When someone shares their experience, believe them.

I hope for many of you reading this, the title of this post seems like complete common sense. However, there are many examples of a person being brave enough to share their “day in the life”, only to get shut down.

I think this happens often because people are quick to get defensive. For example, if I share with a man that I feel men are more likely to interrupt me than women, that person might feel I’m insulting them personally. A typical response that follows is, “NOT ALL MEN!”. It’s not that said person necessarily means to invalidate what I’m saying, but it’s a knee jerk reaction. Just because it’s not intentional, however, doesn’t mean it’s not hurtful.

The question that always pops into my head when you hear denials of things like sexism, racism, and homophobia is, “Why would someone lie?”.

No one really stands to gain anything that’s worth the backlash from making up an experience that falls under one of those categories. What they’re sharing is how they’re perceiving the world. Even if it’s not how you would experience the same situation, it’s still valid.

If your Black friend tells you that you’ve made a racist comment, believe them. If a woman tells you that she’s being made to feel uncomfortable, take her word for it. It’s respectful – and kind. If you find yourself responding with defensive and dismissive comments inside of support, check in with yourself and see what’s going on for you. Therapy is super helpful here!

This can also be applied on a smaller level in your own relationships.

You know the drill. A loved one tells you that a comment you made or an action you took (or didn’t take) has hurt their feelings. You, being a nice person who would never intentionally hurt anyone, gets upset. That’s absolutely not how you meant it, and so your first reaction is to dismiss it. They’re wrong. There’s no reason for them to feel bad. It’s all in their head. They’re being irrational.

But has that ever worked?

Please let me know if that approach has ever resolved anything, because from both my personal and professional experience, all it does is lead to a bigger fight.

If someone tells you that they’re bothered by something you did, believe them. Don’t tell them they’re wrong. They’re not. That’s their experience, and that’s their perspective. It’s valid. Again I ask, why would they lie?

It’s not easy to get in the habit of self reflection and acceptance of others’ experiences, especially when they differ than yours. I promise, though, that it’s worth it. Your relationships will be stronger and you will open yourself up to new perspectives on how others walk through the world. This can then make you more compassionate, empathetic, and knowledgeable about both people in your life and the world in general. A win all around!

A good place to start?

Steal my question. The next time you find yourself getting defensive, pause and instead ask yourself, “Why would they lie?”. The answer is almost always that they wouldn’t.

Not feeling supported by those around you? We can help you process and work through it. Learn more about how therapy can help you in the day to day here.

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