions, there is a significant difference in what we control. We can’t control how the other person feels or what those emotions cause him to do. But we can control how we choose to respond to our own knee-jerk reactions.

There’s a saying, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” And this same sort of philosophy applies to how we react to other people’s feelings. Sure, it’s disappointing when a friend rejects something that you think is the best thing since sliced bread. And you can’t help feeling a little crestfallen as a result. But that’s just the brain chemistry; it’s the pain. The suffering part is up to you.

Will you choose to recognize that your friend has a right not only to his own opinion but also his feelings? Will you let it go, and try to find a movie you can agree upon? Or will you choose instead to dwell upon the matter, complaining to other friends behind his back and expending energy trying to force your friend to watch similar movies in hopes that you can bring him around to your way of thinking?

That’s the suffering. You suffer because you refuse to let go of your hurt feelings. Your relationship with your friend suffers because you’re so busy trying to force-feed him similar content that you completely disregard his growing discomfort. Your friend suffers, of course because you are trying to silence him and you’re telling him that your feelings matter more than his. And in the long run, you can even damage your relationships with other friends who are made to suffer through your emotional tirades and listen to your mean-spirited critiques of someone they hold dear.

No, we can’t control how we feel. But we do control how we choose to express those emotions. We can choose the path of attempting to silence and overpower the other, or we can simply accept that no two people will have the same emotional response to a situation. All the emotions are valid and deserve our respect, and we can choose to behave in a way that we communicate that respect despite our differences. In the end, that’s really what makes the difference between the immature response of the toddler who has a tantrum every time she is told no, and the mature adult. Even though often, the adults around us don’t seem to have much control over how they respond to the emotions of others!

 

 

Respect for another person’s feelings is a measure of our emotional maturity


We can’t control our emotions but we choose our behaviour
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Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne



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  • Comments

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I think many times, that is the best thing to do. We can cool down before we speak, so we’ll be more capable of stating our feelings. And also of respecting one another 🙂

      2. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        You know, it is OK to have an emotional response if we are able to interact respectfully with the other. It’s just that if we become angry or upset, that isn’t likely to be the case….

    1. Profile photo of Gina  M. Menorca
      Gina M. Menorca

      I have an opinion to every situation but I choose when or how to react, it depends on the situation and timing. I believe in saying that “less talk less mistake”.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        That’s an interesting expression. We don’t have that one in English. I think the important thing for me is not to remain silent, but to think before we speak.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        But that’s exactly the kind of thinking I believe we need to get away from. Every person’s feelings are valid. Whether they seem appropriate to us or not. The problem most of us have is in judging the other person to be overreacting or “sensitive” if they have stronger feelings than we do. It’s a form of belittlement and suppression, really, to judge people so. Even if it is a subtle one.

    2. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
      Gil Camporazo

      I have to admit that I am a sensitive person. I get easily hurt when nobody is giving me attention when I am talking. It has given me a lot of painful experiences which have moulded me to be a strong, steadfast person. I was able to control it for good. It was what I did that counts and makes people getting better.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I have always seen you as sensitive, Gil. It may sometimes be a challenge to cope with how you feel in a given situation. But your sensitivity is worth it! It’s what makes you the romantic who writes such wonderful love stories about his wife 🙂

      2. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
        Gil Camporazo

        You’re not only a good writer but also a good psychologist. I know how romantic I am. My wife has told me about it. I always look after for her. My sensitiveness of her needs, of what she lacks compels me to satisfy her. finds all means to make her happy.

      3. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Not a psychologist by any means, but I do try to listen and watch. And most often, I am a good judge of character. I know you to be a hard-worker and a sensitive person because it comes out in the things you talk about and the way you approach a challenge. you are an honest person who doesn’t try to hide how he feels. That’s rare in this world, and is a thing we should celebrate.

    3. Profile photo of Coral Levang
      Coral Levang

      It is true that an expression of emotions, situations can either escalate or de-escalate. And, no matter how Adept someone is at communication, it can always be misunderstood and the person expressing their opinion or emotion can often be vilified by the receiver. Human beings are funny creatures.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        How true, Coral! Some people think with a jerk of the knee. They’ll project their own feelings on the speaker and imagine all sorts of ulterior motives, no matter what was said or how.

        People like this are only harming themselves and their own relationships with the people around them. Even if they believe themselves to be popular because they tend to jump on every passing bandwagon, they are often held in rather low regard by the people they think really admire them.

        Too much time spent imagining how everyone else “really” feels, and not enough practice at communicating their own emotions or listening to those of others with an open mind!

    4. Profile photo of BrendaMarieFluhartyClapp
      BrendaMarieFluhartyClapp

      I am sure many of us have run into people who have posted comments that want an emotional response. I have over the years. I have found the best thing to do is just not respond to it. That is just they way, I handle those types of things.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        You mean if someone is kind of trolling to provoke an emotional response? Yeah, best not to feed the trolls.

      2. Profile photo of BrendaMarieFluhartyClapp
        BrendaMarieFluhartyClapp

        Yes, Kyla, that is what I mean. I was once on a site that one person would just do this to everyone. This person cause many people to leave a good site.

      3. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I’ve known several people who would play the troll on different sites. That’s something I won’t tolerate in my own groups and on sites where I’m on staff. People think it’s very severe of me, but when someone starts trolling they aren’t going to stop. As a participant, the best thing to do is report the person and then ignore them. But when you’re the admin, you have to take action. It tends to stir up a huge fuss because these people are all too happy to blame everything on you and to shout their accusations from every rooftop. Meanwhile, you can’t very well discuss what happened with them because it really isn’t ethical. And they go trotting off to collect people to jump on their bandwagon.

        You never really win with the trolls once they’ve targeted you. But as a site owner or admin, sometimes the better part of valour is to allow them to take out their hostility on you in order to spare someone else.

    5. Profile photo of Deb Jones
      Deb Jones

      I’ve found that the times I’ve been most misunderstood in the intention of my message or response has been in writing. Delivery of sarcasm ( Of which I am a queen, but not a matter of pride) and humor often get lost in the delivery of a black-and-white message. Devoid of body language, voice inflection and more, the written communication method leaves a lot to be desired. It is because of this that I try to choose my words carefully, not wanting to unintentionally inflict angst on someone else.

      1. Profile photo of Coral Levang
        Coral Levang

        Deb… sometimes The Angst comes from within that person, so it’s not your problem. There are just some times that you can’t win! I say be your own sarcastic queen self that you are! I love you for it!

      2. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I know there are times when I feel ambivalent after reading something because I’m not sure of the writer’s intended tone. But then I ask. I try not to assume unless there’s been a sort of overall theme that sets the tone for the whole conversation.

        I also find that I am misunderstood as often when speaking in person as in print. But I’ve had certain people tell me they don’t like to use email (usually on their end) because of the potential to be misunderstood. Of course, often those are the same people who refuse to answer a direct question when asked and who even for business purposes will not send a letter. I have no reason to believe their reluctance to use a text-based medium for communication is anything more than a way to ensure there’s no record of the communication.

        A lot of times we’ve encountered this when asking for special needs services for our kids. I generally respond by refusing phone contact, other than to set up appointments, and recording all face-to-face meetings. They don’t like it, but they can’t avoid it either.

      3. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        @corallevang So true! There are a good many people in this world whose general modus operandi is to project their baggage onto others. There’s no way to effectively deal with such people – at least none that won’t overtax you emotionally and intellectually. Some people have an agenda when you speak to them, and they will do anything to further it. They aren’t listening at all, but rather responding to the answer they expected you to give (usually the one they would have given in your place.)

    6. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
      Rex Trulove

      I fully believe that a person should be assertive. Many people don’t really know what being assertive is, but it is simply expressing our emotions. The problem that many folks have in expressing their emotions is two fold; trying to force their emotions on someone else, which simply can’t be done, and expressing them in a hurtful way, which doesn’t need to happen. If someone invited me to dinner and one of the dishes was rutabaga, I might say something like, “I’m not very fond of rutabaga, but those potatoes look and smell fantastic!” As you might have guessed, I really don’t like rutabagas and they are one of the very few vegetables that I don’t like. Yet, even having said that I’m not fond of them, I’d try a small amount. I haven’t tried every way there is to prepare them so there could very well be a way that they can be made that I will like. Our emotions are continually under revision, after all.

      Care must simply be taken in regard to how we say things, particularly when we can’t see the other person’s face, body language or hear their voice. Both as a computer tech and working in restaurants, it was impressed upon me that even when correcting someone, the best way is to correct mildly and focus primarily on the positive. It tends to get through to people better. This doesn’t mean that a person can’t be assertive, either, because they are still expressing how they feel, they are merely focusing more on something good about the other person. There is such a things as being assertive in a loving way.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Gold star to you, Rex! (Although I’m now personally and mortally offended that you don’t absolutely ADORE rutabagas! I mean, how could you NOT love them? In fact, I had them last night for supper!)

        I agree 100% that assertiveness is most effective when expressed in a positive and respectful (if not loving) way. I’m usually pretty good about being assertive. But when I’m fed up with someone being rude or causing trouble, they are going to know it!

      2. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove

        The real problem is when the other person feels that you are the one being rude and causing problems. Who is right? God only knows. The best you can do is agree to disagree. For me, personally, I will sometimes accept that a disagreement is my fault, even when I don’t think it is. It might sound like that is the opposite of being assertive, but it isn’t. I’m simply acknowledging that I might have said something that could have been taken wrong. If I’m typing it, in a forum, in an article, in an email, I am fully aware that since I’m lacking 90% of normal communication, what I say could be taken in the wrong way and not in the way I meant. Can you or anyone else hurt my feelings? Of course. I’m human (contrary to what some have said. lol) Some of the best friends I ever had were people I initially had problems with, because of miscommunication. I’ll admit, grudgingly, that I was as much at fault as they were. It didn’t stop my feelings at the time, but assertiveness has absolutely nothing to do with aggressiveness. Being mild and humble is ALWAYS the best path to take, even when we don’t feel that way and even when I would much rather lash out.

        Hey, it happens. I allow people to upset me. From the bible, I’ve learned that when I do, it is my problem, not theirs. If I harbor ill will, it affects me, it doesn’t affect them. For me to achieve peace, I must forgive them, while being assertive at the same time. It can be done, mostly by taking ownership of the problem. I’m sure that a lot of people like rutabagas. I’m just not one of them. I’m sincerely sorry if that disappoints you and there is every chance that someday, I’ll taste a way that they’ve been fixed that I actually enjoy. By all means, enjoy your rutabagas. I’m very glad that you do! (Example. That is being assertive while also being humble.)

      3. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Very much agreed that aggression and assertiveness are not the same thing. And yes, sometimes yielding is the best choice. Of course, there’s also a difference between actually yielding and pretending to back down in order to call more attention to a minor disagreement.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I always try to frame it as a matter of respect, rather than right or wrong. I will repeat myself if necessary when someone tries to downplay or discount what I’ve said. That is simply NEVER OK. But they can disagree to their heart’s content, as long as they express themselves respectfully 🙂

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        It didn’t sound dirty until you mentioned it might! 😛

        I’m glad I found a PROPER friend who will share my love of rutabagas. Cuz you know Rex is just an old poo head for not liking them….

    7. Profile photo of Sandy KS
      Sandy KS

      We can not control our own feelings. It is silly to try and control other people feelings. When people have hurt feelings. They need to talk about what happen. Both need to be open and honest without accusing or name calling the other. Communication needs to be open. One or both parties need to apologize. Phrases or sentences need to start with “I feel you were too harsh in your reply.” Instead of ” You are too controlling.”

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        So true, Sandy! We all need to take responsibility for our own feelings. If I said something that hurt you, then you need to say so and give me the chance to respond. It’s the best way to feed and care for a friendship. Pointing fingers, making value judgements like “you take things too seriously,” and especially talking about someone behind their back are all great ways to destroy more than one friendship.

        When people come to tell me harsh things about a mutual friend, the first thing I usually do is ask the person if they’ve told the person how they feel. (Not “I think you were too harsh in judging the movie” but “I was hurt when you said the movie was B-rate.”) Almost 100% of the time, the answer is no.

        The next thing I ask is, “If you would say these things to me about X, what do you tell her about me when I’m not around?” That usually shocks people. Because then they realize there’s a darned good reason to ask it.

        I understand that we all sometimes need to vent when we’re upset. But venting is a private thing, done with one trusted person, where nobody else will hear. When the venting gets put all over someone’s FB, Twitter, personal blog, or told at the weekly coffee klatch, it’s just mean-spirited gossip.

      2. Profile photo of Sandy KS
        Sandy KS

        I have to agree with that. As when I got into it with a sibling. The sibling blocked me and talked trash all over social media. When I found out, the sibling apologize saying they were venting. The sibling did remove the post after a few days. Yet, the intend of harm was already done. People remember the bad things they read about others long after it is removed from the internet.

      3. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Exactly! Sometimes that’s the express intent of a person who feels slighted. And even if they really were just venting, you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. Once you speak ill of another person in public, you’ve harmed both them and yourself. It doesn’t reflect well on someone to rant behind another person’s back.

        That’s a thing silly teenagers do, and we try to teach them not to. When adults engage in that kind of thing, it just makes them look like ill-mannered and overgrown children. I get kind of embarrassed for the other person when I see a friend doing that, and I end up just giving them a wide berth as a result.

      4. Profile photo of Sandy KS
        Sandy KS

        When I notice it happening I do try and pass the post on social media. When it gets mention among friends, I calmly say I must of missed that. Or I haven’t been on Facebook much.

      5. Profile photo of Coral Levang
        Coral Levang

        But even then some people will insist on being apologized to, when the other doesn’t feel that any apology is necessary. I think it’s wrong for anybody to expect that someone else is going to do something simply because they want them to.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        That’s an interesting mnemonic. I hadn’ heard that one before, but it harmonizes with what I’ve learned from both formal training and personal experience. We sometimes just need to put things into perspective before we try to express ourselves.

    8. Profile photo of Priscilla King
      Priscilla King

      I think I may actually have discovered it myself…back in the 1990s when clueless people thought they could dismiss women’s complaints with “I understand you feeeel…” and I’d say, “No, dear child. We are not talking about ‘feelings’. We are talking about some *facts* that *you* need to *do* something about,” and at least get transferred to the person who was in a position to do that thing. Eventually it condensed down in my brain to five F’s. Someone else may have stumbled across them before but I’ve not found it in other books/blogs since.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Awesome! Yes, feelings are very important and we should give them the expression they deserve. But we should not confuse facts with feelings. Nor should a well-founded complaint about something be dismissed as “just” someone’s feelings.

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