The Psychology of Making Someone Feel Horrible

We sold an electronic item on Craigslist recently – brand new, but made a loud noise. The person came to purchase it, saw that it worked, heard the loud noise and the whole history of the item, didn’t negotiate at all and walked out the door with it. Last weekend, about 2 months after she was here, she sent me a really angry email that the item had broken after she used it a few times. She was clear that she didn’t want her money back because she understood she’d been scammed, but that I should “enjoy the karma”.

I was really shaken by this. Not by the karma comment, because I know my conscience is clear. I had no idea it would break, it had worked for us the handful of times we’d used it. But I was really bothered that she gave me no recourse to make it right. I reread the email several times trying to find the opening in which I could offer some kind of refund. There was none. It was just really nasty and angry. So I responded by expressing my disappointment to hear it had broken, that I didn’t appreciate being called a scammer, and pointed out that her hostile email didn’t provide an opportunity to offer a refund (nor make me inclined to do so). She responded by reiterating how angry she was and that she didn’t want the money. She essentially just wanted to let me know how horrible I was.

So, okay, you’ve made me feel horrible. I can’t stop thinking about it. The fact is, of course I hate the idea that I might have sold someone a broken item because I would never do that intentionally. In this scenario I’d be more than happy to split the difference or take the item back for a full refund. But her second email came back swinging harder that she didn’t want the money. Which left me wondering, what does she want? What’s her end game here? She’s done a tidy job of throwing a whole bunch of muck out into the world. You don’t want to discuss or negotiate; you feel you’ve been wronged and you want to just hurt back. No resolution for either side, just a lot of negative energy. Talk about karma.

It’s made me very sad. Those little bits of trust you put out into the world, over some of the littlest things, can make a big impression. I’m sad that she feels I broke that trust. I’m sad that she isn’t interested in making it better, for either of us. But if I’m really honest, I’m sad that someone doesn’t like me. Like a kid on a playground, she hurt my feelings and I ran around this week trying to reestablish the view of myself that I was a nice person. I’m grappling for a lesson (as I do) and I realized my balance is off. I shouldn’t let someone else’s opinion of me affect me so much. I need to let the negative muck roll past me rather than absorbing it. I know my own heart.

Which of course makes me wonder if the lesson here isn’t actually to be the bigger person and insist on refunding her.

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4 Responses to The Psychology of Making Someone Feel Horrible

  1. Shirley Brockmann says:

    I hope you ended up knowing that you are a good person, full of compassion and positive energy and sensitive to the needs of others. There is negative stuff all around us – that will never change.

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    • philanthrobe says:

      Thank you Shirley … so nice to hear from you! There have been several other sales over the last year that have gone really well (ending in hugs a few times!) So I do, at my core, know it wasn’t about me. But man, that kind of energy rattles you. Amazing.

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  2. Refawne says:

    No refund! She felt wronged but chose to vomit all over you instead of taking a few minutes to gather her composure and think, speak and act like an adult…it’s hard to let go of because you are a pleaser and want people to like you (trust me, I am the same way – I get it! 😉 )

    Take a deep breath and move on becuase NOTHING you do will ever make it right in her eyes – you are evil and a scammer, no matter what….it’s impossible to reason with crazy people.

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    • philanthrobe says:

      🙂 I love this. I didn’t refund her. Partly because that would involve me having to see her again and I really had no desire for a face to face interaction. She was young, and hopefully my tactful email responses gave her some insight into how to behave in the future, as an adult.

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