A Simple Strategy for Dealing with Hurtful Comments

In life, we are constantly bombarded by messages and comments by others. While some of these messages are kind and supportive, others unfortunately may be hurtful. The messages we take in from others can impact how we view ourselves as well as our mood. So, the more negative messages we take to heart, the more at risk we are of low self-worth, depression, and anxiety.

Unfortunately we can’t control what other people say to us. Luckily, there is a simple trick to help minimize the impact of people’s hurtful comments.

Allow me to introduce to you, the Filter vs Sponge Method.

What comes to mind when you think of a sponge? What does it do? A sponge absorbs whatever it comes into contact with. It can’t differentiate between good and bad, it just takes on more and more and more. And when it can’t take on any more? It starts to leak.

Being a sponge means we take to heart every single thing that is said to us, be it positive, neutral, hurtful, or unhelpful. We carry those messages inside us until they become so heavy and overwhelming that we start to “emotionally

leak”. Emotional leaking might look like crying, snapping at a loved one, or leaving work early because we feel too overwhelmed. We do not want to be sponges.

Instead, we want to be filters. While filters can’t control what they take in, they do get to choose what stays and what goes. They let go of the bad and hold onto the good. This is what we want to be. If we let all messages pass through us, we’re missing out on the nice comments from others that make us feel good about ourselves! Being a filter is an opportunity for mindfulness, checking in with ourselves and asking honestly if a comment is helpful or unhelpful. If it is helpful or supportive, we hold onto it. If it’s unhelpful or hurtful, we let it go.

Next time someone makes a negative comment about you, ask yourself if you are being a sponge or a filter. If you find yourself absorbing their comment and taking it to heart, acknowledge (with self-compassion) that you’re acting as a sponge in that moment and remind yourself to be a filter. Picture that filter in your mind and imagine the hurtful comment flowing through your filter and being released. While it might not take away all of the hurt the comment made, it can certainly reduce the intensity of the sting.

As with any new skill, it takes some time and practice. But the more you practice, the easier this will become until off-handed, negative comments from others will have little to no effect on you.

If you are interested in other strategies, please reach out to me! I am here to be a support to you and to teach you how to be a bigger support to yourself as well.

And if you'd like to speak to someone and get some guidance and much-needed perspective, please reach out to Tamar Kaplan.

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