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What’s Wrong With Saying Someone Else Took It the Wrong Way

·501 words·3 mins

“So I heard you pushed back on her making those mean jokes,” my other friend says to me. “She says she thinks you took what she said the wrong way.”

And just like that, my heart sinks. I had felt pretty okay about what happened. Yes, at the time my friend had made that terrible joke and hurt my feelings, it had stung. And stung badly. But I’d fought past the instinct to not say anything. Instead, I screwed up my courage and told her I didn’t find what she said funny; I found it offensive, and I told her why.

She apologized at the time. Sorta. Looking back at it now, at what she wrote me later, I can see that she didn’t say “sorry.” (But not everyone does — even when they regret something.) Instead, I heard an apology that wasn’t there. I did see some regret — but it was laced with excuses. How did I not see it at the time? Well, sometimes it’s easy to hear the thing we want someone else to say rather than what they actually say. And so I heard that she regretted what she said, she knew she had hurt me, and that she felt bad about that.

I have known her my entire life, and we’ve only had one other conflict (about 20 years ago). That one was way worse. Really stupid. We moved past it. This is the first time a conflict between us was started by me — this time it was about my calling her out on something she said that deeply offended me, no matter how much she played it off as “just a joke.”

I’m not sure what to do with the information that she thinks I took it “the wrong way.” Not only does it undermine the apology that maybe wasn’t there but I heard at first — but here’s the thing: There’s a way she felt when she said the “joke.” Her intent (and perhaps her estimate of the impact, which was off the mark.) And there’s a way I heard it (the actual impact).

I’m not saying either one of us is right. All I’m saying is that it hurt my feelings. This honestly rarely ever happens to me; I’m not easily offended. And she’s never offended me like this before. She just happened to hit a nerve. She took a bad conversational risk and made fun of something that I was currently going through that was deeply painful for me.

No, what continues to flummox me about her saying I took it the “wrong way” is that she thinks there is a right way to take things. That there’s an objective truth when it comes to a clash of individual wills. And I just don’t think that’s the case.

Plus, it’s something folks who are trying to defend hurtful “jokes” throw out as a quick defense. “You took that the wrong way. Don’t be so sensitive. Can’t you take a joke?”


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