The words of others matter.
We care about what our nearest and dearest think of us, and we care about what complete strangers think of us.
And the words they say — both to our faces and behind our backs — can hurt if we let them.
But you have the power to not let those words affect you.
Let me show you how with these nine hacks.
How Do Words Affect Us?
Despite what the old “sticks and stones” rhyme may have taught you, words hurt.
Other people’s words affect us because we don’t like to be judged, so we constantly worry about what people think and say about us and carefully curate the image we want to portray to the world.
But as human beings, we all have different principles, beliefs, and values, and throughout our lifetime, we inevitably meet people with different points of view, thoughts, or opinions.
This can lead to conflict and disagreement if you care too much what other people think of you.
But caring too much about what others think is disempowering — it gives others power over you and has the potential to ruin your day or hold you back from doing something that’s important to you.
How Do You Not Let Other People’s Words Affect You?
If you’re sensitive to the words of others, follow these nine tips to not let other people’s words affect you so much.
1. No-one Can Hurt You Without Your Permission
The first thing to remember when someone says something hurtful to you is that they are only words, which can’t survive if you don’t let them.
Humans have analytical minds that tend to take on board the words of others and assimilate them into our own negative self-talk.
This becomes a vicious cycle which feeds your insecurities, fears, worries, and anger and can negatively affect your wellbeing.
Fortunately, it’s possible to break this cycle by reminding yourself that they are just thoughts.
A good way to do this is to bring awareness to your negative thoughts and then challenge them.
When a negative thought comes up, notice it and ask yourself whether it’s true and if there is any evidence or basis for this belief.
Usually, you will find there is none.
Then, ask yourself where this belief came from.
You may well realize it came not from your own mind, but from something someone said to or about you.
2. Stand Up for Yourself
Have you ever been in a situation where someone said something about you that you didn’t like, but you didn’t say anything to defend yourself?
Perhaps you held back to be polite, to avoid making a scene, or because you were shy.
Whatever the reason, it probably left you feeling frustrated and angry and may have been a blow to your self-confidence.
Standing up for yourself isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
This simple action will help you to get rid of your internal negativity and increase your self-confidence and mental toughness — which will make you more resilient to other people’s opinions in the future.
3. Remember Words Have Personal Interpretations
Language is an amazing thing — it allows us to communicate our complex human experiences with one another.
But language is also complex and characterized by subtle shades of meaning or expression.
We all have different meanings and values we place on certain words — my personal interpretation of a particular word may be different from yours.
Words can bring up different emotions depending on the situation, your upbringing, or memories associated with that word.
If a certain word triggers you, try to be aware of the causes, and be open to the possibility that the other person didn’t intend to offend you.
4. Don’t Take It Personally
When a person says something negative that affects your feelings, try not to take it personally.
Often, it’s more a reflection of them than it is of you — people who are unhappy or frustrated may snap at you because they are experiencing negative emotions that make them feel upset or uncomfortable.
For example, they may be going through a rough time or simply be in a bad mood.
Remember that if someone hurts others it’s because they themselves are hurting, but don’t know how to deal with it — doing so can help prevent their words from affecting you.
5. Give Yourself Time Before Reacting
Emotions are signals from your body — or subconscious mind — to your conscious mind.
We can’t control emotions since they are reactions to external triggers — i.e., events that happen out in the world — and internal triggers — i.e., our own thoughts.
Although you can’t control them, it doesn’t mean you should react to your emotions.
Instead, give them time to run their course and subside, since this is the nature of emotions.
Understanding this enables you to observe your emotions and then respond instead of reacting.
When you respond, rather than blaming the other person for their behavior, use “I” statements to express your feelings.
6: Remove Toxic People
You deserve peace and joy in your life.
You have no obligation to share your life with people who bring you down, steal your vital energy, or look down on you.
If there’s someone in your life you don’t like, you have every right to remove them and make space for more positive people.
They say you are the sum of the five people you spend most time with, so surrounding yourself with positive and enriching people will raise your vibration and help you become the best possible version of yourself.
7: Meditation, Yoga, Diet, and Exercise
Meditation is a practice that will help you maintain good mental health and emotional balance, giving you more control over your reactions to other people’s words.
Yoga and exercise can increase your mental and physical wellbeing by releasing feel-good hormones such as endorphins.
These hormones help balance your brain chemistry and stabilize your mood, making you more able to deal with negative or unpleasant comments.
Diet also plays an important role in regulating your mood, since 95% of the mood-enhancing hormone serotonin is produced in your gut.
Gut health is therefore vital for mental wellbeing and resilience. Aim to eat a wide range of vegetables and fruits, and avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and anything fried or pre-prepared.
8: Identify the Hidden Emotional Pain
People often lash out at others due to a subconscious emotional pain — they’re not actually reacting to you, they’re reacting to something from their past.
The pain might be caused by past trauma, insufficient or inadequate love from their parents when they were a child, frustration with unfulfilled hopes or needs, or grief.
Recognizing this and empathizing with them can help prevent you feeling hurt by their negative comments.
But it’s also important to identify your own inner pain, so you can notice when something triggers it.
This awareness of your triggers helps you be less reactive to the words of others and heal your inner wounds so that you no longer get triggered.
9: Practice Self-Compassion
Self-compassion has three components:
- Common humanity
Through self-kindness, you can remind yourself that the only opinion about you that matters is yours.
Common humanity brings awareness to the fact that your suffering is shared by all other humans.
Mindfulness helps you stay aware of your emotions and those of others, which helps you not be affected by them.
By practicing all three, you can improve your mental strength and learn to let other people’s words slide off you like a river running over a stone.
What would you do if your spoken words hurt someone?
Prevention is better than the cure, so it’s important to stop these emotional outbursts before they happen in order to avoid hurting others.
Some of the tips given above, which focus on working on your own inner pain, can help make you less reactive and prevent you from saying hurtful things.
Start a path of self-awareness and healing of your inner wounds to avoid hurting others with your words.
Never using an accusatory tone when in disagreement with someone, and instead focusing on your own feelings can be more constructive than blaming.
Practicing yoga, mindfulness, and self-compassion can give you greater compassion for others and help you use non-violent language.
However, we are only human, and it is inevitable to slip up from time to time.
If you inadvertently hurt someone with your words, the first thing to do is apologize to them, explain your behavior, and let it be a lesson on how to behave in future.
The words of others only have power over you if you let them.
By implementing these nine hacks, you can find greater peace, harmony, and understanding in all your relationships.
Let me know how it goes!