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5 Cool Level-Headed Things to Do or Say When You Feel Someone has INSULTED You

Updated on September 15, 2012


I remember one time, I thought I was so fashionable. I attached a flower to the brim of a hat and met my friend for a day in the city. My friend took one look at my hat and said, "Don't you think that flower would look better off to the side?"

Immediately, my hackles were up!


So what did I do after these heated thoughts flashed through my brain? well, since I assumed she was INSULTING me, I shot back with, "Well, your hair is a little too short, you know!"

WHAAAAT? What on earth did that have to do with anything?

Well, of course it had nothing to do with anything, and my friend happens to be one of those petite elfin women who can pull off a super short "do," and she knew it. Nevertheless, my remark really stung.

"I thought you liked my hair," she said quietly, her cheeks turning pink.

Oops. What had I done?

I assumed my friend was not only putting down my hat, but my whole STYLE and method of very being! When in truth, she just honestly thought the flower would look a little "kickier" off to one side.


However, since I assumed she was criticizing me - I criticized back. An eye for an eye! She hurt me - I'll hurt her. This is a classic knee-jerk response when you feel you are being "attacked." And it's never a good idea to give in to it! All it does it cause hurt feelings, and can even escalate into a gigantic tit-for-tat fight that leaves both of you fuming and dredging up all sorts of irrelevant issues.

It can even end friendships and relationships.

Naturally we feel upset when we think we're being attacked. We get emotional,and tend to respond in either an angry way - by lashing out, "YOU'RE A JERK! YOU THINK YOU'RE SO PERFECT? WELL I GOT NEWS FOR YOU...." blah, blah, blah.....Or else we feel hurt. Our self esteem has been bruised. We slink away. We feel ashamed of ourselves. We may even cry.

Neither response is good. One causes arguments, and the other makes you doubt yourself. Besides, in a work situation, either response could cause you to lose your job - the first one, definitely, if it's your boss who's doing the criticizing. The second response may not make you lose your job, but it will definitely label you as unprofessional and immature.

In a relationship, both of these responses are damaging, also. Either you're fighting all the time, or someone is sitting in a corner sulking.

The thing is, not all "criticism" is meant as an insult. Sometimes, what the person is offering is simply an opinion that might be slightly different from yours (like the flower on the hat), or they're trying to offer helpful advice.


However, because our "hot button" has been pushed (and we all have our own individual "hot buttons" - like, maybe yours has to do with "looks" or "intelligence" or "not being mechanical" or "being overweight," I could go on and on) we react with our emotions.

And yes, there are those insults that are meant just as that - insults. Demeaning words said to make you feel bad about yourself, delivered by bullies. I had an ex-boyfriend who was a pro at these. "Putting on a little weight, I see! MOOOO!" he'd laugh over the phone at me.

Well, there's really only one way to view a comment like that, right?

So what is the best way to respond when you feel like you're being attacked? We've already determined that tossing an insult back, yelling and screaming, or slinking way in tears is not the way to go.

So read on....and discover some alternative responses - depending on the situation, that will hopefully work out for you:

1). KEEP AN OPEN MIND Say: "Okay, I'll take that into consideration." Or: "I never thought of that. Thanks." If you feel insulted when someone offers a "better" way to do something, take a deep breath first, before you immediately respond. Now, consider that maybe - just maybe - this person has a point. Maybe there IS a better way. You really can learn from criticism if you keep an open mind.

Even if you disagree with what the person is saying, chances are he or she is not "putting you down." They're just trying to offer some helpful advice.

Or maybe they consider themselves an "expert" in the field. So? Be gracious and let them have their moment instead of responding with, "STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!"

You may have had over-bearing parents who bring out this response in you. But you're an adult now. Calm, cool, level-headedness and taking other's opinions into consideration are signs of maturity - and a heck of a lot better for avoiding needless fights and hurting the other person's feelings when he or she was just trying to help.

2). DISTINGUISH INSULTS FROM CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK If you're truly not sure how the criticism or advice or whatever you want to label it is intended - give yourself some time to mull it over. Say: "Okay, I'll think about that and get back to you." Sometimes it is difficult to know what's going on inside another person's head. But it doesn't do any good to always assume the worst!

3).LET IT SLIDE If you feel an insult is really an insult - and this is not a person you want to "get into it" with - take the high road. Let it roll off you like water on a duck's back. If someone truly is a bully, you may want to extricate yourself from this relationship (there's a reason why exes are exes).

If the person is your boss, inlaw, or parent - things are a little trickier. Letting it slide - not taking it seriously - changing the subject - thinking in your head: It's his problem, not mine - this is just his sucks (you can add some humor in your head, if you like!) - these tactics can all work to "keep the pace" at work or family get-togethers. If the "bully" sees he's not getting to you, you'll take all the fun out of it for him, anyway!

4). SIMLPLY SAY, "Hmmmm." This works wonders! Why? Because it's so delightfully mysterious! It'll driver the insulter nuts! What does it mean? No one knows. That's the beauty of it! Try it and see!

5). LAUGH IT OFF If all else fails, try laughing it off. Diffuse the insult with humor. Someone tells you, "You're so clumsy!" Laugh and say, "Yea, me and Chevy Chase!" Many times, people are just teasing you and goofing around. So it doesn't even pay to get mad.

Unfortunately, other times, people (those bullies again!) really are being mean. Either way, laughter is a wonderful tool for letting the world know they are not "getting to you." You have control over your happiness - and no one can take it away!


Something else to consider? Sometimes people "put you down" because they are jealous of you. Yes - you!

The more you strive to improve yourself - or maybe something great has happened in your life lately - for instance, you just bought a new house while your friend and her husband are still struggling in a cramped apartment, so she says, "You think you're so darn rich!" cut her some slack. Yes it is annoying. Why can't she just be happy for you? Because, well, we're dealing with human nature here........

Or it could be, the insulters are just cranky unhappy people who are negative all the time. Remember: That's their problem! You're not going to let it get to you, any more, right?


Along with the five responses above, there actually is one more I should add. If someone in your life is constantly criticising you or putting you down (say, about your weight or your intelligence) and this is NOT a person you want to extricate yourself from, or someone you only encounter at work - okay, what I'm trying to say, is that maybe this person is your significant other.

You need to tell him or her in a non-confrontational way, that they are hurting your feelings. Chances are, they don't realize how much of an effect their words have. Sure, sticks and stones, and all that...but we all know that's not entirely true. Words can be very powerful things. Especially negative ones. And MOST especially, coming from the person who loves you and is supposed to "have your back" in life.

It hurts. And you need to tell this person that it hurts. Use "I" in your conversation, not "You." For instance, say, "I really wish you would stop putting me down so much. I know I need to lose weight.," instead of: "You never have anything nice to say!" One starts a conversation, the other is accusatory and starts a fight.

Of course your significant other might counter with, "You know I'm only teasing!' which could be true...but if the teasing isn't funny to you, he or she should respect you enough to stop. It may take time, but the more you let the person know you don't appreciate being insulted, hopefully they will get the hint! A little teasing is okay...but respect in a relationship is important....and do you know what's most important of all? Respect for yourself!

Which brings me to the situation of having a bully boss, which I mentioned earlier. Seriously, if you have one of those bosses who criticises you no matter what you do or don't should make plans to find another job (I know...easier said than done in this economy). The longer you stay and are used as a target, though, the more it will eat away at your self esteem.


I'll leave you with one last piece of advice. When the haters start hating, and the insults are flying, it may be a cliché, but....go to your "happy place."

That's right - think of something that always makes you feel good, whether it's a certain vacation scenario, or an exciting creative project you're thinking of starting, a movie that really cracked you up. Thinking of these positive and happy things will take the sting out of those nasty comments!


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    • PURPLECANDY profile image


      6 years ago from ANYWHERE

      I like that first picture!

    • pinkydoo profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      I had that problem recently - my husband accused me of "messing up the TV' when I accidentally pressed a button, and I just went crazy....I should have read this article first, it probably would have helped!


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