Many of us feel, either consciously or unconsciously, that if we speak up for ourselves to difficult partners, friends or family members, they will get angry in response, possibly even turning the situation around by blaming the problem on us. Or sometimes, even if we let others know that what they are doing is hurtful to us, they don't care. So should we speak up anyway?
It depends. The answer to this question should lie in why you're choosing to speak up. In expressing your anger, sadness, frustration or disappointment with this other person, are you trying to get them to change, to stop doing what they are doing and to care about the effect of their behavior? Or are you simply enacting a need? In other words: do you speak up because it is simply what you need to do to take care of yourself, regardless of the other person's reaction?
Understanding your concrete intention for speaking up is a vital step in learning to avoid that sinking feeling of rejection we can often feel during conflicts with others. If you realize that you are speaking up about your anger (or another emotion) in an effort to control the other person, you will likely end up feel even more rejected. The other person will not only be unable to fulfill your wish for them to change immediately, but they will likely pick up on your controlling energy, and the conflict may escalate.
But, if you are speaking up to take care of yourself, you will feel comforted and loved — regardless of how the other person reacts. You will not feel lonely because you are being a kind, generous friend to yourself.
When another person treats you with hostility, blame or disrespect, and you are fairly certain he or she won't be open to talking about whatever the issue is with you, the most caring and loving response you can give is simply to state that you are not available to be treated disrespectfully.
This is what I refer to as "lovingly disengaging." This is when you walk away from the interaction without anger, making sure your inner vulnerable self is out of range from the harsh behavior, just as you would hopefully take a child away from someone's unkind behavior. When you take care of yourself, rejection by another is something you will be able to cope with, as you will be available to yourself.
How do you feel when you don't take care of yourself?
If someone is being harsh and disrespectful toward you, and you don't speak up for yourself and then (lovingly) disengage, you may end up feeling one (or more) of the following emotions, among others: