Dealing with people who degrade you
Dealing with someone who degrades you in front of others is never fun. The simple answer is to avoid them or have nothing to do with them. Since life is not always so simple, I will take a look at some of the issues involved.
Did they mean it? This question is important in that it determines whether it was intentional. Whether or not the degrading occurs intentionally or not is a factor. Some people are ignorant and they say things without thinking about what they are saying or its effects on others. When done out of ignorance, I often ignore what they are saying or play it off. If it was done intentionally, then more needs to be done.
Was it malicious? Once again, the question of ignorance comes up. What seems to be a degrading to me may not have been so in their mind. Since people often have different definitions for the same word, or experience, I find I can not always take words at face value. I try to find out what they meant when they degraded me. Since some people are very indirect in communicating things, the degrading comment may have had another purpose. These indirect communicators often say hurtful things as a way to convey their hurts, or to let you know what they are feeling. To immediately take the degrading personally is a mistake. I do not want to take personally messages that are telling me that they are hurt or feeling bad about themselves. Since people are basically selfish, their communication is more about expressing their own emotional state, than it is about attacking or downgrading me.
Degrading comments also alert me to potential problems. Often times, people are objectified prior to being abused. When the degrading consists of objectifying me or treating me like an object, it lets me know "Danger!" Those who objectify me I try to leave the situation as fast as I can.
If in checking out whether or not the degrading was malicious or poor communication, it is poor communication, I try to work with them in redirecting their comments or in taking it in context. If they are intentionally being malicious, other strategies are called for.
In dealing with mean, malicious degrading I do the following:
1. Neutralize the message. If only in my own mind, I cancel out the degrading comment. Neutralizing the message is important, even before confronting them. Reacting to comments before neutralizing them adds validity to what they said. When the comments are neutralized, they are much easier to handle in a calm manner. Comments taken personally will often leave you feeling like you have been attacked, so you tend to attack back in a reactive manner.
2. Set boundaries. I let them know that what they said is not acceptable, and that I will not accept it.
3. If they are amenable to confrontation, I confront them. Some people are too ignorant, of low intelligence or not worth confronting. For confrontations to be effective, the person being confronted needs some intelligence and common sense. In those cases where they have neither, I walk away or break the flow of communication.
4. Develop a good sense of humor. There are times I have learned to laugh things off, especially when it is not worth the emotional energy of striving with it.
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