Sometimes, when we’re at our most vulnerable, the most innocent question can hit us deep in the feels. And stay there forever.
Whether it’s your child asking if you could come back to a store for a toy when you have enough money, or a stranger wondering if “you’re a girl with a hot sister?”, some questions are heartbreakingly sweet, others painfully arrogant, and some plain evil.
So when a Reddit user asked people to share that one question someone asked them that secretly broke their heart, people had a lot to share. After all, as much as words have a healing power, they can also hurt us really badly.
“You’ve never beaten me or told me I couldn’t do something. Is that normal?”
My first girlfriend told me that. I have never felt such a wave of anger, sadness, and heartbreak wash over me like I did when I heard that
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I have a stutter, when I was a kid I had to read a page of a book to the class. I stuttered, and the teacher said ‘can you even read’ and that [friggin] broke my 13 year old heart. No one takes stuttering seriously.
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As we passed the toy aisle at the store, “I know you don’t have much money right now, but maybe when you get some we could come back and get a toy?”
I was not doing well financially back then and my daughter brought me to tears in the middle of the store.
Image credits: TheCurls
Communication is a form of art, and knowing what to say and ask at the right time is crucial in nailing it. So in order to find out the psychology behind heartbreaking questions, Bored Panda reached out to Lynn How, the author of “Positive Young Minds” who specializes in supporting parents, teachers, and children navigating through mental health issues and prevention.
First day of preschool for my three year old son. The first time he would ever be away from Mom & Dad at the same time.
I brought him to the room and expected a meltdown, but instead he confidently strutted, and I do mean strutted into the classroom.
Three hours later, I picked him up. He was ok until we got to the car when he said, in quiet sad voice “l thought you were coming with,” followed by an even sadder quieter “Why did you leave me?”
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We had some kind of talent show in elementary school and and all the parents sat in the gym and watched us, everybody had someone there except me, so this kid in my class asked where my family was and I just shrugged my shoulders and he asked “Doesn’t anyone love you?” and I had to excuse myself and cry in the bathroom, because I knew he was right, nobody loved me. I had tried to keep it a secret and I was terrified that everyone at school would know.
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When I worked in a juvenile residential drug rehab, a 12 year old asked me why everyone had a problem with her boyfriend. He was 32.
She had been so mistreated and abused, she legitimately couldn’t comprehend the problem everyone had with their relationship.
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“It is always a good idea to think carefully before asking a question,” Lynn warned and continued: “There are so many variables to consider such as, is my question too personal? Do I know the person well enough to ask this question? Should I ask this question in private rather than in front of others? Do I really need to know the answer?”
Moreover, according to Lynn How, some questions can easily be taken to be offensive or out of context, even if no offense was meant. “Sometimes well-meaning people can ask something and be surprised by the blunt response! Sometimes we answer the question politely but are secretly dying inside due to sadness or embarrassment.”
Even though it is sometimes difficult to distinguish what would offend one person and not another, Lynn suggests giving it a quick forethought is a way to go about it.
My aunt asked me “why are your crying? You’re supposed to be a man” I was crying because my 2 years old niece got a second degree burn and I could hear her screaming from the doctor’s office
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I finally got out of an abusive relationship after many years. When I finally did my mom said you’re a hard person to like and nobody else will love you. Do you really think you deserve better ?
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I was like 22 and it was probably 10pm or so at a Walmart. I was on my way to a party and stopped for beer. The store was fairly empty and as I was in the beer aisle, I see this kid completely by himself.
He was about 5 and at first I thought it was kind of funny because he was trying to pick up a case of beer. I waited like 30-60 seconds, looking around for this kid’s mom/dad to come get him. A couple people walked right by him like it was normal, so then I started getting worried. I picked up my two cases of beer and walked over and kindly asked him if he lost his mom or needed help.
The kid completely ignored the question and instead was thoroughly impressed that I was strong enough to carry two cases of beer. Eventually an employee noticed and came over as well. I told her everything I knew and she took over and told him that she was going to bring him to find his mom.
As he was walking away he kept looking back at me and I smiled and said goodbye. The kid stopped and said “can I just come home with you? I don’t like my mom.”
I was caught off guard so I just laughed and told him the lady was going to help him. Now I’ll never know the full story, or what happened to him but the more I think about it – that kid more than likely had a pretty sh*tty childhood. I mean, the store wasn’t busy and it was late at night on a weekday. It really makes you wonder why he was there in the first place, how he got separated from his mom and why would he ask to go with a complete stranger instead of worrying about where his mom was?
It still makes me sad. Hope everything worked out for the little dude.
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On the other hand, there are many questions that are better left untouched. “There are a myriad of untouchable subjects that I’ve gleaned from various life experiences,” Lynn recounted and added that “I am certainly much better at question filtering than I was in my 20s. For example, having gone through fertility treatment, I would never ask someone why they were not pregnant yet because I know firsthand how upsetting it is.”
Lynn said that other taboo subjects include weight, relationships, salary, and age. “Of course, when it’s your best friend, you can ask more deep and meaningful questions in comparison to someone you have just met,” she added.
My dad was active in the local Japanese community assisting new immigrants from Japan to get acclimated to living in Hawaii showing them the various neighborhoods, churches, schools, shopping areas etc. When WW2 broke out, he was arrested for this activity and was imprisoned in the Mainland for 5 years. At grade school, our teacher asked me in front of the entire class how it felt to be the son of a traitor to the US?
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I was having fertility problems and couldn’t get pregnant after 4 yrs of trying. A child once asked me “Do you think there just aren’t any babies who want you to be their mother?”
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“Wait, aren’t you going to hit me?”
I worked as a music teacher, and had a 15 year old student who originally came from an African country play a passage incorrectly on the instrument repeatedly. We only had one instrument of the kind she played, so I reached out my hand and asked her to hand me the instrument over to show her, when she saw me playing, she asked me that question with genuine confusion, and I realised what hell her school life in her home country had been.
She not only thought I would hit her for not playing correctly, but also that she deserved it.
I felt like crying when I got home that night.
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It’s important to understand that words can easily become weapons when they are not said by someone with good intentions, argues Lynn. “I would consider that these stem from a person’s own insecurities and issues if they feel they need to use their words to make another person feel bad.”
Had a 4 year old child who had been horribly abused and passed from family member to family member why no one loved him. It was so heart breaking and made me hate his family so much more. With my help his aunt was able to gain full custody and got him into counseling. He’s doing much better now and is still with his aunt who is doing everything she can to give him a good life
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My grandmother leaned to me and asked, “Did Dan die?”
We were at a family gathering and she didn’t see my uncle Dan. He had passed away the previous year. Grandma’s descent into dementia was in the very early stages. There were several layers of heartbreak.
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My ex asked me what I liked to do with my family growing up.
Made me realize my family never did anything together and I literally had no answer to such a basic question.
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“Personally, I have no time for these people and have in the past explained that I felt that their question was inappropriate (I have also considered in these instances if I am just being over-sensitive!). If someone is a repeat offender, they don’t stay in my life very long!”
Unfortunately, things are more difficult if the person is a member of your family. “A simple ‘should you be eating that?’ can be enough to raise a person’s blood pressure! In which case I would suggest a polite but firm explanation as to why you find their questioning offensive,” Lynn concluded.
My five-year-old niece: Why am I’m so ugly that mommy doesn’t love me?
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“Can I wish for my sister?” – A 10-year-old student of mine whose big sister died 4 years ago. We were working on an activity about dreams and aspirations for their futures.
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A few years ago I was at a small family gathering. We had them fairly often. Just me, my siblings, parents and niece’s and nephew.
I remember going out the back for a cigarette and my niece asked “why are you always sad?”. She would’ve been about 6yo at the time.
I was going through a horrendous mental period that involved a lot of alcohol, medication, and sleepless nights.
Of course I told her I was fine, just a little tired from working hard.
I remember thinking about that interaction the rest of the night.
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“Why are you so quiet” or “why don’t you talk?” When I was proud of myself for talking more than normal
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Said bye to grandma before leaving the house. About 20 seconds later after saying bye to everyone else she asks “When are you going to say bye to me?”
She died two weeks after that.
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When I was 19, I hung out with a cute girl from my high school that I never got to hang with when we were in school. Had a great day together, and that night she asked, “can we be like secret friends or something? I don’t really hang out with people like you.”
Never hung out again.
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Why don’t u have children? Don’t u like kids? I can’t have children
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During college, parents took a friend and I out to dinner. Very normal dinner, chit chatted about whatever. After we left and were walking back to my car, he turns to me and says “Is that what a normal relationship is like?”
We talked more after that, I had met his parents a few times and they seemed strict but never seemed to have a terrible relationship. Turned out apparently his dad had cheated on his mom multiple times, dad had zero respect for any of my friends sisters and essentially expected them to do all the housework while the men did “guy stuff.” Hunting, training for sports, school, etc. Turned out his childhood was pretty fucked, dad was never around and he had to essentially be the father figure in the house. As the oldest child, never really saw a normal loving relationship that he could look up to. My friend is a really nice guy, still has some messed up views of relationships though. I never realized how “abnormal” my very normal family/childhood was.
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I work at a primary school supporting kids in class. I’ve had kids ask me “why do I keep trying with them, clearly they are useless and dumb?” “Why do they have to be such a bad/naughty kid?” Even one asked me “why do I like that kid? They are so bad.” I have a million and one answers that suit the situation but it breaks my heart, especially when the “bad kid” in question is actually a very sweet child who has a really rough start to life and because of that makes poor choices. I cried with joy when the kid was invited to their first birthday party.
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When the vet said:
“Your cat has an inoperable cancerous tumor. The kindest thing you can do to end his suffering is to put him to sleep. Do you wish to do this?”
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Being asked by my grandma who I was because I wasn’t her granddaughter. And when my “best friend” asked why I ever thought we were friends… The first broke my heart, but I understood it wasnt malicious she had Alzheimer’s. The second one has caused lasting trust issues and an very difficult time making friends.
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I have a stutter and people always ask me why I’m so quiet it hurts because I want to be social but whenever I try I tend to be ignored or cut off half way through my sentence, like I want to be social and speak to people but it’s almost impossible for me
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Not directly to my face, but my mom has been asked quite often if I was adopted, because I look absolutely nothing like her (I look like a female version of my dad). The only reason it pains me a bit is because my mom almost died while giving birth to me, and she went through a ton of complications and surgeries, just to have people question it all. Having said that, I have nothing against adoption btw, I fully support and encourage it.
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“Is this your room? You’d never be able to tell if a boy or girl lived here.” Going on to heavily imply that my lack of possessions/decorations = lack of identity/personality when in reality my family was just poor.
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This isn’t really a question but more of a comment. My best friend at the time was talking about how a kid in their class was causing a mess at a museum they went to on a field trip, and they were talking about how he said he had ADHD. “that makes a lot of sense, i can’t be around people with that”, they said. There was thirteen year old me, who had been diagnosed with ADHD just a week before. That was…interesting.
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