Soulasphyx said...What do you do when someone you love or care about says something along the lines of "I don't care about you"
Hi Soulasphyx! Much of what determines how I will respond (as opposed to "react") depends upon the context.
Assumption: I care about the other person and the relationship.
Assumption: I want to resolve the conflict if possible and continue the relationship.
Assumption: I am sane and sober, and the other person is sane and sober.
WARNING: If any of the three assumptions above are not fully correct, then it makes little sense to attempt the following suggestions and approach.
Without knowing the specific context around the statement, I will share with you a general approach that I use to better understand the person who is saying something harsh to me.
My purpose is to get to the root cause of the person's feelings, as well as to know what feelings the person is having, and what were the "triggers" that produced these feelings.
Using your example, if someone said to me (out of the blue), "I don't care about you", my response would be to ask questions to determine why they don't care about me.
"Gosh, I care about you. Can you give me more detail on why you're feeling the way you are?" I don't argue with the person, because feelings are feelings and they are real even if the cause is a misunderstanding. Depending upon the situation, I may start by making a statement of caring for the person as a foundation for discovering the real meaning and reasons behind the statement.
I then listen. I don't interrupt. As I listen, I try to gauge the merit of what the person is sharing. I also try to see things from their point of view...even if what they are telling me is mistaken, misunderstood, misinformed, or just plain wrong.
When they are done, I may also ask, "What else? Is there anything else? I want to encourage the other person to get it all out. At the same time, I do not want to have the other person "going on forever". This is especially true if they are getting emotional.
If the other person's comments begin to get overly emotional, I try to get the person's attention for a moment and I look them in the eye, I smile softly if I can, and I whisper some calming words such as "I'm listening to you. Slow down. Relax. We'll get through this together. I love you." I want the person to communicate what they are feeling, and I want my own emotional boundaries respected. I am not a furry lidded garbage can that can be dumped on, nor am I going to be verbally abused as a part of any conflict resolution process.
Once the other person is done, I may respond with a brief "What I heard that you are feeling is ..... And, what I heard is that .... is what is causing these feelings." kind of statement. I want to make sure that the other person knows that I heard them and that I am "on the same page". I'm not trying to get all the details right, just the overall context of the root cause of the feelings.
Then, whether or not I find merit with what they have said, I reiterate my caring for them, acknowledge their feelings, and possibly provide some sort of apology if I feel it in my heart. "I care about you, and I want to work this out with you. I'm sorry if anything I've said or done has hurt you, I have no ill will in my heart for you. Any hurt that you may feel from what I have said or done is unintentional." I'm not saying I was in the wrong, I'm just saying that I'm sorry that they are hurting because of something they perceived that I said or did.
Naturally, if I was wrong. Now is also the time to just say it. "You're right, I was wrong." can be one of the most disarming and powerful statements that you can make, if you mean it, and if you want to work towards the restoration of good relations.
I then do some "check-in" and see if there is some buy-in on resolving the conflict. "Can you forgive any hurt you feel? Do you want to work this out with me?" I'm not necessarily claiming blame. I am probing to see if there is the ability and willingness to forgive any perceived insult and to work towards restoration of good relations. If the other person does not answer positively towards these questions, the dialogue will probably not produce a restoration of good relations. If this is the case, it is probably best to find a way to politely end the conversation and include some sort of "Let me touch base with you again at and see how you're feeling and if you want to work things out."
If the other person has the ability and willingness to forgive and work things out, then suggest an issue to work through first. After reiterating the issue and the "trigger", here is where it is time to start sharing your viewpoint. It might be a misunderstanding. It might be misinformation. It might just be a mistake. It could be that you now have more insight and you might share that, "I just didn't know that this meant to you. Now that I know, I can so that you don't feel that way anymore."
Occasionally, check-in. "How are you doing?", "Do you know that I love you?". If it is appropriate, sitting closer, touching or holding your friend's hand, getting the person some water or doing some other nice thing can help. Be careful not to get into any "make up sex" too soon before working through the issues to common understanding. If you fail to address the issues and patch it over with make up sex, the issues will resurface and the hurt will continue.
If the conversation is not going well, or you really don't understand your friend or partner's point of view. Perhaps you may need to get a third party counselor or therapist involved.
If you've gotten this far, thanks for taking the time to read this very long post. I hope that there are some suggestions that you might find value in applying. I wish you the best in working through any rough patches with your friend or partner so that you both may enjoy a long-time friendship that is stronger and more fulfilling.
Aloha and Be Well!