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Why “You’re OK” Can Feel NOT OK

20 Apr

I’ve watched my children fall down quite a bit – both literally and figuratively. And, I’ve learned it’s not always easy to know what to say. Should I tell them, “You’re OK” and wait for them to get up? Or, should I fling myself onto them protectively and help them to their feet? (For the record, I usually act on a case-by-case basis).

But, the reaction of Mothers around the world got me thinking – how would I feel if I hurt myself, and someone told me “You’re OK, just get up?” I might feel dismissed and uncared for. Even if it’s a minor injury, wouldn’t it be nice if the reaction was empathy or a helping-hand?

Likewise, I’ve seen my fair share of couples who run-into the “You’re OK” trap, too. Except with couples, it goes something like this:

“You didn’t even help clean the house after I’ve asked you over and over again”

–“You’re over-reacting. Calm down. It’s no big deal”

“It IS a big deal!”

–You’re crazy – who cares if the house is clean?

“I do!”

It’s not hard to see where the conversation goes awry. It happens right around the time the respondent tells the complainer to “calm down” or “relax”

Like telling a hurt or distressed child, “You’re OK,” lots of couples end up dismissing the concerns of the other. “Calm down” is just “You’re OK” in disguise.

Of course, that can leave one person feeling dismissed and uncared for. And,that can create a tremendous amount of conflict.

So, the next time you’re tempted to tell someone, “You’re OK,” imagine how you’d feel if you were hurt or distressed. Would you want someone to listen and be concerned – or tell you to “Get up already!”

Britt

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