People who mean well but still end up hurting others tend to have these 7 character traits

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One would think that as long as you have good intentions, you can’t go wrong, right?

Unfortunately, the reality is rarely as simple as that. In fact, there are plenty of people who mean well but still end up hurting others.

I know what I’m talking about. Just recently, I’ve gone through this exact situation. While my intentions were good, my actions caused unnecessary hurt, and although it wasn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, the guilt was still unbearable.

After having thought about it in more depth, I’ve come to realize that people who mean well but accidentally wound other people tend to share some specific character traits.

These are the 7 main ones.

1) They don’t think through the consequences of their actions

Here’s how it all went down: I decided to go ahead and do something without telling my close friend.

Why?

I didn’t want to worry her. And so I withheld specific information on purpose until after the fact. When I did finally share the story with her, she ended up crying because she felt very hurt by the fact that I had essentially lied to her.

I felt terrible.

Ever since it happened, I’ve been asking myself, “How could I have been so stupid so as to think she’d rather not know? I knew she valued trust and honesty above all else. How could I have chosen to go down this path?”

I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is rather simple. I just didn’t think. I latched onto my good intention – “She’d worry, it’s better to say a white lie now and the full truth later” – and didn’t bother to think beyond that.

Did I think about whether she’d be hurt by my actions? No.

Did I take her character and values into consideration when choosing to do what I did? No.

My desire not to worry her was stronger than my reason, and so I chose to listen to it.

I’ve now learned the hard lesson that taking all possible consequences into consideration before making a decision is of the utmost importance.

2) They don’t weigh their words before they speak

Words can hurt as much as actions, if not more.

Growing up, my mum would sometimes ask me if I really needed to have another chocolate bar or if I considered going to the gym.

Her intentions were good – she wanted me to be healthy – but the way she went about it made me feel awful. It only took one comment for me to spiral, and before I knew it, I was obsessed with my weight and every meal I ate.

You might mean well when you try to nudge people in a direction you think would be beneficial to them, however, this strategy can often backfire.

If you use the wrong words or press the issue too much, the person in question may do the exact opposite of what you want just out of spite or they might feel even worse about themselves.

Tread carefully. Think through your words before you speak – they can have monumental consequences.

3) They abide by the golden rule

When I was younger, I was taught the power of the golden rule – do onto others as you would have them done onto you.

When I discovered the rule, I thought I’d cracked the code. Surely, as long as I’d stick to it, I’d never hurt anyone and get along with all my friends just fine.

Unfortunately, the truth is a lot more complex than that. In fact, the golden rule is a very simplified way to view human relationships. This is because everyone reacts differently to the same set of circumstances. 

Let’s say you have two friends, Kylie and Sarah.

When Kylie is having a breakdown, she needs a bit of blunt honesty to snap herself out of it and stop drowning in self-pity.

When Sarah is crying, though, blunt honesty would make her feel even worse. It’s better to be gentle, compassionate, and delicate.

This is essentially why the golden rule doesn’t work. You can’t judge other people based on your own personality. You have to factor in their own character traits and past experiences.

4) They push other people when they shouldn’t

Do you know that feeling when you can see someone struggling to combat their fear and all you want is to push them just a tiny bit so that they can take the leap and see it’s not so scary after all?

“Come on,” you think to yourself. “You’re so close. Just go ahead and do it.”

When the person in question decides to let their fear win and steps back, you can’t help but feel resigned.

The problem is that pushing them – telling them to just “suck it up and do it” or bringing it up at every opportunity so that they feel more “motivated” to finally reach their full potential – rarely works.

Similarly to what I’ve described above, too much pressure can completely backfire, and what’s more, you may accidentally overstep people’s boundaries and make them feel uncomfortable.

Remember that your friendships with others should feel like a safe space. If someone needs a bit of encouragement, it’s amazing to give them that, but don’t push it too much.

We all need to figure stuff out at our own pace.

5) They don’t know when to mind their business

On a similar note, it’s very common for people who care deeply about their close ones to poke their nose into their business a bit too much.

From asking about the same thing over and over again to giving unsolicited advice, your actions may end up annoying or even wounding the other person no matter how good your intentions are.

When your friend’s in distress because of something that happened at work, you don’t need to try and solve it all for them. All they might want is emotional support, not someone who fixes their whole life.

When your sister’s struggling in her romantic relationship, it’s good to ask guiding questions and inquire about her well-being, but if you judge her or give her unsolicited advice every time you see each other, she may stop confiding in you altogether.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for someone you love is to leave them be. Give them the respect and privacy they deserve.

In other words, mind your own business.

6) Their intentions and actions are in misalignment

Another trait people who mean well but end up hurting others share is that they don’t make their intentions very clear, which means that their behavior may be at odds with how they’re feeling.

If you really fancy someone but never try to connect with them and you look away each time they glance your way, they will think you dislike them and will feel rejected instead of starting a passionate romance with you.

If you feel vulnerable and scared when in an argument with your partner but remain quiet instead of voicing how you feel, they’ll think you don’t care.

It takes guts to own your truth and act in accordance with your feelings, I’m not going to lie.

If you cower inside of yourself, though, you won’t only act in an inauthentic manner but you might also accidentally hurt the ones you love because your intentions and feelings won’t be clear at all.

Show up as who you truly are. You and the people who love you deserve that.

7) They project their self-dislike onto others

Finally, some people who accidentally wound others don’t have a great relationship with their own sense of self.

This doesn’t apply to everyone, of course. I’d say I like myself quite a lot, and yet I managed to hurt my friend because I didn’t think through the consequences of my actions.

However, it is possible that you may hurt other people simply because you have low self-esteem, and so even if you do mean well, you might assume that they are either much more confident than they truly are (because you compare their behavior to yours) or that their perception of themselves is similar to yours (because you project your self-dislike onto them).

In the first case, you could accidentally put them in situations they aren’t comfortable with because you thought they’d enjoy it (such as public speaking).

In the latter case, you might hold them back from taking on new challenges because you worry that failure would shatter them (but in reality, that’s just how you feel about yourself).

The solution to all the traits described above?

Empathy.

When you’re about to do or say something, don’t automatically assume people will react to it in the same way you would. Instead, take a moment and think about who they are, what they value, and how your friendship works.

Don’t do unto others as you would have them done unto you.

Do onto them as you think they would want to be done unto.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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