“You’re just being crazy!“
Chances are you’ve heard—or uttered—one of these phrases during the height of an argument.
As your experience likely proved, such statements often trigger a response that’s diametrically opposed to the one intended. Upon hearing a (sometimes desperate) plea to cool off, take it down a notch, or stop making mountains out of molehills, the person who’s freaking out starts to, well, freak out more.
When we tell someone their concerns aren’t such a big deal or imply that they’re overreacting, what they hear is, “Your feelings are completely unjustified,” says David M. Allen, M.D., author of How Dysfunctional Families Spur Mental Disorders: A Balanced Approach to Resolve Problems and Reconcile Relationships. This is the essence, Allen points out, of invalidation—the act of mocking, teasing, rejecting, denying, diminishing, or judging someone else’s feelings. (Y’ouch.)
The same sentiment could crop up if you have, say, an illness and an unthinking pal goes, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine!” notes Jennifer Samp, Ph.D., professor of communications studies at the University of Georgia. These well-meant words can discount th…