We’ve all been insulted.
Whether it was good-natured or had intent to harm, dealing with verbal disrespect incorrectly can make us look insecure, high-strung, and ungrounded.
The best way I’ve come across to deal with these situations, be it a malicious slam or gentle ribbing from a friend, is to agree and amplify:
First, agree with whatever false claim the other person is putting on you.
The majority of people in this situation are going to go with their first instinct and begin defending themselves. This sub-communicates a fragile ego and that high value is placed in the other person’s opinion.
Just accepting what the other person is saying- because it ultimately means nothing- throws the insulter off hard and disarms them. If their words were meant to create discomfort, agreeing gives a completely unexpected result and neutralizes any social status they might have perceived to have over you.
Second, amplify. Take whatever their claim was, and then exaggerate it to absurd levels. This throws it back in their face and makes the whole conversation seem ridiculous. It’s also a lot of fun.
Them: Do you always sit around and watch TV all day like this?
Me: Nah, usually I go a week at a time. Can you go grab my bedpan?
Them: You’re strange.
Me: The strangest. I actually won Strangest in Show at the county fair once.
Them: You have big ears.
Me: I know, I am a great listener.
Not the best examples, but do you see what I am getting at? With a little snark or playful sarcasm thrown in, the effect is paralyzing.
The offender’s conditioning has them expecting the comment to be ignored before ever being agreed upon. While maybe not bad advice for grade-schoolers, I think we all can agree that silence in response to an insult can often come off as weakness.
That last one is also a marketing tactic that many companies employ- featuring their own flaw. Consider Listerine’s biting, stinging sensation that most despise. Their advertising firm knew there was no sense in ignoring this, so the brand’s slogan for a while was “The taste you love to hate (twice a day).”
Again, this strategy is also applicable if it was just harmless teasing from a friend, and can add even more humor to a lighthearted situation.
When you accept your own flaws, they can’t ever be used against you, and it’s an extremely liberating feeling knowing that you have nothing to hide.
What’s your favorite way to diffuse an insult?