Five Ways to Respond to Rude Comments

No one can reject you without your permission

We all want to be more connected; genetically we are programmed to seek connection because in our more primitive forms we needed our tribe or group for survival. But when someone rejects you, you need to know how to respond to rude comments in order to keep your self-esteem in tact.

Long ago, rejection meant being shunned, banned, or excommunicated. This type of punishment was worse than death.

Our bodies are still programmed to respond to rejection negatively, even though we don’t require our peers’ help with basic needs like food, water, or shelter and security anymore.

That explains why we feel our adrenaline spiking when we face rejection. Our hearts beat faster, and we feel our pulse quickening. In those moments, it’s easy to blurt something back that we don’t mean. Many fights begin in this biological, “fight or flight” mode. But what if there are more than just those two options?

Empowering Yourself

In a TedTalk about facing rejection, Marisa Peer, an award-winning therapist, gives a variety of scenarios. From a family member telling you not to wear a particular style again, or a co-worker telling you your speech was awful, there are countless scenarios where people offer us feedback that we don’t want to hear. We can prepare ourselves for these situations by understanding how to respond to rude comments. Whether its constructive criticism or downright inappropriate, we can use the following responses:

Say, “Thank you for sharing that.”

This response doesn’t allow the criticism to reach you and shuts down further attacks. If the person continues to go on about whatever negative aspect they are pointing out to you, its completely okay to keep repeating the same response, Thank you for sharing that.

For example, my sister is a fashionista and tells me, “You really shouldn’t wear dresses that shape; you’d look much better in something flowier.”
I respond, “thank you for sharing that.”
“Your chest is just too big for this fitted thing you are trying to pull off.”
“Thank you for sharing that, sis.”
It’s not that I’m insulting you, I’m just telling you what would look better.”
Thank you for sharing that.

The conversation is over, I didn’t let it in, and I still feel beautiful in my dress. I didn’t say anything insulting back to her, so I didn’t add any fuel to the situation, and it died out. This is an easy way to respond to rude comments that generally works. But there may be situations where you want to try something different.

Ask them to repeat what they said slowly

Give them the chance to retract their words, even if you heard them. If they do so, let them. Don’t pursue it.

For example, “You really shouldn’t publish things like that article you shared on Facebook yesterday, it was terrible.”

“Sorry, I didn’t quite hear you. Can you repeat that for me more slowly?”

“Oh don’t mind me, its none of my business. I just had a bad day.”

A lot of times, people say things that have nothing to do with us. They insult us because they are feeling something unpleasant, and they want to get rid of it. Sometimes putting another person below them can mask the bad feeling, so insulting others becomes a coping mechanism. What you have to do is realize, It has absolutely nothing to do with you. This makes it easy to let it go.

Directly ask, “Are you trying to hurt me?”

If you have a relationship with someone that says hurtful things regularly, getting directly to the point might be the best option. Whether it’s your coworker or your parent, this question can get to the root of the problem.

“You really should look into getting a real job; you’re no good at this writing thing. I read some of your articles.”
“Are you trying to hurt me?”
“No, of course not! I would never try to hurt you; I want to protect you. I think you are putting so much energy into this, and you aren’t getting anywhere.”
“Thank you for sharing that.”

They could also say, “I don’t care if I hurt you, I don’t like you. I hate you.” That’s when you move on to option four and tell them, “That’s okay because I’m not letting it in.” This is one person out of 7.5 billion in the world. No matter who they are to you, your parent, sibling, child, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to let their one opinion change anything about how you feel about yourself.

Tell them, “that is not going to work.”

Sometimes its obvious someone is just trying to tear us down with their comments. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just happen in middle school hallways. Bullys exist outside adolescence too. We have to learn not to let them affect how we feel.

“Wow, you really screwed up on that exam. I can’t believe how stupid you are.”
“You can think what you like and say what you like, but I’m not going to let that in. ”

If you try to get defensive or say something back about the other person, then you are letting the words in. Letting them in means allowing them to push you down a peg, and retorting back about them is an attempt to bring them down with you. Instead, don’t let it in.

Sometimes people are relentless, and they keep going. That’s when we can pull out the question that might make them close their mouth and think, without directly insulting them in any way.

Ask them about themselves

Did you know that critical people have the most criticism reserved for themselves? When you constantly criticize me in front of our family, you are letting everyone here know that you aren’t happy with yourself. That’s a shame. But it has nothing to do with me.” This is a great way to respond to a rude comment without returning any ugly words.

These phrases may be tough to pull out of thin air, so practice them. If you know you are going to be spending time with someone that likes to pick at you, practice saying these phrases in the mirror. You could even share these tips with a friend and practice it with them.

Reject Rejection

Whatever you do, there is no need to let rejection in. You can choose to let it go, and when you choose, it changes everything. No one can reject you without your permission. So the next time you are faced with this situation, remember you have a choice. You can respond to the rude comments with one of these phrases, or you can risk hurting the relationship by reacting and following your emotions.

Comment below if you have more tips for responding to rude comments while staying true to yourself and not letting rejection get to you!

Originally published on Medium 12/13/2019

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