What Do Women Mean When They Say ‘You Hurt My Feelings?’

0 Posted by - November 3, 2011 - Uncategorized

[dc]A[/dc]s a man I never how to respond to a woman when she says her feelings are hurt. I mean, if it was your arm or any other form of physical discomfort I got you but your “feelings?” I’m not sure how to process that.

A woman telling me her feelings are hurt usually means one of two things: I either did or said something I shouldn’t have. Problem is nine times out of 10 I’m unsure of which. Beyond that men just don’t deal in feelings so we’re not sure how to “solve” the issue of hurt feelings. Sure, we could say “sorry” but that rarely does the trick. (You also have to know what exactly you’re “sorry” for but that’s another issue.)

It’s not like when someone falls and bumps their knee and I can just rub the pain away. When a woman’s feelings are hurt there’s this unknown spot deep inside of her that my hands can’t reach but still needs to be rubbed to ease the pain. It’s a disheartening and uncomfortable situation to be in. Trust me I know.

This all boils down to the contrasting differences between how men and women communicate and express themselves. Little girls are taught it’s okay for them to cry and to express themselves emotionally. Meanwhile, as boys we’re taught to be tough and showing emotions is a sign of weakness—especially men of color.

As we grow into adults and the sexes start interacting with one another these contrasting ideologies of how to act wind up having adverse effects on our interpersonal relationships. Expression is a big part of communication, but how can men and women communicate effectively if our ideas of how to express ourselves are completely different? With neither side understanding the other confusion and sexism form. Women get labeled “emotional” like it’s a bad thing and men are seen as “insensitive.” Meanwhile both sexes are merely living up to the societal roles they were taught growing up.

I’d like to think of myself as a man who’s in tune with his emotions (most of the time). I have no problem expressing myself—more so in my writing than anything else—and I’ve been known to wear my heart on my sleeve. But even I have a hard time processing the concept of “hurt feelings.” I deal in facts and the rational (Please note: that’s not to say women don’t/can’t I’m just stating my personal thought process) so when approached by a problem I just want to solve it and move on. Emotions are not that simple—especially a woman’s.

Faced with the prospect of “hurt” feelings oftentimes leaves me at a loss for words. There’s nothing I can do physically and “sorry” isn’t some magical fix-all word I can throw at the problem (I’ll try it in vain though). I, like most men, have no clue how to alleviate the pain inflicted on a woman’s feelings. Perhaps, I’ll buy something like flowers or chocolate since women like that kind of stuff… But that’s just trying to solve an emotional problem with a physical solution again. Since that won’t work most men are forced to go back to the drawing board and offer up their apologies for whatever it is they did. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that we don’t know how to process a woman’s expression of pain.


What does it mean when a woman says “you hurt my feelings?” Do you think men process that statement differently than women? Is it harder for a woman to hurt a man’s feelings? How often do women try to explain to a man what it is he did or said that actually hurt her feelings? How often are men open to listening and taking the issue seriously? Do most women think men are insensitive? Is that insensitivity tied to how boys are raised and their learned ideas of what masculinity is? Do you agree that the root of the problem is that men and women just communicate differently?

Speak your piece…

BONUS: While the site was down due to technical issues I worked out a deal with the ladies of What Would a Man Do [WWMD], who featured me on their site for the entire week as we discussed the idea of the Independent Woman in a five-part video series. Be sure to click here to watch the clips and be sure to “like” the WWMD fan page.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=787893850 Akynos Shekera

    1. for me “you hurt my feelings” means i’m about to stop messing with you or you’d better think long and deep about everything you said and did and apologize in romantic movie style about it. if not then YOU SHALL PAY! and 2. i’ve come to see most men as EMOTIONAL BITCHES. you may not cry but boy do so many of you i’ve come in contact with do other things. tantrums, stalking, following the whole nine. YA’LL MFKAZ CRAZY!

  • AMR

    I consider the phrase “you hurt my feelings” to be kind of elementary, but I can understand a woman’s willingness to use it. When I’m trying to work out something with my boyfriend that I’ve been with for the last 3 years, we both make it a point to refrain from ambiguity and say what the overall issue, whatever it may be, actually is. So instead of saying someone “hurt my feelings” I’d say that what he did was very hurtful. And when I say that, he knows, mostly because I tell him, its not what he actually said or did, its the overall issue at hand that was behind whatever it is that’s causing a problem. He can piss me off by not coming home when he says he was going to, but its hurtful if he ignores a call or a text when I’m trying to figure out where he is. The difference is that when something is hurtful, it has the ability to make someone question a relationship….that’s just my take on it.

  • LadyLark

    It’s very simple. You hurt my feelings is simply a statement requiring on your part (if you ‘care’) to ask “HOW?” or it a chance to let her explain outright what you did that hurt her feelings.
    When I say, “You hurt my feelings” its a mature way of dealing with some bone-headed action on the part of a person so that we can have dialog about why they need to not do that ish again.

    Women don’t have magical or extraterrestrial feelings that are abstract or so complex that a man needs to consider everything a woman does as ‘code-language’ for something. Personally when I say something, I mean just what I said. If humans of the male species dealt with women as HUMANS like themselves they’d think about how they would want to be dealth with if their ‘Feelings’ were hurt.

    For instance: If I (the woman) berated my man-friend and began saying things like “you’re not extremely good looking but you’ll do” or “I don’t find you sexy but that’s not why I’m with you” even “you’re just like your stupid father” or “you don’t know how to deal with women because your mother’s dead,” likely the non-psychopath would end up with ‘hurt feelings’ and rightfully so when dealing with a jackass. He could say “you know you really hurt my feelings.” I’m sure the guy doesn’t need a laying on of hands because of his hurt feelings but it means he’s going to need for her to stop that jerky ish or he’ll be forced to either thrash her or quit. Okay no thrashing but you get my drift as I’m sure you’re human and have feelings too about how you would (and would’nt) like to be dealt with.

    All in all guys pretending they don’t know what ‘you hurt my felings’ means is a cop out of addressing (and changing) their own poor behavior. A mature man can respect a woman who tells him upfront that he hurt her feelings because she’s trying to get to root of his behaviour or words. Just my opinion.

  • LadyLark

    Sorry had a few bad typos…
    *wouldn’t etc.

  • LadyLark

    One last note: Further, consider the fact that she’s telling you as a bonus. She doesn’t have to tell you how you made her feel by something you said or did (or didn’t do or say). She could just put suger in your gas tank and be immature. She could throw some grits on you and cause bodily harm (being criminal) or she could just be a witch and leave you with no notice. However, her telling you how you effected her is her way of saying “I want to be with you but you’re gonna have to stop X.Y.Z because it’s bringing me down emotionally”

    • Older & Wiser

      And they still don’t get it, SMH.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Juarez-Okocha-Ramalho/100001121631077 Juarez Okocha Ramalho

    I Think most women use “you hurt my feelings” to try to manipulate you to feel guilty when they run out of arguments.

  • jaclynsd

    Q. What does it mean when a woman says “you hurt my feelings?”
    A. As a grown woman I don’t think I’ve ever said that. I’m the kind of person that’ll just telsl you what you’ve done that hurt me. Then for most women we’ll just see how you react to what bothers us and if you care to “fix” the problem. I think most women just want to know if you even care that you hurt us.
    Q. Do you think men process that statement differently than women?
    A. Not sure, I think I’d probably just want you to be straight out and then try and fix it or apologize.
    Q. Is it harder for a woman to hurt a man’s feelings?
    A. From my experience I think its easier to hurt a man’s ego and then that might translate to hurt feelings. In reality, man or woman, just depends on the person and how good they are at masking the hurt…or if it even bothers them at all.
    Q. How often are men open to listening and taking the issue seriously?
    A. I’m not a big talker, so if I constantly have to ask you do communicate then that in itself is a problem. I like to deal with it and move on.
    Q. Do most women think men are insensitive?
    A. At times men can be.
    Q. Is that insensitivity tied to how boys are raised and their learned ideas of what masculinity is?
    A. I believe so I think some men are taught to move on faster maybe. Deal w/it and move on. I was raised by a single father and that’s the way I was brought up. No time to dwell too much on something…handle your business and move on. To be honest at times I’m thankful for it.
    Q. Do you agree that the root of the problem is that men and women just communicate differently?
    A. I think the biggest problem is that both women and men don’t listen to each other. I think when couples argue they’re too busy trying to get their point across and be heard that they tend to stop listening to the other person.

  • http://twitter.com/MsB616 Bunmi Akinnusotu

    This can mean different things to different people. As for me, it means you’ve done something that’s made me question how you think of me and/or the relationship. These typically aren’t things like “you left the toilet seat up” lol. When a guy has done something that bothers me it’s usually like he didn’t follow through on something or he isn’t present when he says he’s going to be…or there’s a misunderstanding and he says something that sounds crazy. In the end, the discomfort comes when your emotion is messed with.
    And saying sorry is one thing but taking steps to ensure that whatever happened won’t happen again is another. That, to me, is how the situation or feeling is “fixed”. I’m learning that with guys, I have to help them connect the dots so they see what i see. For example, I might say: “When you don’t show up when you say you are, I feel like you aren’t taking me seriously.” Solution: Show up when you say you are OR let’s come up with a schedule that works for us. 

    I’m a woman..a very emotional woman at that, but I’ll admit I’m not the greatest communicator about my feelings..even the good ones. When I do decide to share my feelings, it’s usually because I’ve been pushed to and i can’t take it (I’m like this with my friends, too). I’m getting better though :/ Do you agree that the root of the problem is that men and women just communicate differently? People’s feeling are going to be hurt at some point in the relationship. It’s what comes after the conversation or the acknowledgement, that makes the difference. Using the example i gave earlier, if i say: “I feel like I’m not taken seriously when you don’t follow through on x” and the guy continues dismiss my feelings or doesn’t make an effort to address those concerns, that’s where we start to have problems.

    For guys who have these situations, the best thing to ask is: What can I do to make this better or What can i do to not have you feel this way again? Hopefully she can articulate that clearly for you and you can keep it moving. I told my ex that I felt like he treated me differently when he was around his boys and that it made me feel like “that girl”. I gave concrete examples of when it happened and told him how i wanted to be treated. He at first didn’t see it but when i gave him an example, the light bulb went off. That was it..we got over it and moved on.

  • Rastaman

    In my estimation most people regardless of race or gender are equally sensitive; expressing that “you hurt my feelings” is just whiny.  I wrote some time ago that most women are clueless to the fact that men do have feelings because we act so oblivious to most slights, accidental or intended.  But calling somebody out every time you think they have hurt your feelings is unproductive because sometimes it is just you, whatever they may have did or said is not the true cause of your hurt but you just felt they were the best person to engage.  
    Imagine going through life engaging everyone you felt may have hurt you and see how little you get done in a day?
    I am by no means excusing callous, unfeeling or unconscionable behavior by men towards women in their lives because I too have been guilty of that on more than one occasion.   But I have also encountered women who were so emotionally fragile that a change in the wind hurt their feelings,  so what defense would they have against my frankness.    I get that some of us are more sensitive than others but the truth is there are many of us who use the “you hurt my feelings” as a crutch and it signals more their emotional immaturity than other’s insensitivity. 
    Life is not for sissies and getting one’s feelings hurt is the least that can happen to you in my estimation.   There are a lot of men out here who instead of whining about their hurt feeling act up and throw tantrums hoping for some kind of consolation too, so this is not solely an issue for women.  Women just do a better job verbalizing this.   This became more evident to me when I also noticed that women tended to use “I am sorry” with each other more often than I have ever use that phrase to men or women. 

  • rrt

    funny this is the post today….
    before we commit, there’s this grey area of dating multiple people at a time, and as feelings get involved, they do get hurt, but sometimes, situations are just effed up…… the man did not hurt the woman, the situation hurt the woman, the situation can’t speak for itself, but the man instead says i’m sorry if i hurt ur feelings….but he didn’t…. so with reading his i’m assuming he’s just making an attempt to pacify me by offering  up an apology.

  • Enid Wilson

    I communicate more like a man, big on fact and low on emotion. I’ve problem understanding my girl friends’ talk about emotions. I guess there is no easy way around this.

    My Darcy Vibrates…

  • LaLa_Enchanting

    As usual Ans, great post! Some great resources along this topics are: Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray as well as, The 5 love languages by Gary Chapman. Its great for people to read a blog like this and identify whole-hearted, but with out the tools to correct the mistakes we make…the cycle will only continue. Knowledge is power!

  • Xguitar Scen3girlx

    Whan I say “you hurt me” to a man, it normally means that I felt things for him and I really liked him, but feeling he never cared at all, or that I’m feeling like he was just playing with my emotions. basically “you hurt me” = ” I liked you alot and I thought you liked me and cared about me 2, but you’re not showing it, or I’m feeling or felt played and it hurts. And I want to know where I stand”. The longer version is better said, and should be said. Sometimes girl’s assume a guy knows what she means, so she never gives a clear picture. Or she hides it for 2 long, lets it build, until she bursts it out at the wrong time and is comes out wrong. The guy is clueless what he did, because in his head everything was fine, and now she’s freaking out. Men are different. When a guy hurts, he says it, no hiding or holding back. When he feels seriously hurt, he takes it much deeper than a woman and never says it, he just disappears.