How To Tell Someone They've Hurt You Without Them Getting Defensive

One of the things that has become abundantly clear to me over the years is that we live in a world where hurt people hurt people. We all have stuff that we’re working through. Whether that’s stuff we’re working on from past lifetimes, ancestral trauma, or shit that went down in childhood, adolescence or even last week, we’ve all got it. We just wear it differently.

As someone who identifies with a number of different, intersecting marginalized identities I frequently have to navigate spaces knowing that at any moment I could be triggered by racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, classist, or fat-phobic microaggressions. When this happens, I always want to ask the person to take responsibility for the way their ignorance (and privilege) lands in my space, but I don’t always feel safe enough (or brave enough) to do it. And sometimes, I flat out just don’t have the energy to deal with it.

In the moments when I do feel safe enough to engage in a conversation with the individual, group, or organization, it’s often because I have a personal connection with them and I truly care about them and their growth and expansion as human beings, so I invest the time to share my experiences with them in hopes that they are receptive and willing to commit to elevating their consciousness.

It takes time, energy, and a whole lot of courage to bring up issues around identity politics, especially when our experience shows us that most people are not willing to take a look at their own privilege and biases to consider how they may benefit from systems of injustice at the expense of others. Awakening to that level of consciousness is painful and as someone who exists simultaneously with experiences of privilege and oppression, I get it.

So, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to ask someone in your life to take accountability for the harm they have caused, feel free to use this love-infused accountability script and template that I created for the moments when you just don’t have the words to express how you feel and you don’t know how to do it in a way that doesn’t demonize or project harm onto the other person.

Dear <Enter Name Here>,

I want you to know that I <love / appreciate / honour /> you and the <work that you do / contribution / impact> that you’ve made <to the team / on my life / on the community>.

That said, I have something pretty important that I need to say and I’d love for us to be able to have a conversation about it.

Here’s the thing… Do you remember when <enter situation here>? Well, I left that <experience / interaction / moment / event / space> feeling <sad / frustrated / emotional / crappy / angry / let down> which <sucks / blows / is unfortunate> because I have to navigate the world feeling that way in too many spaces and around too many people already. I was hoping this would be different.

Even though I’m hurting, I believe in the power of <love-based / transformative justice> responses to conflict which means I choose to forgive you for <enter situation here> and I choose to forgive myself for putting you up on a pedestal and forgetting that you’re human. That wasn’t fair to you.

I want you to know that I am invested in our collective healing and I want us to do better so here’s what I propose: <enter solution here; i.e., propose next steps for resolution>. I would really appreciate if you could respond to this <email, letter, message> as soon as you see it—even if it’s just to tell me that you’ve read it and will respond later. It’ll help to calm my nerves—well, that and <chamomile, peppermint, lavender, ginger> tea.

Looking forward to discussing this more with you.

With love,

<Enter your name here>

Did you find this script helpful? Let me know in the comments section below! And if you know someone who’s trying to navigate a sticky accountability situation and could really use this template to support them in their process, please feel free to share it with them.

All my love,