This is part six in my six-part series on how to communicate with people in distress.
Some people in distress make silly mistakes that invite criticism and rejection. They second-guess their abilities and begin to believe they are not worthwhile, and it shows in their behavior. Whether they are putting themselves down or worrying about what bad thing might happen to them next, they expect to be hurt and rejected eventually. Consequently, they avoid making decisions, or make bad decisions that invite negative attention.
The back story
Behind the scenes, people who make silly mistakes and loose confidence often are questioning their own worthiness and likability. What they really need is positive recognition for who they are as a person, no strings attached. They want to know they are loved unconditionally. They thrive on close relationships, community and support. These people are naturally compassionate, sensitive, and warm. They seek harmony and positive emotional experiences.
When their boundaries are crossed or bad things happen, compassionate and sensitive people face a dilemma with anger. Inside they may feel angry about how they’ve been treated but don’t speak up. They stuff the anger in order to keep the peace, worried that if they did express it they would be rejected and ruin the harmony in a relationship.
Anger turned inward often turns into self-loathing and depression. Instead of asserting their boundaries and needs with those who might have crossed a line, these people begin to believe that they deserve the bad things that happen to them. Their behavior can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Only when they can assertively express authentic anger in close relationships can they own their own worthiness and become more healthy.
If this is you
- Remember, you are worthwhile and OK, no matter how others respond to you.
- Your needs matter just as much as anyone else’s.
- It’s OK to be angry and express it in healthy ways. It’s one way to show that you value yourself and the people you care about.
- Surround yourself with people who love you, care about you, and are willing to confront you without rejecting you.
- Tend to your sensory needs. Creature comforts that nurture the senses are great battery charges!
- Show you care through personal words of affirmation, empathy, and concern.
- Ask personal questions about family, friendships, and feelings. Then listen.
- Tell them they matter to you as a person, no strings attached.
- When they express anger, treat it with great care and respect. It’s one of the hardest things for them to do.
This article is part three in a series on how to communicate with people in distress, starting with six tips for staying sane when others are acting crazy. Read all six articles to discover why people act the way they do in distress, and how you can communicate to make a positive difference.
This series is based on our work using the Process Communication Model, a research-tested framework for understanding and communicating with different personality types, in and out of distress.