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Example of how people use "Nothing is the matter" as a barrier to communication:
Jack: You look upset.
Gina: Nothing is the matter.
If it’s true that nothing is the matter, there’s nothing wrong with saying so, but be alert to the possibility that you aren’t completely in touch with your own feelings. We’re all human and we don’t always notice what’s going on inside of us. Another person can be valuable, if you take his or her observation seriously, and attend to your inner state. You may find that he or she may tune into your feelings ahead of you!
If it’s NOT true, and in fact, something is bothering you, denying there is something going on does both of you a disservice. In our example, Jack brings this up out of legitimate concern. By saying “nothing is the matter”, Jane actually punishes a good deed.
Obviously, if you don’t put your concern out in the open, it’s probably going to re-occur, and you are going to build up resentment that can eat into a relationship. So, this kind of conflict avoidance doesn’t do you any good either.
In some situations, when you feel a minor passing annoyance, there are better ways to deal with this than the “nothing is the matter” phrase.
Make It Better:
Here’s an example of how to respond, when you are upset by something, but realize it’s such a minor thing, it’s not worth talking about, or if you are no longer annoyed.
Jack: Is something wrong?
Gina: I’m fine now. I was a bit annoyed when you… but you know, it’s such a tiny thing, it’s really not something we need to talk about.
Here’s a way to handle it when there really is no problem.
· Gina: I don’t think anything is bothering, me, Am I sending off signals I’m annoyed?
In this example, Gina is sending the message that she’s open to further discussion about what Jack is “sensing”.
In the situation where you aren’t sure whether something is on your mind, here’s a similar response.
· Gina: I’m a little tired, and it’s been a long day, but I don’t think anything is bothering me beyond that, but are you feeling like I’m treating you as if I’m angry at you?
Here’s an invitation to talk. You might find out you are bothered by something, and you weren’t aware of it, and if not, you’ve shown you care enough to discuss what the other person is seeing or feeling.