Wendy's Blog

wendy keller motivational speakerHow One Dumb Question Can Totally Change Your Relationship with Anyone

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ometimes, people say just the dumpest things, don’t they?  They hurt our feelings, insult our intelligence, wound our dignity, poke at our frailties and a whole bunch of other bad things.

So here’s a question: Are you brave enough to ask?

Are you brave enough to ask the person what they meant by what they said?  How they wanted you to take it?  If what you think they meant is what they meant?

It’s hard to do. In fact, the closer the relationship, the more challenging it is.  But finding the courage to do it, well, that can change your whole life.


I had a friend call me in a panic because as he was walking down the hall, he passed his boss. His boss, normally a cheerful guy, looked at him with what my friend considered to be an angry glance and said nothing to him.

My friend was worried he was going to lose his job!  He’d heard rumors the company was being sold.

Turns out, he later discovered (accidentally) that his boss was just having a really bad day personally.

What made me even think about this topic?  Today, I was driving with a friend when he said in a somewhat harsh tone, “You always do that!”  I felt like it was meant to be the first volley in an argument, but I couldn’t understand why.  I drove in utter silence for a few miles, feeling hurt and attacked.

Then I remembered this tip about summoning the courage to ask. Gosh, it’s hard to do.  But I didn’t want to look like the comment even hurt me, because after all, isn’t that how little kids learn to avoid the bullies?  But my friend isn’t a bully (or he wouldn’t be my friend!)  So I screwed up my courage and asked politely, “What did you mean by that?”

“By what?” he asked.

“Telling me I “always” do that.”

“Oh,” he said, “You do.  I wish I had that same character trait.”


What could have turned into a really bad luncheon with a really good friend suddenly dissipated. I started thinking about the reasons I overreacted to what he said:

  1. I worry that I have too much of that character trait (assertiveness)
  2. I worry that people think negatively of me (sorry, I’m human!)
  3. I worry that perhaps my friendship isn’t as strong as I had assumed
  4. My ego was on the line (Often, that’s why any of us aren’t humble enough to ask!)

How many times do you just suck in a barb – or what you think is a barb – and let it fester?

How many times do you just think, “Oh, he’s having a bad day” and not confront negative or hurtful behavior – nipping it in the bud – and speaking up for yourself?

How many times do you not take matters into your own hands and instead just try to see how much pain you can take…until you explode?

The next time a family member, friend or colleague says something that you perceive as hurtful, why not test your mettle and simply, calmly, politely say, “Can you please explain what you meant by that comment?”  There’s a 95% chance what you heard is not what they meant.

When you’re ready, please help yourself to this comforting, helpful eBook

Stop Hurting and Start Healing





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