Guest Post On Dealing With Insults

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on October 14, 2011

As my readers know, dealing with difficult behavior is a specialty of mine, something I’ve written about extensively in my coauthored book, ‘Dealing With People You Can’t Stand: How To Bring Out The Best In People At Their Worst’.’

Well, you’re in for some additional value to what I’ve written on the subject.  Because today’s post, on dealing with insults, is the second guest post by fellow author and friend Dianna Booher, whose new book, “Creating Personal Presence,” is in bookstores now.


Refuse to Get Hooked by “Baiting” Comments

In a matter-of-fact tone, state your refusal to respond and your determination to remain calm: “I won’t stoop to responding in kind.” “I don’t get involved in shouting matches.” “Your outbursts will not change my decision.” “That’s your opinion.” “You’re entitled to your feelings.” “That may be your perception.” “I really don’t have time to get into it with you.” “I have my view, and you have yours.” “You must be having a bad day.” “Hmmm.”  Whatever you do, don’t bite. The bully “gets away with it” only when you succumb to letting him or her make you lose control.

 Tell the Other Person that the “Insult Tactic” Doesn’t Work With You.

When you think someone is yelling, cursing, or otherwise abusing you simply to get you to change your mind about something, say so. “Geoffrey, yelling and exploding at me won’t work. I understand you’re angry that you have to wait another couple of days, but those tactics don’t work with me.”

Use Body Language to End the Insulting Conversation.

Look bored. Yawn. Wave the person away with a flip of your hand. Continue your work or make an exit. Break eye contact. Your body should say, “I don’t have time for such nonsense. Stop it.”

Wear the Remark.

Try going along with the other person’s comment. Such a response drains all the fun out of the torture tactic for the bully. For example, the bully says, “You take about twice as long as most people to do this report. Were you aware of that?” You respond: “It’s really closer to three times as long.”

Write Down an Insult or Hostile Remark.

Make a point of writing down derogatory comments in the bully’s presence—even asking them to repeat the remarks so that you can record them correctly. If they ask why, make some flippant comment like: “They’re a new chapter in my book.” “I keep score.” “I’m going to send them off for a contest.” Whatever the remark, the person will immediately begin to see visions of HR people swarming around his work space. People think hard before “going on record” with insults.

Prepare a Comeback.

The comeback can be serious or humorous. The choice is yours, depending on what you want as an outcome. If you want to keep the relationship intact and you want the barbs to end, be serious. If you want to prove that you can take it and ruffle some feathers yourself, try light humor. Timing and tone may make the difference in each case. Examples: “Do you treat everybody like this, or am I just a favorite?” “I know what’s bothering you—but your secret is safe with me.” “You go for the kill, don’t you?” “You’re charming.” “Everybody can’t afford to go to finishing school.” “Bad hair day, huh?” “I bet you go home and kick your dog, too.”

Level About How the Insult Makes You Feel.

Tell the other person that the constant sarcasm, jokes, or grumbling has gotten out of hand. Be as direct as you can: “That remark is insulting.” “Why do you enjoy hurting my feelings?” “Remarks like that embarrass me in front of customers; it sounds as though you think I’m incompetent at my job.” “Did you mean to insult me? Are you aware of what you did?” Wait for a response.

Prepare Gossip Stoppers.

If the shared gossip insults someone else and you don’t want to play a role in it, stop the conversation with one of these lines. Vary your tone with your purpose: “I’m surprised to hear you say that—Janice always has such nice things to say about you.” “Frankly, I’m puzzled. I’ve never known you to pass on rumors that haven’t been checked out.” “I really don’t pay much attention to the grapevine—things get so twisted. Don’t you agree?” “That story has probably gone through so many tellings that I bet half the details are missing.” “Really? I think I’ll mention that to Cindy so that she’ll know she needs to set the record straight.”

Kindergarten bullies grow up to be boardroom bullies. Aim to change their communication tactics.


Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 45 books, published in 24 countries and 17 languages.   Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader  and  Communicate with Confidence, Revised Edition.

Thanks to Dianna for a great post.  Now, reader, it’s your turn.  Your comments are welcome below!

Be well



Previous post:

Next post: