I think the reality is that we’ve all hurt someone at some point in our lives
It comes with the territory when you’re only human.
We often don’t set out to do it. In some instances, we may not even realize we have until it’s too late.
Here are some signs that you may have unintentionally hurt someone in your life.
1) Their face says it all
Sometimes we don’t have to look very far to get a read on what’s going on with someone.
It’s plastered all over their face.
In the moment you say something or do something to offend, it might be quite apparent they’re not very pleased with you.
According to research, anger, disgust, sadness, and contempt are among 7 universal facial expressions that are hardwired into us.
Non-verbal communication is incredibly significant in allowing us to understand one another.
So chances are, you will spot that something is up as soon as you see them.
2) They have been giving you the cold shoulder
They seem to have done a disappearing act on you.
Every attempt you make to meet up with them is met with excuses and reasons why they can’t.
Sure, they could just be busy. If this is the only sign on our list that you recognize, the chances are that could be the case.
But depending on how persistent you’ve already been, there might be more to it.
If they constantly decline your invitations and never approach you to try to arrange anything, there may be a bigger problem to resolve.
3) They don’t return your calls or messages
It’s a tricky one. Modern tech means we’re always connected, but it can make us super sensitive too.
If we don’t hear back from someone right away, we may assume something is wrong, even when it’s not.
Not long ago my boyfriend was worried that a friend of his may have been angry at him, as he didn’t reply to either of the two messages he sent.
I told him that before he jumped to conclusions, just to send another saying “Hey, I’m sure you’re just busy, but wanted to check if all is okay?”.
Turn out, his buddy was just busy, and not upset with him.
Having said that, any obvious change in communication habits can be a really big clue about how someone is feeling about you.
If you have called or messaged several times, and still no reply, it does seem strange.
4) They’re still speaking to you but they seem more distant
It’s not that they’ve been blanking you altogether, but you are suddenly getting a far frostier reception.
Their responses to you (either in person or by message) are shorter than usual.
They seem less chatty and warm.
Instead, there is a disconnect that you cannot seem to bridge.
Specifically, they’re not being this way with anyone else. So you know it’s not just a change in their mood generally, it’s aimed at you.
5) They no longer open up to you about intimate things
Once upon a time, you were their biggest confidant.
They always told you everything, and you were usually the first to know.
You had a close enough relationship to share each other’s secrets and seek advice. But now, they seem more guarded.
They have put up walls around themself and their life.
It seems like they no longer trust you.
The question is, have you done anything that may have broken their trust and left them feeling betrayed?
6) They avoid eye contact with you
I remember once a friend of mine felt hurt because she had thought I’d left her out of plans.
She’d actually gotten the wrong end of the stick (I blame social media for the misunderstanding!)
But anyway, the very first sign that she was in a mood with me was when I bumped into her at a yoga class.
“Hi, how are you?” I said as I spotted her in the room and positioned my yoga mat next to hers.
She mumbled something about being fine and gave some sort of excuse about going to find more space near the front of the class.
But here’s the thing:
Throughout the whole exchange, she didn’t meet my gaze once.
Eye contact gives a lot away, especially when we avoid making it at all costs.
7) They have unfollowed you on social media
Here’s another true story for you:
The first clue I got that another friend was mad at me (I swear, I’m not constantly falling out with people!) was when she unfollowed me on Facebook.
Rather awkwardly, I’d only noticed after we were in a group chat with another friend who wanted to arrange a meet-up.
So convinced that it must be some sort of weird mistake, I messaged to ask if something was up.
I was totally shocked by her reply to say that I had unwittingly offended her.
We’d been friends for many years, even though I hadn’t seen her in quite some time.
Of all the people in my life, I’d have expected her to come to me directly with any problem she had to try to talk it out.
But no. Despite the seemingly childish tactic, some people prefer to make their frustrations clear by unfollowing you.
Much like the next point on our list, it’s a pretty passive-aggressive move.
8) They’re behaving passive-aggressively
Passive aggression tends to seep in when we cannot find our voice to say how we really feel.
So to compensate for a lack of healthy communication skills, we let our irritations out in more subtle ways.
Expect they’re not usually that subtle at all.
- Cutting sarcasm
- Making mean “jokes”
- Giving the silent treatment
These are all good examples of ways that some people like to make their point, without openly addressing an issue.
When someone is passive-aggressive to you, there’s a good chance you can sense their underlying hostility.
9) They’ve been bad-mouthing you behind your back
People gossip for all sorts of reasons. A lot of it is pretty unkind.
There may be an evolutionary function to it, with experts suggesting it’s how we bond socially and warn people off unsavory members of society.
But that doesn’t make it right.
9 times out of 10 it’s just a way to put people down to feel better about ourselves, or simply to vent our frustrations.
Of course, rather than speaking to other people about you, they should be talking to you about it.
But word may get back to you that they’ve been bad-mouthing you when you’re not around.
10) They’re giving off more guarded body language
I mentioned how eye contact (or lack of it) can give the game away, as well as someone’s facial expressions.
Similarly, their body language can also offer clues.
If they are feeling closed off, you might well see it whenever they’re around you.
They may close their arms or appear tense — with a clenched jaw, pursed lips, or tight shoulders.
They may stand or sit further away from you than normal, in an attempt to keep their distance.
It’s a protective move. Our physical space is something we only allow people into when we feel good around them.
11) People have told you that you’re sometimes insensitive or lacking in tact
We shouldn’t automatically take on board everyone else’s opinions of us. Not everyone gets a say.
But the feedback of those who know us most matters.
If we want to grow as people, we have to be open to taking into account other people’s perceptions of us.
They can sometimes see our blindspots that we may be missing.
Let’s get something straight: Absolutely anybody can hurt someone.
But the reality is that you may be more inclined to do so if you are lacking in certain qualities, such as:
- Good communication skills
- Sensiivity and empathy
Because the less mindful we are of others, the greater the chance of putting our foot in our mouths or acting in ways that offend.
12) Something just feels off in your relationship
Ultimately, you may just have a strong gut feeling that something is up.
Sure, sometimes it can be paranoia. That’s why it’s important to confirm rather than make assumptions and jump to conclusions.
But our instincts can be powerful.
We’re experts at gauging situations and picking up on silent undercurrents.
So even when someone doesn’t come right out and tell you that they’re upset with you, maybe you can just sense it.
Whilst our intuition alone isn’t always enough to make well-rounded judgments, it certainly provides vital clues that can steer us.
What should you do if you’ve unintentionally hurt someone?
You’ve pretty much confirmed it. After checking these signs, you feel certain that you have unintentionally hurt someone.
So now what?
Take these steps to make amends.
1) Talk to them
It’s time to directly ask them: Have I done something to offend you?
2) Try to understand where they’re coming from
Empathy and compassion are your friends in this situation. You may not have intended to hurt them. You may have been oblivious to the fact. But start by seeing things from their side.
3) Say sorry
Whether we meant to upset someone or not, a sincere apology can go a long way.
4) Ask them what they need from you
If you realize that you were in the wrong you probably want to make things right. Show them this by asking them what you can do.
5) Reflect on lessons for the future
Misunderstandings and disagreements are an unavoidable part of life. But we get better at handling conflict when we can reflect on and learn from our mistakes.