Social interactions would be so much easier ...

Wow! You are doing a really great job. I like how you ____.
Hey this is great!
You are doing a good job!
You made such a positive difference/contribution by doing...
I appreciate all of the hard work and effort you put into...
You did an amazing job! I appreciate you more than words can express.
I appreciate your extraordinary efforts in doing something extremely difficult.

I got slammed the other day when I told someone I was proud of them, and I didn't understand why they took it the wrong way. It really cut me to the heart (because I care so deeply) and felt I didn't deserve the reaction I got. Their response severed our relationship because now I feel I can't trust them with my thoughts and feelings.

The person took offense because in their mind, if a counselor or mentor says, “I’m proud of you”, it feels too much like Mom or an authority figure in that relationship. That's not at all how I would think. She wanted to hear."Yes, you are headed in the right direction. Let's build on this.” Her thought was, she is not coming to me to make me proud and that my focus should be on her. My focus was on her and her extraordinary efforts in doing something extremely difficult, not on her making me proud.

A lot more is read into the words "I'm proud of you" than I imagined. My mind takes things at face value. For me, there aren't layers of meaning. I used to say, "I can't read between the lines because there's nothing written there." Then I realized other people write between the lines in invisible ink. It is unfair to the person speaking for the listener to inject, either silently in their mind or out loud, thoughts about the words they hear after it is filtered through their own past negative experiences and misperceptions. There is no way to anticipate the innumerable ways people can twist what we say.

I was late at developing these social understandings because I was chronically ill for 30 years and before that I lived in a world where I avoided social interaction because it was abusive (physically, but especially emotionally). People hurt me, so I stayed far away from them. I couldn't learn positive social skills in unhealthy social situations. If someone had said to me "I'm proud of you," it would have been life changing - no matter who said it. When I say it, it's meant to be my highest compliment and life changing for the person I say it to.

If I were to continue further with the idea of 'reading between the lines', my thoughts could twist, "Yes, you are headed in the right direction. Let's build on this" into implying - you were headed in the wrong direction and what you've done so far isn't good enough. See how confusing it can be to communicate with people and why I default to keeping it simple by interpreting things in the positive, based only on the words used and not reading anything more into what is said. I wish people did that. Social interactions would be so much easier.

Upon further reflection it occurred to me that there is a wound present from a past hurt possibly dealing with unresolved issues with an authority figure. She may have been self protecting, which often the results are pride, hurt feelings, and/or feeling looked down upon.

I've had my meaning twisted more than once with various people throughout my life. If not the person I was speaking to, then people who heard what I said and took it the wrong way. I hate walking on egg shells around people. I had to do that with my father because if there was a way to take it the wrong way, he did and it was exhausting. I had to be guarded with him and have worked very hard to unlearn a lot of things. I have demolished rules I had about myself and others that built walls to protect my emotions. As a result of being raised by someone who habitually took offense, I learned how not to be and I’ve learned to put a lot of thought and care into how I speak to people and gotten a lot of practice at not letting their "negative" responses get to me. I know I have a good heart and pure motives. I’ve become courageously transparent, which makes me more vulnerable emotionally, but I prefer taking my chances, because I can't go back to the isolation of self protecting. God can't use me there.

We cannot walk on egg shells around people with these kinds of wounds. If expressing my concern and sadness about how they misinterpreted my encouraging comment in a way that was not intended would be helpful, not only to clear the air and help them see my heart for what it truly is, but also for them to learn from, I will go there. As their coach, maybe this is an opportunity placed in front of me to help them see that a complement can be just that. Otherwise, I gave my encouragement from a place of love and genuine care for them — what they think or say about it is on them, not me. God wants us to do the best we can with what we have, and that’s what I do. I will appeal to the people I need to, by being ME and not trying to be anyone else.