Becoming Unoffendable

How To Deal With Insults

“Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.” – Marcus Aurelius

I was at a busy library in London a few weeks back when a quirky, middle-aged lady started chatting to me. About three minutes into the conversation she commented on the grand size of my nose. And then she poked at it once with her finger while laughing.

A few years ago, such an incident would have really upset me. I would have turned bright red and cursed that woman under my breath. Then I would have spent the rest of the day secretly seething, and feeling very self-conscious about my appearance.

But what actually happened a few weeks back was this: Nothing.

What I once would have perceived as an insult had no effect on me whatsoever. The conversation soon ended and I went on about my day quite happily.

Last week in Munich I had another (albeit small) opportunity to take offense, when a German chap mistakenly identified me as an Englishman…

– I’m actually from Ireland.

– Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.

– [smiling] Don’t worry, it’s very hard to offend me.

Tis true. It is very hard to offend me nowadays. In this post I want to share with you the type of mindset I’ve developed that makes me pretty much immune to insults.

And then you can go post nasty accusations in the comments to test me out 😉

Refusing gifts

There’s a story about the Buddha that I like to keep in mind.

There was a man who constantly harassed and insulted the Buddha, throwing all sorts of verbal abuse at him. But the Buddha never seemed fazed by this. When someone asked why he didn’t take offense, he simply replied…

If someone gives you a gift and you refuse to accept it, to whom does the gift belong?

Last week in Frankfurt I was writing part of this very post while waiting for a train. An American woman approached and asked me for some spare change. When I returned a polite-but-firm no, she called me a jerk and moved on.

That was her gift, and I refused to accept it. I shook off the insult and got right back to work as if nothing had happened.

You always have a choice

I also like to keep in mind the words of Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning.

Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust and went on to found logotherapy. In the book, he recounts his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. He writes of the guards taking everything away from the prisoners, all of their human freedoms, in an effort to crush their spirit and destroy their will. But Frankl came to the realization that there was one thing that could not be taken away from him: his freedom to choose his reaction to what was happening to him. As Frankl himself put it:

Between stimulus and response lies man’s greatest power: the power to choose.

It’s easy to blame others for our misgivings.

— It’s his fault this happened!

— If only my boss wasn’t such a condescending bitch!

— I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky kids!

I see that as surrendering your power to choose. Even if you find yourself in a terrible situation, or if someone throws the mother of all insults your way, you still get to choose your response. Nobody can take away that power from you, but too often we surrender it ourselves.

Standing up for yourself

I should clarify that I’m not advocating you sit back and let people insult you repeatedly without response (sorry, Buddha). You have to stand up for yourself every now and then, lest folks start taking advantage of you and your unoffendability.

I was in a hostel in Munich last week, sharing a room with three other people. One of them had a real knack for waking me up. It was like he’d been preparing his whole life for that one task. He’d get up at 5am, turn on the light, and start making all sorts of noise as he got ready for the day, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there were other people in the room trying to sleep.

The first morning I let it go, choosing not to take offense. But the second morning, when it became apparent that this guy wasn’t going to figure out the whole empathy thing on his own, I called him on it. If I hadn’t, I knew I would have carried the resentment around with me for the rest of the day, and probably would have bitched about the guy behind his back.

Too many of us do this, methinks. We whine and complain about how other people mistreat us, but we never actually say anything to the offenders. Whining and complaining is pretty pointless in general, but it also becomes spineless when you haven’t brought up the issue with the offender first.

So, if you ever have cause to take issue with someone or something, instead of getting offended, take action to rectify the situation. If you’re watching a movie that sucks, stop watching and go do something else. If someone pisses you off, call them on it.

And if you can’t call them on it for whatever reason, the smart choice is to distance yourself from that person, or just learn to accept their behavior. No good comes from enduring an annoyance and building up all kinds of secret resentment.

The Stoic approach to insult management

I recently read a great book about Stoicism as a practical philosophy of life. There was a whole chapter on how to deal with insults. I’ll share with you here a few of my key takeaways.

Let’s say someone insults you intentionally. Their goal is to upset you. The best way to handle that is to simply refuse to become upset. This not only stumps your insulter, but it also makes them feel completely powerless. It’s like someone trying to kill you by shooting you point blank in the chest. How do you think they’d feel if the bullet just bounced off, superman style, and you responded with nothing more than a raised eyebrow?

If someone is trying to hurt you with an insult, it can also help to imagine that they’re a child. Because, really, such insults are childish. If you’re at a friend’s dinner party and his 3-year-old son comes up to you and calls you a poo poo head, you’re probably going to look at him in amusement, maybe ruffle his hair and then return to the adult conversation. You wouldn’t take the insult seriously.

Unless, that is, you are actually a poo poo head, and not all that comfortable being one.

Which brings me to another point: Sometimes we find ourselves taken aback by insults because there’s some truth to them, because they poke at our insecurities. Like if you’re losing your hair and someone makes a bald joke at your expense. In such a scenario, realize that your reaction says more about you than it does about the severity of the insult. If you have a solid foundation of self-assurance and are comfortable with your appearance, you won’t take offense.

See, if you’re really sensitive about your hair loss, that’s entirely your issue to deal with. Instead of wishing people would stop mentioning your receding hairline (out of your control), you could just learn to be comfortable rocking the bald dome (within your control).

“Anytime we think the problem is ‘out there,’ that thought is the problem.” – Stephen Covey

Likewise, if someone calls you fat and you get offended by it, I suspect that you’re not truly comfortable with your weight. Instead of resenting that person, you should use their words as a launch pad for exploring your relationship with your body, and making it a healthier one.

The Stoics actually welcomed insults, for two reasons.

The first is best summed up by these words from Antisthenes (who was technically a Cynic and not a Stoic, but I digress)…

“Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.”

The idea here is that insults can act as signposts. If there’s a grain of truth to them, then they help point us in the direction of our faults and insecurities, and we can get busy working on those and improving ourselves.

The second reason Stoics welcomed insults was because they believed they helped build a kind of immunity against criticism. A man who has been criticized regularly in the past is likely to shrug off future insults as no big deal, while a man who has never been insulted before will surely be left reeling when someone first likens him to donkey appendage.

Along these lines, a Stoic named Cato purposely used to go against the norms of fashion in ancient Rome, shunning the popular light purple tunic in favor of simpler, darker attire. As explained in the aforementioned book…

Cato did this not because he “sought vainglory”; on the contrary, he dressed differently in order to accustom himself “to be ashamed only of what was really shameful, and to ignore men’s low opinion of other things.”

This mindset has definitely proven beneficial to me. I used to get upset by negative comments here on the blog, or by people disagreeing with me. But not so much anymore.

I encourage folks to put themselves out there online, and in the real world, because you learn how to deal with other people not liking with you, or disagreeing with you, or thinking you’re a complete asshole. I believe it’s important to learn how to handle that. You’re inviting criticism, sure, but I see it as hardening myself against criticism, building a thicker skin.

Again, imagine the guy who never puts himself out there, never puts himeself in a position to be criticized. What happens when he falls into an unavoidable situation where criticism is inevitable?

Easy: He crumbles.

It’s (usually) nothing to do with you

Nowadays I tend to feel sorry for people who insult me. Granted, pity isn’t always my initial reaction, but give me a few seconds and I can usually reign myself in and realize that I don’t have to take offense.

Some people seem to be put out by the fact that I don’t drink, and they act a little shitty towards me because of it. I met a girl in England who openly mocked me about not drinking, and I understood perfectly once I saw her realtionship with alcohol. It wasn’t healthy, and she knew it. My teetotalling ways shone an unflattering light on her drinking habits, and she resented me for that. The quick and easy way for her to feel better about herself was to write me off as a weirdo, worthy of her best insults.

I once parted ways with a girlfriend, and a few months later she told me she was glad we broke up because I was “too free thinking and in love with the world.” She wasn’t being cruel — I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean it as an insult at all — but those words really hurt me at the time. Being free thinking and in love with the world are two of my favorite things about myself, and there was someone telling me that they disliked those qualities.

It took me a while, but I eventually came to realize that those words said more about my ex than they did about me. As long as I was happy with my world-loving, free-thinking ways, it didn’t much matter what she thought.

With that realization, I was able to let go of the hurt.

Fuck, and such

Some of us insist on getting really offended by profanities, like the word fuck. As my buddy Trevor notes, this makes little sense…

The only reason [some] words are bad is because we MAKE them bad… some people have chosen to interpret the noise of the air pressure of the consonant f, followed by the vocal chords making an uh, then more air pressure of the consonants ck, as poison to their ears.

And that’s really what it comes down to: a choice. Nobody can offend you without your permission. If you choose to interpret a word as offensive, that’s entirely your business.

Some people get upset when I use naughty words on this blog, or when I write about taboo subjects. Or they’ll get offended just because my opinion is different to theirs. And to those people I say: You do realize that thousands of children in the world are needlessly starving to death every day, right? If you’re going to take offense to something, I recommend you start there, not with what some random dude writes on the Internet, that little thing you disagree with, or wish your sensitive eyes hadn’t seen.

Stephen Fry said it best…

“If I had a large amount of money I should found a hospital for those whose grip upon the world is so tenuous that they can be severely offended by words and phrases yet remain all unoffended by the injustice, violence and oppression that howls daily”

(It must be noted though that Mr. Fry surely has accumulated a large fortune at this stage, yet still no such hospital. Color me disappointed.)

Now, all that said, I don’t advocate people go around shouting profanities from the rooftops. Best be considerate and refrain from asking little old ladies how their motherfucking day is going.

Practical steps for dealing with insults

Alright, I feel a bit of a summation is in order. Here’s a step-by-step approach to dealing with insults that I’ve found particularly effective.

1. Pause

When someone throws an insult your way, the first thing you need to do is take a moment. Just breathe. Don’t respond right away. Most people immediately let their lizard brain loose to respond to insults, fighting fire with fire, and that’s how they get themselves in trouble and say or do things they later regret.

So take a moment. With time and practice, that moment will become shorter, because you’ll train yourself to instinctively respond in an appropriate manner.

2. Consider the intent

Don’t even worry about whether there’s any truth to the insult just yet. Consider the intent instead. If you can figure that out, it’s easier to come up with an appropriate response.

3. Respond

If the other person is intentionally trying to insult you, or at least that’s what you suspect, there are a few things you can do.

One is to just completely ignore the insult, to pretend you didn’t even hear it. Just act like whatever was said isn’t even worth acknowledging because it’s so ridiculous.

But there is a danger to that. As noted earlier, sometimes you need to stand up for yourself and call someone out when they insult you. Because if you don’t, they may receive the message that you’re a pushover, willing to be their verbal punching bag whenever they need someone to pick on.

My approach is to ignore the first insult. If that doesn’t work, and the person persists in trying to insult me, then I call them out. You can say something like, “Yeah, I heard you the first time.” Say it while looking them in the eye and with an amused look on your face, and hold that for a few seconds before going on to talk about something else.

Another way to call them out is to name the game. Ask them, “You wouldn’t be trying to offend me now, would you?” Or say, “Wow, my view on that really makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t it?”

Again, you remain calm and appear as though you’re amused by the childish game they’re playing. Because insults are a childish game after all, and you’re above that. So let them know.

You can also respond to an insult with self-deprecation. If someone tries to make a joke at your expense, you add to the joke. Again, you’re sending the message that you can’t be messed with, that you don’t take offense to silly things.

4. Contemplate

Here’s where we switch from talking about outer response to inner response. Inner is more important, because on the outside you can fake a good response to an insult, or a good non-response, but you may end up secretly seething about it for months or even years afterwards.

And that’s not good. You don’t just want to appear unoffendable. You actually want to be unoffendable.

As mentioned, I don’t worry about whether there’s any truth to the insult when it happens (unless it’s an obvious falsehood and I can easily dismiss it). Instead, I focus on delivering an appropriate response and save the contemplation for later, usually when I’m alone and have adequate time to think. Only then will I consider if the insult actually has any basis in reality, and if it points to an issue I need to address. If not, I can just forget about it.

I’ve found that nowadays it’s almost impossible for me to get offended by false accusations. I’m secure enough in myself and I live in line with my values. If someone tells me I’m a terrible person, I know it’s not true.

And if there is some truth to an insult fired my way, I take that Stoic approach and try use it to my advantage. Not only does it help me discover parts of myself I need to work on, but it’s also good practice for handling whatever future criticism the world sends my way.

How do you handle insults?

This was a pretty long and comprehensive post, but I’m sure you fine folks can teach me a thing or two about handling insults via the comments. Have at ’em.

  • Note: this article was first published on November 15, 2011.
  • Read this article in other languages: Italiano
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  1. It’s rare for someone to actually insult you in a real world situation.

    On the internet…all the time because anonymity allows people to behave like idiots.

    The last time I was actually insulted in real life was by a group of sales people at a job. I got on the wrong side of them and they behaved nastily towards me. Ultimately I just quit that job. Not always the right option and I sometimes question whether I should have been thicker skinned. I’m glad I had the choice to walk away though.

    1. Very true about insults on the Internet, David. I find those have usually have the least basis in reality though, just bored trolls trying to feel superior. I’ve learned to never take their words seriously.

      And as regards your situation with the sales people, sometimes walking away is the smartest thing. Unfortunately, we can never know that for sure.

      Thanks for the comment.

    2. David, I wish I lived in your life – rare for someone to insult you in a real life situation. Happens almost daily here. Unfortunately, it’s my husband.

      1. Sorry to hear that, Shelly. You know the old adage that we only hurt the ones we love? Truer words have never been spoken. Sometimes the people close to us hurt us without knowing, and sometimes they do it because we’re the only ones they can get away with hurting. In either case, it always pays to refuse the insult and try not to internalize it.

        I get insulted pretty much every day too – as I walk down the streets of a large city. It used to really bother me and if I’ve had a bad day it still does. To total strangers I’m too fat, too skinny, too unfriendly, they don’t like my clothes, whatever. It’s bizarre. One day I thought about what would make me comment on a stranger in the street and the answer was “nothing.” This is not normal behavior and these are not normal people. They hate their lives or they hate the world – who knows? But I definitely reject their “gifts” and I especially reject their desire to pull themselves up by pushing me down.

        1. Lol, I thought it was me! I’ve wondered throughout my life, what makes absolute total strangers give me opinions about my hair, size, makeup, dress, etc. I have never, other than to compliment and even then the person has to acknowledge me, given someone I totally do not know my assessment of them. I doesn’t mean I don’t notice someone else’s hair, size, dress, makeup, it means I don’t comment.

          I thought it was something about me.

          Glad to see I’m not the only one. I thought I must be the most frigging fascinating person on the planet!

          1. No, it’s definitely not you. I have noticed it happens a lot more to women, though. I think it’s because street bullies think that it’s a safe bet to pick on women — we are less likely to haul off and punch them in the face. People have problems in their lives and they divert their aggression to innocent bystanders.

            Have you ever seen the video on YouTube where a woman walks for hours on a NYC street with a camera man filming (camera camouflaged)? Google it. The video is called “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a woman.” My favorite remark: “Why don’t you smile, bitch?” As though running into that character would give a woman something to smile about!

      2. sorry to hear but understood
        cause its not rare its daily here too Im going yo get an op to have him stop insulting berating gaslighting interrogating an threatening me I have been trying to use no contact wirh him but he slitheres into the room and hurls insulrs and tries to provoke me whenever it strikes his fancy if hes imagined something …he acts on it and tries to evoke some reaction

        1. Darling, from your description, you are involved with a person who has a personality disorder. They tend to be misogynistic; an early warning to their hurtful ways.
          You will want to search about sociopaths and psychopaths, psychic vampires, psychological abuse and related subjects as you survey the literature.
          You are sadly in an abusive relationship. The only thing to do is save yourself and any children and get away from the abusive one.
          Protect your precious time and your life. It is your treasure. Take care.

        2. Sounds like he has personality disorder. DSM gives a good description of several cluster B personality disorders. Check it out. Knowledge is power!

        3. Perhaps research Antisocial personality disorder, Narsacistic personality disorder and or Borderline. Lots of YouTube videos out there that are very helpful.

      3. Judgement Recoil

        Curious, would these insults be direct or indirect? Is there love in your marriage? Do you feel any mutual feeling?

      4. Dave sorry to hear about your encounter
        You definitely did the right thing! Unfortunately here Its my stbxhchild and I left three times he hasn’t changed as he promised with personal counseling books just got clearer from fog almost gone try to maintain. No contact to protect self feeling free finally

    3. I’m starting to realise how stoicism, mindfulness and CBT all have a lot in common.

      Mindfulness creates a state of self-awareness of your emotions, and puts you in the right frame of mind to shape a humourous response to an insult.

      The problem of insults has its origins in our deep past when we had to respond to physical threats in our environment with a flight-or flight reaction. Unfortunately, this hard-wiring in our brains has made verbal threats indistinguishable from physical ones on a neurological level. Fortunately mindfulness is a mind hack that can lessen the amygdala’s automatic reaction, allow you to respond Ina more emotionally positive way.

    4. Lately I’ve settled on a simple way to deal with whatever I perceive as an insult. The response works well whether the person was trying to insult or not, so no bridge burning if I’ve misinterpreted. I pause, breathe and then say “Well, that’s one opinion.” Kind of hard to argue with that and it doesn’t escalate the situation.

    5. I just happened upon this post at this late date. Nevertheless, it’s just the wisdom I needed at the moment. Not often one runs across such a well-read, well- trevelled and thoughtful free spirit.
      Thanks and keep up the awesome work!

  2. Hey Niall,

    Wanted to add with the English girl. People call out others who don’t have similar tendencies cause of their own securities with those tendencies. You = not a drinker, she associates herself as awesome BY drinking = will feel threatened by you not drinking. It’s a projection of her own insecurity so she’ll call you out on it to protect her own ego. Yay for Psychology.

    *Also do look into updating commentluv, current version not supported.

      1. I found this article after being hurt by really outlandish insults today. I am going to handle insults just like you guys going forward, and not let it hurt my feelings, nor quietly seethe. If I do that, I am only hurting myself.
        I did not want to go out with this guy, he has asked me several times, I was polite but said no. He told me I was a sick girl and needed psychological help. Also, if I ever was able to go back to work (I’m badly injured) that he hoped I would be more reliable to my employer than I was to him!!! I was shocked and hurt, now I am just laughing. I did reply, not nasty nor unkind but just stated that he did not have the right to judge me, nor make a determination of anyone’s mental health since he is a cpa. ugh, I am so glad I had a bad feeling about him and did not spend any time with him.

        1. That’s terrible! Honestly, the guy sounds like a narcissist. A normal guy would have been let down, but understanding. You’be hurt his feelings by rejecting him and he had to inflict pain on you in retaliation. Think about it — he’s asked you out several times and you’ve shot him down. Either he’s got terrible taste in women or he’s trying to save face.

          1. “Terrible taste in women” was probably poor choice of words to the woman who is reeling from insults! Maybe what you meant was he has bad judgment or understanding of the word no??

  3. Great article Niall. I feel like we are on a very similar path in this way – it’s getting harder and harder to bother me, and when I feel bothered, I figure out what is bothering me and address it (if possible) or release the feeling (if not).

    My most recent model of this – we talk about people being thin-skinned when they are easy to offend, and thick-skinned when the insults just bounce off. But thick skinned presupposes that there’s still some kind of insult that will get through, as long as it’s harsh and powerful enough. What about being no-skinned? – if there’s no “you” there to offend, then you permit the insult to pass over you and through you, and when the insult has gone past you may turn the inner eye to where it has gone and recognize there is now nothing. Only you remain, that you that you know is formless, completely safe, secure and free from all harm.

    (Bonus points for citing the inspiration of the second last sentence)

        1. I was going to take a chance and say it was also sourced in Buddha’s teachings: those being about dissolving ego to reveal the true essence within.

          You know, the one that allows you to have a happy day…always…

          I suppose it’s like the connection to the cosmos, where one is one with the cosmos as one realizes that all we are is star energy…and all the rest is illusion…

          And, how can illusion insult the cosmos? That doesn’t make any sense! LOL

  4. “Now, all that said, I don’t advocate people go around shouting profanities from the rooftops. Best be considerate and refrain from asking little old ladies how their motherfucking day is going.” – best quote

  5. Hiya Shithead! Good post. Nice to know that I can now call you whatever I want!

    Hope the trip is going well, and that Munich was worth the trip. Some cool pictures there in the post.

    You in Zurich now? You take a train through the Alps?

    As for the insulting thing, I know what you mean. For years the idea that I had a big nose was something that really got to me… lots of people in school having a go at me… and then I relaised, that some of the people saying this to me, generally had their own strange quirks in their faces, be it buggy eyes, or big ears, or whatever. I don’t know when it happened, but it was definitely sometime around 1st year in college, when I really stopped giving a shit what people thought of me in the physical sense. I think what gets to me, and sometimes still does, is when someone doesnt like me for me. One of the hardest things in my job is to sometimes let go of the fact that I am going to get on with someone, and just be a dick to them to get the job done. Because the reality is that sometimes people are just rude… they have their own shit, and we got to just accept that, brush it off, and play them at their game (this is really only in situations where you are forced into dealing with someone – like my job – if someone comes at me in my job, I gotta deal with them… and sometimes for months at a time.)

    I think nowadays I am a bit more thicker skinned. I find though that sometimes I still trip myself up, and actually the only times I get noticably annoyed is when I say or do something that I don’t think I agree with myself… you know… when I don’ t take that moment to breath and think before I speak…

    Anyway… good post. Insightful.

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Marc. Definitely get what you’re saying about having to stand up to people at work. Fair play to you for handling it as you do.

      And yup, arrived in Zurich today. I ended up needing seven different trains to get here from Munich due to a slight mix up, but all was grand in then end. Twas a misty enough day though so I didn’t get to see much of the Alps.

      Ah well, next time 🙂

  6. Whoa that was a long post! And I thought I was the queen of long! LOL

    For me, the most important point of the post was to speak up when someone upsets you. I tell myself that I’m being considerate by letting it pass, but that’s not really true. I’m afraid of conflict. But as you point out, being quiet does no one any good. I remain on simmer, and they continue to cluelessly needle people (I really do believe most people are clueless rather than mean-spirited). This will be my new courage challenge, Niall. I do so love reading your big-headed blog. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jen. I’ve had to work on overcoming my fear of conflict, too. It’s still a work in progress for me, but I’ve made solid strides the last few years. It gets a little easier every time.

      1. Nancy Kilburn

        Hello Niall – don’t know if you’ll even see this but I really enjoyed reading your post as well. With me, it’s my family, and I think cruelty from those touting to be loving and kind is just the very worst thing. I will say something, sarcastic and funny and thanks sooo much for the idea about the starving children. I hope your trip was fucking fabulous.
        Love – Nance

  7. Hi Niall I love your blog but must admit that sometimes I don’t have time to read all the posts. Today I clicked on and am so glad I did. No insults here – I think this was a fantastic post and just what I needed to read about now. I liked it was long – you didn’t cut it back because f worry that it was too wordy and that in itself was a lesson to me as I often worry that people will get bored by what I write.

    I am moving house – moving country at the moment and in the course of clearing out stuff have been reading old diaries before burning them . I look back on so many years spent worrying about what other people think of me, worrying about how I behave and look and how I come across. I have been thinking a lot about being over sensitive instead of just being yourself and trying not to hurt anyone but knowing that sometimes it is unavoidable that you rub people up the wrong way for many different reasons.

    Your post was a great reminder to keep on track and that it is possible to grow a new skin which protects you from the slings and arrows of this world while allowing you to learn from experience too. thanks so much. I carry away with me today the image of superman/woman who smiles as bullets bounce off and rebound on the shooter. Take care and thanks Kate x

  8. Nice post!

    It also reminded me of a T-shirt I saw a while ago saying: I’m NOT a Facebook status, you don’t have to ‘like’ me.

    I have this one response when people go too far with their insults: Do you feel better now you’ve had the chance to reflect your insecurities on me? (And when they are really pushing it, I add: now let me get on with grown-up stuff.)

    Insults and the like never really bothered me. I guess I became think skinned at a very early age. (Happy, like the Hippo, which is an interesting fable from an unusual source)

    Besides, I live what some might call an Epicurean lifestyle. I enjoy the simple pleasures and know that sometimes bad things do and must happen.

    Have a great Motherfucking day!

  9. Awesome post, your writting gets better and better each time…

    There is one thing a friend once told me that I try to remember EVERYDAY: when someone does something GOOD for you, I like to give back DOUBLE the good to this person, this way you give the world good vibes, extra in case someone needs them 😉 But when someone does something BAD to you, you should not keep it all inside, as this will harm you, but you shouldn´t give back double the bad, just a tiny litlle less bad. This way you get the bad out of you but don´t leave any extra bad into the world.

    It is freaking hard sometimes though… people whine and complain so much it´s contagious, and I just want to yell STOP IT ! and then hide, sometimes 😉

    I am a firm believer that as long as it is said out of respect, we can say anything; but I need to start believing more firmly that when people say things out of respect, I shouldn´t take rejection personally 😉

    Voy a practicar mas el no sentirme ofendido tras leer tu post 🙂


  10. Really feel that post was great; I will be looking for the book Mans Search for Meaning; your post took me to alot of sites which I will study. I have a question and would be interested in your viewpoint, even though I know that you do not have kids. I would, and can, treat others this way when I am insulted, purposely or not, but what if it is a teenager? My own teenager with whom I am in charge of teaching morality, civility, politeness, courtesy, etc.

    1. I’m trying, but I can’t seem to come up with anything I’d consider to be a helpful answer to that question, Christine. Methinks I’ll have to wait until I have kids myself to really give any insights on something like that. I’m sure it’s not easy.

    2. hey christine,

      as a mom, and a step-mom, this is something i’ve really had to battle through. (not that i have the ultimate answers, of course, but we’ve managed to make it work at our house) the first thing – which is an echo of what’s above – is to be able to not have the comments affect you internally. BE unoffendable. realize that when you’re teen screams at you, or slams doors or mutters things under his/her breath, or gives you the passive-aggressive sigh of discontent, that it’s not about you. this is what teens (and kids of all ages) do. it’s not (in most cases) a personal attack, so much as a tantrum against a world that isn’t falling into their lap just the way they wanted. and this is something we have to teach them how to deal with, as you mentioned. so number one is to let the offense itself roll off your back. if you’re upset by it, or feel angry in any way, take some time (as i’m sure you know) and let that go before approaching your kid. it’s never a good idea to try to resolve conflict when you’re coming from a place of insecurity or hurt or anger.

      now the fun part. 🙂 i’m not the greatest at conflict. i’d much rather avoid it when possible, but with our kids, we can’t. that’s – as you noted – our job. and so i started looking at these moments as opportunities. opportunities to deepen our relationship, and teach them (by example through my own response, as well as in words) how to best approach life. we have a pretty open household, and are really comfortable talking things through, but even so, i am reluctant to jump into a conversation /lesson with an angry kid. it’s rarely effective. so i thought of some things that might diffuse the situation first. this is what works for us.

      with my teen(s) it’s usually the passive-aggressive sigh accompanied by an epic eyeroll. when this happens, i usually smile really big, and then tell them to do it again. i either sit and look at them with a really intense excitement, like i’m about to watch my favorite movie, and then say ‘go!’ and wait for a repeat performance. or if it was lacking, i’ll say, ‘that sigh wasn’t deep enough’ or ‘come on, you can do better than that.’ and then maybe i sigh really big and tortured to show them how it’s done, and by this time we’re both grinning, and maybe we can talk about the problem.

      with a slammed bedroom door, i do the same, ‘hey, you missed one’ and then i’ll go and slam the kitchen door as well. or the bathroom… or all the doors in the house. and it’s silly and it makes the act itself kind of ridiculous, and then we can move on. and have the discussion about respect and the world not revolving around them (or me, or any of us) etc.

      if it’s words, … words that maybe you don’t want them to repeat… i sometimes turn it around to something completely random and arrestingly off-beat. when they yell ‘i hate you!’ … respond with (in a matchingly loud voice) ‘i hate wtermellon-flavored bubblegum!!’ … it stops them in their tracks, and you’ve shown your willingness to put yourself on the line. to call them out for their childishness in a way that is non-confrontational and daring.

      in other words, the act or word of anger has to get addressed, just sitting back and letting it go won’t help either of you. but if it can be called out in a way that simultaneously addresses the issue and robs it of its power (by laughing at it together), then you put yourselves in a place to maintain a relationship that thrives despite bad days, and open up avenues to teach morality, civility, politeness, respect, etc.

      sorry to take up so much space, great post, niall. loved the brilliant mix of philosophy, and the awesome visual of superman deflecting bullets with no response save a raised eyebrow.

      1. Wow.

        Hahahahahaha. I’m a kid right now going through this grumpy stuff but when I do this my parents get really mad at me for doing it and yell at me. I would LOVE IT if they did that!!! If they did this stuff, I would grow closer to them and be more open with them and it would generally help my behavior towards them. And, if they do do it now, they do it in a mocking way to sorta hurt me.

  11. Long ago I came up with this quote: “A problem isn’t a problem, until you make it one.”

    Keep up the good work!

  12. It’s uncommon for me to receive insults but I confess that it does offend me when someone says something disrespectful, not for the thing said, but for that person who consider himself in the position of being allowed to insult or treat someone disrespectfully. I know, I still have a lot to learn about being more open minded in this regard: I understand opinions different to mine but I struggle to understand how someone could say something harmful or disrespectful to anybody and not feel horrible with themselves. I will follow your advices in your post, thank you very much! 😀

  13. I love all of this. Buddha, Stoics, Frankl, practical advice for something that causes me a lot of trouble… Awesome post.

    I’ve gotten better at dealing with criticism from people I don’t know, but the hardest is dealing with criticism from people I do know, especially people I like. But those comments are usually intended to be helpful, not harmful. It’s like they believe that I’m a Stoic and will use what they said to learn, when I’m over here trying to patch up my extremely thin skin. Maybe next time I will remember to consider the intent.

    By the way, I think big noses are the best. 😉

  14. LMFAO. Spot on my friend. And as per usual you seem to be addressing an important topic in my life right now. I hope you are planning a new ebook in the future where all of your gritty wisdom can be rounded up. Put me down for a copy, please. Thanks again.


  15. Hey Niall, allow me to be truthful: When I met you in September that was one thing that was going on in the back of my mind ‘ Damn, his nose is big! ‘ Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut as I didn’t want to cause offence, guess it was pointless after reading this! 😛

    OK, that aside, being unoffendable is something I really need to work more on. Its something that used to bother me ( one incident where I uncovered people in college talking shit about me behind my back online comes to mind ) and while it doesn’t so much anymore, its still there. I guess it just something that will be worked on more and more as I go through life.

    Also, your CommentLuv plugin has expired, just letting you know.

    1. Tony Earnshaw, Harrogate, England

      Just to echo Adrian’s thoughts entirely – well, apart from the nose stuff.

      This “third party” form of offence, such as being talked about online without one’s knowledge, is one that’s the hardest to cope with. Being insulted face-to-face is one thing, and Niall handles it brilliantly in this excellent essay. But it’s hearing abuse being filtered back from other people that is hardest to cope with.

      How can I reject the offence, and laugh at it, if my accuser isn’t there to witness my rejection of it? It’s tough.

      1. Great point, gentlemen. In such cases, that’s where your inner response really comes into play. If there’s some truth to the insults, then it’s up to you to take action and work on that side of yourself.

        If there’s not truth to it, and it’s just people being mean, you’re still left with the power to choose your response. You can take offense and get upset about it, or you can let it go, realizing that your insulters are the unfortunate ones, all caught up in their games of childish and cowardly abuse.

        Now I’m not saying it’s easy to let such things go, not by any means. But it’s something we can strive towards.

        “The best revenge is a life well lived,” as some wise chap once said.

  16. Great post!

    One additional insight for me has been to separate out “observations” from “judgements”. The two are usually delivered in a package…with the observation usually being quite obvious and the judgement often being unspoken / more subtle (a look, tone of voice…etc). When I can notice these as two separate things, I can accept the observation (e.g. “yes, I wave my hands around when I talk”) and consider what it is that I want to do with the more subtle judgement about what that waving supposedly ‘means’ (ignore, inner reflection, speak up etc) …

  17. Fuck, what a long post!

    Firstly, nice nose Mr. Brody. Secondly, I think I probably know the girl you’re talking about. I cringed at the time. I’d apologise for her but I doubt she’d want me to. It won’t surprise you to hear (if I haven’t mentioned it already) she’s the same person who told me she’d be “seriously surprised” if I make it to New York and do all the things I want to do with my life.

    They’ve moved out since you visited, and although I miss miss having HIM around, it’s worth it to remove the negative energy in the house.

    I hope you could make sense out of that. I didn’t want to find myself being caught out! I hope all is well in Zurich!

  18. Fuck you, Niall! All of the other posts will now feel inferior, as this is EASILY my favourite DTR post by a country mile!!! I’m going to admit something – I’m not as good as you at not being offended, but oh dear God I am SO trying.

    I 1000% agree with your observations to why people insult others, but I guess it pisses me off even more that someone would have a mean intention. I dare say that I am better than I was last year with this, I’m definitely improving with time and effort. I’m also really glad that you touched upon sticking up for yourself and allow me to add some advice.

    After calling them out, they persist to put you down – cut them out of your life. Simple. as. That.

  19. So, taking this in the other direction, does that mean you should try to not offend people or just be yourself in all regards?

    I ask because I’m writing a blog post on whether swearing is acceptable for business owners using online media, and I’m curious about your thoughts.

    1. Good question, Kelly. I strive to be myself in all regards. At the same time, I like to consider myself a respectful person, so I don’t go around offending people intentionally. Treat others as you would like to be treated and all that.

      As regards business owners and swearing, I think it depends on the type of audience they’re trying to attract. Ashley Ambirge is a great example of a highly successful business owner who swears all the time, and her audience loves it. It’s part of her personality, and sure, it probably turns lots of people off, but everyone else does thinks she’s fantastic.

      I’m a big fan of letting your true personality shine through your business. So if you do swear a lot in your personal life, I say you should be comfortable swearing a lot while doing business. Otherwise you end up pretending to be someone you’re not just to get a sale. That wears on you.

  20. You actually summed it up, it’s about putting yourself in the shoes of the other, why are they doing this? What is their problem? It may be as your said that they are criticising their own insecurities, or it may be that they are lacking empathy

    Oh and as a Scot living in France, really connected with the English thingy……

    Send me a mail, as I may just be on your route…..and ask Cocopop to delete this part of my message!

    1. Dammit, Cocopop! Do your job, man!

      Sorry, Karen. He gets a little careless sometimes 😛

      Thanks for the comment. I won’t be back in France on this trip unfortunately. I’m in Zurich now, and will be heading to Budapest in a few days. Hopefully our paths will cross another time.

      1. So this had been my project for 2011. Every New Year i envision what lies for me the coming year… And i make a wish. The first time i did that, was a couple of years back, i wished for ‘hot and steamy sex’ in my life (!), the year after that ‘to follow my heart’, and now this year was to ‘define my borders and flourish’. Strangely so far each year my wish has come true…

        Maybe because it becomes like a mantra, unconscious in the back of my mind, but always guiding me.

        And in this defining of borders, flourishing, comes a strong inside. I used to let everone step over me. Often understanding the insecurities of others, not wanting to make them feel bad. in fact this has directed my life up until lately. And now this year suddenly, i have borders. I don’t let people walk over me anymore. No matter what or who they are. I stand strong with myself. Still haven’t polished my reactions… I don’t often pause 😉 to me learning to be unoffendible and to express my power, is magic!! It’s been my long lost quest, the answer to change my life. I guess maybe a little like your shyness. So just wanted to say your blog came at the perfect time. Thank you.

  21. Hi Niall!

    I usually handle insults using Eckart Tolle’s rule: the only problem with people is a level of their unconsciousness. And it is not their fault that they were not given either consciousness or the willingness to raise it.

    We really are lucky guys only because we have a gift to understand and discuss these things, what 90+% can’t. Realization of this fact gives a vitalizing dose of humility.

    Many people noticed the length of the entry, me too. I like these deep, Steve Pavlina-style entries more that short only-one-insight twitter-style ones. Good work!

  22. I think this has been my favourite post of yours so far and despite reading your blog for the last few months I felt I had to comment for the first time.

    I’ve noticed that over the past several years I’ve become increasingly harder to offend. In fact, I often openly invite criticism because I feel there are things I notice about others that they may not notice from their perspective. This leads me to be believe that the same may be true of how others see me: as I consider myself a highly sceptical and analytical person, I think it’s only right that I apply these tools to myself.

    Now, when someone is clearly trying to insult/offend me for no reason other than to try provoke an emotional reaction from me, they soon realise that they won’t get it from me. If it’s so obvious to me, I’ll just ignore it. If it betrays something about them, which quite often it does, then I’ll point it out and if they then show an adverse reaction to what is, after all, just my opinion then they’ll have highlighted this insecurity of theirs and their attempted insult will suddenly pale in comparison.

    On the other hand, as I’m always open to having my opinions and values challenged and changed and think others should be, if someone highlights something about me that I might not have considered before, I’ll certainly try to analyse this and when I fail to come up with a counter-argument I have no choice other than to accept it and change my outlook accordingly.

    I have no problem offending other people if it means pointing out the truth as I see it and think it’s a terrible thing when we censor ourselves or others for the sake of sparing feelings. It would only be hypocritical of me if I got offended when somebody tried to offer some constructive criticism of me.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Gavin. I need to work on being more assertive and not sparing people’s feelings so much. It’s easier in the short term, but I know I’m not really helping someone when I refrain from calling them on a shortcoming so as to avoid a bit of tension.

      1. Indeed. Thanks for the response! I didn’t mean to invade your blog with such an essay. As I’m sure you know at this stage, the right thing to do isn’t always the easy thing and sometimes being so forward an honest has it’s drawbacks but I think the world would be better if people spoke their minds a bit more as well as stopped taking criticism so personally.

        On another note, I love what you’re doing with your life. I had the same sort of idea brewing in my mind when I discovered your blog and it’s really encouraged me to go ahead with it. Instead of using college as an excuse to delay it, I’m going to plan a little excursion around Europe this summer to see how I might fare, although I’ll most likely go with a friend. You’ll probably be far away at that stage but I hope to be blazing my own trail before you’re back here in Ireland. Maybe our paths will cross some day.

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  24. Propecia stops receding hairlines although (curiously) many men are too proud to seek a prescription. Its also expensive me worth every penny.

  25. I read this a few weeks ago and have just read it again and wanted to thank you. A timely post for me. I have been too unoffendable in the past I think at times, though in hindsight I think that was probably been me trying to appear unoffendable or trying to avoid conflict. In its essence though, I agree that being unoffendable is a powerful place to be. I like that you said about looking inward and dealing with what triggers you.

  26. This is a very thoughtful post Niall. As regards the criticism you receive for being vegan and a non-drinker, Bertrand Russell said: “Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.”

    Sometimes criticism says more about the criticizer than the criticized. Sometimes it is constructive. I take what I can use and ignore what I can’t in my quest to live a more meaningful life.

  27. Pingback: The Gentle Art of Offending People | One Woman Marketing

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  29. Hey, I just wanted to say I know this post is old, but I just found it today. As someone who has been going bald for a while, I completely agree with your post. It took me a long time to become comfortable enough with my appearance that I shrug off the insults. Now I just need to move that indifference to other areas of my life that I’m self conscious about. On possibly a related note, you reference a number of books in your post – as someone always interested in new reads, any favorites?


  30. When my wife tries to insult me I take a little of each from the above blog, but sometimes I find myself laughing so hard I forget about the insult.

    Her: “you’re incompetent, you’re so dumb” etc. etc.

    Me: (Laughter)

    Her: “Stop laughing. It’s not funny!”

    Me: (more laughter)

    Her: “Stop laughing!” (chuckle chuckle)

    Me: “I’m laughing because you’re laughing.”

    Her: “I’m not laughing!” (chuckle chuckle)

    Me: “I just heard you laugh”

    Her: “No I didn’t!”

    Then it usually turns into something else or I change the subject. But really, when my wife starts laying into me, I try and find as much humor in it as possible. I think it’s because she takes herself so seriously when she does it.

  31. I often offer people $1,000 if they can offend me. Many have tried but I still have all my money. It is real easy to be unoffendable if you are truly humble and secure. I am there to the max. I love your writing. thanks Ken

  32. I know this is an older post as well, but I just want to let you know that you really inspired me with this. I had just been insulted about every aspect of my being by a former friend and stumbled upon this, luckily. I was absolutely devastated, but now I am at peace. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this–I’m sure it’s helped more people than you know.

  33. The only person who gets to me is my dad simply because of the sheer amount of insults I receive from him. Who knows how many 10? 30? a day. “you’re sick because you don’t eat meat.” He loves to insult me on matters that are deeply important to me and it’s very tiring. 90% of the time I don’t let it bother me but I have anxiety and at the end of the day I simply want to smack him.

    1. I find it interesting that you write about your dad insulting you all the time, and then use “poop” as your name when you comment. Maybe there’s something to that, or maybe not. I don’t have much to go on.

      Back on topic, have you ever read Byron Katie? You might find her books helpful.

    2. Dorkus-Americanus

      Poop, I think you should, if possible, move. Change homes, change cities, states, countries, whatever it takes to not still be around your verbally abusive father. Then “hide” his status updates on Facebook.

  34. Wow… It happened again… I posted last week regarding being sober for 4.5 years and sometimes having difficulty and or resentment at being in social situations where alcohol is prevalent… I just googled my general issue and found your site/blog… I just googled “how to respond to insults without being offended”… Or something like that… Not sure of the exact phrase I used… But BANG! There you are again…. I just read some of your posts and listened to your video… It’s funny how sometimes you get just what you need at just the right time… You’re making a difference my friend! Keep up the good work!

  35. It seems like it all boils down to being okay with who you are and how you look, speak, dress, think, et cetera

    Where can I find the chapter on that?

    Because I always think I am a freak and the rest is “normal”

    1. You probably are a freak, as am I 🙂

      And that’s perfectly fine. Normal people tend to live boring, uninspiring lives and die with much regret for never having expressed their own uniqueness.

      You don’t want to be normal!

      Being okay with who you are… that’s something that comes with time, but your surroundings also make a big difference. Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with people who value and encourage your uniqueness. Worst thing is to be surrounded by a bunch of “normal” people who are always telling you to stop being different and try fit in.

      1. That is truly th crux; being around people who also celebrate their own uniqueness or quirkiness and therefore allow you yours.
        For some people: no matter where they look, they see themselves.
        There is indeed no point in getting offended as its actually not about you.
        Great post, I love your writing style. It makes me feel like I am reading a letter from a friend.

  36. Thank you for this blog. It helps a lot. I get offended easily and I keep thinking about it so hard and I beat myself up for not having a better comeback.

    It does make me feel better.

  37. I noticed a profile pattern of behavior in people who were born to abusive parents, alcoholic parents, abandonment issues:

    Loyal to the abuser
    Liars, Cheaters
    Enormous ego
    Not a nice person

    All this I feel stems from fear of not surviving. Dying.
    Think what happened to these adults when they were just 5 years old. Makes me feel bad for the child but not for the adult. No matter WHAT life has handed people, some people rise above it and become happy people and some stay mean, vicious and miserable.

    I have stayed away from an abusive mother and gravitated to a loving father. The father who saved the soul of his wife whom is a bully, inconsiderate, cold, insecure, vicious, devious and has an abusive father. I look for a man who’s mother had a nice father. Chances are, she is nice to her son and he would be nice to me.

    The things on people’s list of possible spouses is laughable: good looking, wealthy, good career. None of that matters. It’s nice icing on a cake of no abuse in the childhood, or risen above it.

    People who are abused look for a safe place to dump their anger. I live and work in L.A. “Mecca” for the abused. I’ve been a doormat myself and boy I have to say, if it’s in the family, (and my sisters are bossy, egotistical, self absorbed, criticizing), you have to deal with it there and then out in the world.

    So how I’ve dealt with it:
    1.) Fantasized I knew of a crime boss to call and take someone out.
    2.) See the psychology of damaged goods immediately. Know the bully is coming.
    3.) Totally ignored them completely. Wouldn’t give them the time of day. When I have to work with them, I was kind and focused on the work. Their reputation was already known to others. They were wrecking it for themselves and I’d sit back and let them self destruct.
    4.) It’s pain staking not to be a bully back and I truly love a bully who’s on my side. I love when someone sticks up for themselves. Why can’t I do it for myself? Be insulting? Put someone in their place? Have a huge ego myself?

    I am of higher mind. I have a high emotional I.Q. even though, I was a bit angry in this post. I’m not a flower child or anything. but the abused suck energy. They’re toxic. They’re going down and need to control someone to go down with them.

    How do I snip it in the bud and like a lion tamer, crack the whip once, hurt them and end any possible brewing situation???

    1. What did you do to rise above your abused childhood? I’m a victim of an abused mother who is irrational and mocking and over demanding and all that… I’m also a victim of abused relatives who like to mock me in my presence with whatever I do. The worst part is that I have gradually become like my mom and vent all my meanness on my boyfriend. I’m treating him so bad yet at the same time feel very scared that someday I’ll lose him, the only person who truly cherishes and understands me. But I’m lost. I have no control over my feelings and overactive imagination. Could you please lend me your advice dear? I would be so thankful 🙂

  38. Dorkus-Americanus

    As a former easily offended person (who has learned to be less easily offended thanks to Internet trolls and having worked at law firms) I find that there are people from my past – mostly family – still assume that I am that same person, similar to them, that they have to walk on eggshells around and constantly apologize to. How does one announce to ones family members that while they still may be finding offense in every nuanced comment, you’ve moved on? Without offending them, of course.

    1. I don’t think you need to announce it. They’ll just eventually realize that you’re not giving any attention to such petty things any more and adjust accordingly.

      One thing I often say when people apologize to me unnecessarily is, “Don’t worry. It’s very hard to offend me.”

  39. Tahnks man.Your post helped me a lot..Actually you know,I am from a town-city and I recently came to a metropolitan after getting a scholarship….but here things are not as they used to be in my town….Here,in hostel boys insult and slang the innocent fellow…..I was on the verge of ruining my scholarship this sem. as I could never conc. in studies (courtesy-their constant insults).Man they slang in every other word(and I do not know what morality is that),bad vids and alcohol come in abundance in the hostel(once they even tried to force me to drink alcohol), they critisize me for being ‘old fashioned’as they put it(why-because I do prayers and fasts regularly)…..I was on the verge of commiting suicide but your post really gave me confidence.Yes,I WILL TURN DEAF TO THEM AND CONC. SOLELY IN MY STUDIES and in the end emerge out as the winner…………….Thank you man..thx a lot.

    1. Hi Deep,

      Wow, so glad this post helped you. Thanks for you comment. Definitely keep your head up and don’t let those guys get to you. If they’re really making you feel bad remember that you can always move away from them. Life’s too damn precious to let some small-minded people drag you down.

      Keep being awesome 🙂

  40. Hi,

    I just stumbled upon this post, and would like to add a couple of suggestions that have worked really well for me.

    1. If the person tries to embarrass you by asking very personal questions that are none of their business:

    Smile slyly and say, “Sorry, but that’s classified information.”

    This confuses them, and makes them look powerless in front of any other people who may be standing nearby. If they ask what that means, just respond, in an authoritative manner, with, “Well, to be privy to that information, you have to be at least a Level Nine, and you’re only a Level Two.”

    This usually shuts them up.

    2. If they utter any other sort of insult:

    Smile and say, in a calm, friendly-yet-superior way, “If you’re trying to hurt my feelings…you failed.

    This puts them on the spot. They either have to admit that they were trying to hurt you and failed (which they probably won’t), or they have to say something like, “I was just joking.” If they say the latter, you can either shrug and walk away, or, if you are feeling snarky, you can pick one or more personal attributes of theirs and reply with something like, “Oh, I see…so if I say to you that your ass is huge, but that I’m only joking, that would be okay?”

    This usually shuts them up, and, if others are around, embarrasses them to the point where they will probably think twice before insulting you again.

    Thanks for your post…I’m now off to read some others.

      1. hi niall…I am egyptian….Can not thank you enough for this blog ….. you made my day really..
        Behind every word there appears a personality with great amount of information , insight, inspiration ……and humorous wit.
        I am very lucky to have come across your site.
        I need to receive every bit of information from you, pls neil
        good day, and thanks again…for every word .
        It looks like human nature does not change…inspite of different cultures, languages .and religon

        I consider myself very lucky to have come across your site…..

  41. I tried to focus on the article, but I couldn’t get past the size of your nose!
    It needs its own blog! It’s beautiful!
    I have a gut which people seem to think is appropriate to touch even though they’re meeting me for the first time. Luckily, getting my stomach touched by complete strangers is a fetish of mine.

  42. Dear sir
    I found this article very encouraging after not really been sure how to handle a subtle and joking continuous comments thrown at me by a colleague. I replied with a calm and honest gesture. On returning home the comments continued to burn in my head. Reading your article and especially the phrase – “Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.”

    “The idea here is that insults can act as signposts. If there’s a grain of truth to them, then they help point us in the direction of our faults and insecurities, and we can get busy working on those and improving ourselves.”

    This write up helped settle me down and deal with my colleague in a calm and responsible manner. Thank you.

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  44. tony zamberlin

    So what do you do now if they insult you on something true or not true a 2nd, 3rd or 4th time? do you still ignore it or do you confront them?

    1. Depends. If they’re knowingly insulting you, you can either stand up to them (if you think that will help resolve the situation), or just walk away with your head held high.

  45. I’m sadly known for the way I use (what I call funny) humor to insult and belittle people. Not sure what I gain from it but I know I do it to deflect any conversation about me – it’s a mask – which I have become comfortable wearing. I do feel regret and often apologize – but I do let the jokes and banter go on. I’m going to re-open my mind to what you have said and maybe it will change the way I converse with and tease people.

    1. Nice that you realise what you’re doing…. You should talk to my ex as he could do with the same enlightenment.
      You’re already on the road to recovery 🙂

  46. What do you do when someone is insulting others to you, but you know they are really referring to you all along. For instance, talking to me about short people-I am short (5’3″), and how much better it is to be tall. Why is it that some people get pleasure in putting others down? Is it simply jealousy? How do you handle it if it is family that does the insulting (in-laws)? Do you address it, or do you simply ignore it?

    1. At first I’d ignore it, but if they persisted I’d say something like, “Okay, that’s several times now you’ve said something mean about short people. I’m not exactly tall myself, so how do you think it makes me feel when I hear you talk like that?”

      Hopefully that would make them realize they were being mean and insensitive. If not, it’s time to distance yourself from them.

    2. I’m also a tall 5’3″ person. I always say to people, and I mean it, that I like being short because I can sneak out of places unnoticed.
      Similarly, when people ask me when I’m going to settle down. I remind them that there are many unhappy couples in the world and I love going home to my house where I can shut the door and no-one can upset me until I open it up again.
      I agree with Niall, we just have to turn insults to positives.
      I have to work on my personal confidence: physical/likability gene because I seem to manage the other stuff ok.

    3. I like the idea of using humor and just joining them in their banter. Talk as if you are 6 feet tall and sing the “short people” song. Abusers only abuse if you accept it. Don’t accept the gift.
      If you remain unoffended, you win! They didn’t get to you.
      A friend of mine told me, “there’s always one more asshole.” So the idea isn’t that you can stop people from being assholes… the idea is to make assholes powerless to offend you… that’s the only power you have, how you choose to respond in your heart. Realize that their words are meaningless and powerless unless you give them meaning and power by allowing them to affect you.
      The late Wayne Dyer said in one of his books or lectures: [you tell me all the people who have offended you and I’ll go and fix them and then you’ll be alright]… something to that effect.
      But you get the idea…. its that simple old saying, “take your power back.”
      It really is simple, we just let our emotions complicate it.

  47. Pingback: Responding to Insults | The Whole Glass

  48. Thanks, my daughter was offended at something I did not do, and I was offended that she was offended…. we are all too sensitive in my family! So it was weighing on my mind and I looked up some wisdom and found yours. Thanks, it helps. 🙂

  49. I’m desperate for a tip here. My soon to be ex wife (have been living apart for 1.5 years now) insults me at each opportunity she gets, specially on text messages. Sometimes her text messages are two or three pages long of insults and most of the time I don’t bother to read when she’s in that mental state. I’m now in a relationship with a very pretty, younger girl and as you would understand I couldn’t care less about her insults about me being “an old, deformed, homosexual short man”. Except for the fact that we are parents to a wonderful boy, and therefore I HAVE to communicate with her. Is there a way to stop someone from communicating with insults? Any ideas?

    1. Hi Manfred. Sounds like you’re really frustrated with the situation and would like to find a way to foster respectful communication between you and your ex wife. I highly highly recommend you check out a book called Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. That will give you some effective tools for handling this situation.

      All the best.

  50. Sometimes we can insult each other without realizing it as well. That thought just occurred to me as I finished reading your article. The reason I came to this page is that I am told I look young very often, at least once a week I’d say. It’s not exactly an insult. it’s confusing why do many different people have the same thought when they meet me. I am not especially young looking or acting. People of all ages tell me this. Except children, come to think of it. It’s The most baffling thing, though. Even people who are my same age tell it to me. I have been called a stoic before. My stoic take on this is that there is some cause in my own personality that invites every adult to feel surprised at my youthful appearance. I do look youthful. It’s not a lie. It’s not really something I want to hear in a constant basis. And so it is insulting to hear it constantly, (since I do not want to hear it said constantly). Okay, so now that brings me to the point; why don’t I want to hear it. I must be self conscious of my age or inexperience. … I think that must be the true answer, although I’m not 100% certain, the more I think about, the more certain I feel. Hmmm.. or maybe it could be that everyone has a seed of self doubt regarding inexperience and age. ? And that could be why everyone has the same thing to say to me. It’s as if they know it is Ann impolite thing to say to be but they are still driven to say it. And then when they have successfully taken the wind out if my sails, they explain to me how it is not an insult.

    I’m wondering not do much how to not let it offend me. I’m wondering more how it is that I keep faking into the same trap of inviting people to make that same insult. Because it seems to be the only insult they can manage to say to my face, and they say it often.

    1. Why don’t you choose not to be offended? You could choose to take it as a compliment.
      Maybe that is the question to ask yourself…. why are you allowing a negative reaction instead of choosing a positive response? You can reprogram yourself. You can’t reprogram all those other people.
      What is it about you that makes you choose to feel bad about something that most of us would be happy about. We’re not getting any younger.

  51. Well, that one about the Englishman doesn’t really look like an offense. I mean, he didn’t do that on purpose so that’s not an offense. I think one issue of yours could be that you’re overly sensible to what people say that you take a misunderstanding as an offense. Work in that aspect, your journey to self-improvement isn’t still completed 🙂

  52. I am highly sensitive about my looks, and often I get called names in the street by complete strangers like ugly, munter, I see myself as ugly it’s very very hard not to take it personally when it’s intentionally aimed at me. Yet the comment can literally ruin my day, and I can’t get it out of my head. I always ignore the comment, but I still take the hurt, shame and offense away and dwell on it and it just reinforces to me that everyone thinks the same that I am truly ugly.

  53. I came across this post in search of ways to change my thinking, on the ways one can process being insulted. I have always been a rather aggressive person when it comes to being insulted, but there are always circumstances where you must swallow it. Case in point, the husband of the manager of my apartment complex insults me every chance he gets. I try to tell myself its because he knows I cant do anything about it if I want to keep my home, because he knows dam well that if we were two regular joe shmoe’s on the street, I knock his fuckin teeth out.. But I digress.. What I’ve come to realize is there are passive aggressive pussy’s out there in positions of power that simply get off on abusing their position to be disrespectful. For years I’ve delt with his insults, and my conclusion is everyone has a breaking point and sometimes you just gota drop a motherfucker..

  54. I’m getting ready for the holiday season – going visiting. My husband was on the phone with my MIL and she was telling a story about how she was laughing about us with another family member (since we have a little one) that we bring too much with us. This is one of her favorite topics to needle me about my love of stuff, that or my parenting. The experience reminded me of how tough it is to get into this situation where I’m there for 4 days, or something, and I have to try my best to let these bullets bounce off me. I have mentioned before that I don’t like being picked on this way and they told me I should learn to take a joke. These jabs are true and they delight in always pointing out these faults to help them pass the time I guess.
    I’m really glad I found this article and all these responses to it, I have made notes and hopefully I can internalize it and really become more impenetrable. This is a lesson I really need to learn as I find extended family can be more fault finding and it’s hard to take. I often come away thinking about the visit with mixed feelings and resentment. I hope these new external reactions/my processing of the situation will translate into my internal growth as a person.

    1. I understand how you feel. I had put up with many condescending remarks and suggestions from my MIL and then one day I decided that I was just going to answer with phrases such as “I never thought of it that way”, “I may give that a try” etc. Eventually she couldn’t rattle me and the remarks slowly stopped. After a while the love/hate relationship turned to a loving relationship.

      Right now though I am dealing with a much larger problem with her brother who is my husband’s uncle. His sister (my MIL) used to call him out regarding his behaviour but after she passed away he no longer had anyone that he felt he needed to answer to so his conduct worsened to the point that he was alienating himself from other relatives and acquaintances. His conduct include rudeness intrusive behavior, manipulation and dishonesty. It has contributed to fractures in the relationships between me and my husband and me and my kids as they continue to make excuses for his behaviour because they are afraid of hurting his feelings

      1. Wow that sounds intense! It went well for me this time over the holidays:) Best of luck to you Christine in continuing to deal with that tricky situation. Thanks for sharing your experience re: your MIL maybe my newfound understanding of myself and others will help me develop closer relationships too. I am spending less time on negative feelings so now there’s more room for positive aspects to be developed.

        1. Christine Taylor

          I am so glad to hear that. I too am trying to be more aware of how I handle situations outside the family unit.

      2. After thinking over some interactions I realized that I’ve come leaps and bounds in becoming unoffendable. Emotional reactions can be to changechange, I thought, but it turned out to be easier than an excpected!

  55. Hi Niall,

    I agree with most of what is written here, but I would like to point something out. While it’s true that being offended at curse words is ridiculous, the guttural reaction to such words is usually heavily ingrained.

    As much as you say the word blue and think of the color blue, in people offended by curse words, they can’t hear the word and not feel it on an emotional level.

    I am sure that given enough exposure to foul language they could be desensitized, but it just seems easier to let them be.

    I have children and I bring them up to understand that there is no such thing as a bad word, but that we should be mannered in a way to not upset others unnecessarily.

    I know you weren’t telling anyone to start cussing every other word, more you were saying don’t let yourself be offended, but I thought it was important to point out that we could take pity and try not ring the bells of others if we can avoid it.

    I enjoyed your video and post, thanks.

  56. Hello
    My comment is THANK YOU SO MUCH for this blog post!! I have to attend a very difficult meeting next week and for the other side to win the case I have been told by counsel to prepare for LOTS of lies and insults towards me. Having a wee bit of an Irish temper (thanks mom!) I found your blog to be very helpful and I am going to print it off and hide it in my pocket! What a fine Irishman you are! Screw the person who had the nerve to call you English! Thank you!

  57. Really liked this blog article! In my opinion, not taking insults personally is actually easy. The more insidious thing is *gaslighting*.

  58. Thank you so much for this post. The best I have read about dealing with insults. I wake up being more of a superwoman. I can now look at conflict in the eye and respond positively to insults.

  59. I loved you article. It will help me do much. One other technique for stopping someone from harassing you with insults is to hold them accountable. They really do get embarrassed when you let them know face to face that their comment was hurtful or inappropriate.

    1. Agree Kathy.
      If you can’t turn it all into poo poo head comments, why suffer in silence. Make them explain themselves!

  60. Hello,
    Thank you so much for this article. I have just shared it with my 12 year old daughter.

    My daughter has been receiving verbal insults (out of earshot of the teacher) from a boy in her class. He is saying them with malice and is trying to show off to his friends. Today my daughter felt old chewing gum under her desk and said “oh how disgusting!”, the boy then said “see yourself in the mirror did you?”. He has insulted her laugh amongst other things. It is making her feel like not going to school.

    This article has been useful but if she was to confront him what would be the best thing to say given that he is always with his friends. Her friends are all shy and not good at supporting in such a situation.

    Any ideas?


  61. Someone insulted me today. I met them for 3 dates, they didn’t text me for 3 days following. When they finally did, they said: “Sorry but I have to ask you, have you had breast surgery?”
    Does an insult to the injured party make the wrong doing of not communicating null and void? Apparently to some.
    I like your advice, I’ll hear all insults henceforth as poo poo head and hopefully not care a jiffy about them.

    1. What an idiot. If he really was curious about such a thing, it just shows his lack of maturity and where his mind was at the whole time he should have been getting to know you as a person. Or it’s possible he was offended and felt rejected because you hadn’t tried talking to him after three days, so he tried to hurt your ego because you had hurt his. Either way he’s an idiot and I’m glad you didn’t waste a minute of your time responding to him. I would have probably said something that would have made him feel like crap all day, like “yeah I had surgery. A few years ago I had breast cancer”…. hence why I’m reading articles like this I suppose….

  62. Hey Niall,

    I came to read this post by researching for “Why should I not react to insults?” I am also researching other perspectives.

    While taking notes, I realized that “being offended when called a slut, a liar, fat, ugly, gay just means we carry within ourselves judgments against certain professions, sexual orientations, adjectives, fears and neuroses – usually a negative judgment. It is the fear of becoming a victim of our judgments and conclusions that make us feel offensive.”

    Looking forward to read more.

  63. I have been so sleep deprived from work I have no idea how I got to your page and can’t even remember what I searched on the Internet. But I’m glad I got here. Great article And kudos to you in the library. If I had just met someone and they said that to me, I probably would have responded with “don’t $&@!ing touch me”, then spent the rest of the day angry and feeling embarrassed I had made a scene in the library and showed the words of an ignorant stranger had offended me.

    Oh and by the way, I think your nose is cute.

    Have a nice day and keep up your world loving way of life. It’s people like you who give me the strength to keep doing the right thing and being sweet to strangers even though there’s always a few that have me on the verge to becoming bitter about life. Lol

  64. When I first started my job, there were a group of older women I worked with that tried to antagonize me. One of them decided to say to me “you wear a lot of makeup”. I didn’t agree with this comment and thought it was absolutely ridiculous, but instead of getting defensive and saying “what am I wearing on my face that you’re not wearing? ” I just smiled and said “thank you!”. Every worker around me laughed at that moment, don’t ever under estimate the power of humor in gaining allies in these type of situations. It was an unexpected response and after seeing it didn’t affect me, the lady tried to retract her insult with “it looks good”. When something is specifically said to try to upset you, we should do the opposite and laugh it off or make a joke out of it like you said…works wonders for the soul because you’re doing the right thing.

  65. I love this! You’ve developed a wonderfully refreshing outlook on life. I wish I could say I have gotten to the point of being unflappable, but alas, it’s a work in progress. Your point about treating an antagonist as a child is a very good one, I think. When I’m insulted out of the blue I typically DO treat that person like a child and say “Wow, someone needs a nap!” I rarely get a follow-up response – and usually, it’s true.

  66. Even though you wrote this 4 years ago, this really helped me out today, thank you. I never had to deal with so many difficult people until this year and I realized it was a text and I wasn’t passing because I didn’t know how to handle these situations without internalizing. Yesterday insults came my way and I was able to deflect the negative feelings much faster than in the past, do this article confirms I did things the right way. You are a God send, please keep writing!

  67. Thanks for the advice – it` been much useful especially that part where insults are road signs. Keep up with the good job!

  68. So refreshing to read a blog post that isn’t just another rearrangement of meaningless conventional advice. I’ve heard the Scientologists do a thing with their training where a person has to sit there and endure all manner of nasty insults without reacting. Insightful advice, thank you for this post.

  69. The reason I am here reading this is because I am pretty okay with insults from strangers, what do they know, right? But I am terribly sensitive with my family and have felt many times that I am a scapegoat for all their frustrations and take the brunt of criticism for mistakes where others are forgiven. that said I seem to have absorbed a lot of pain. I seperated myself, joined a popular cult, the J.W’s, and most times my conversations with my family would desinigrate into terrble, painful fights. I just hated and could not figure out why. Is it me? The cult days are over This is getting long…I know, and I am back, a bit dazed and confused about life but trying to make good relationships. Still, many conversations with my family are painful. They are screamers. Not being offended by them is really hard. For days I am reeling trying to sort it out. Ugh. I don’t know how to process it.

    1. It sounds like your relationship with your family is pretty toxic for you. Maybe the best answer for you would be to cut down the amount of exposure to them to a minimum. Also if you are going to join them for thanksgiving or something maybe you could bring a friend along. I’m not sure whether or not you live with them or how easy it would be to see them less. It seems to me like of you are rebuilding your life/beliefs it may be better to first get on your feet and gain some practice with becoming unoffendable with them in smaller doses. Once you have more practice you can get more involved with them again or perhaps continue to limit your exposure to them if that works better. No one wants to be screamed at extensively regardless of how good they are at not taking other people’s garbage personally.

    2. Hi Lisa, I recommend setting boundaries. A subtle approach if you feel uncomfortable verbalizing your boundaries, is to just pause and look at them and without saying a word focus on something else…start grooming your nails, pick up a book, get a glass of water, or say something like, “Work is going really well, I am working on this interesting project…” Your family will be taken aback by your unaffected behavior, they might wonder if you have lost it because you don’t react as you normally would…but keep at it. Eventually you would have trained them in a subtle way how to not be rude or cross personal boundaries. You can do it, it is a matter of self preservation and survival. Also, keep in mind that they are simply addressing the old you, maybe in their past memories they still hold this image and opinion of you and they haven’t let go…to realize you are a different person now and are all grown up. We are never the same people we were even a year ago! So, onward and forward…don’t let them bring you down, you are way better than that.

  70. I am a business administrator at a private elementary school. Myself and three other people were in our staff breakroom getting our morning coffees and snacks in order. A conversation about a recent sport event took place. I listened as I stood and stirred my coffee, then I decided to pipe in with the others and commented on how much I admired the athlete’s technical skill. I noticed one of the persons smirking, but I just figured that this person didn’t like my opinion. That’s okay, I know that everyone has a right to their own opinion. Then later, at the end of the day, as I was getting my things together to go home, the person was walking by and made a rude, jabbing comment about how I like people to beat each other up and that’s something new about me she didn’t know. Right after the comment she quickly slipped away into the women’s restroom. I was taken aback because I am not used to that kind of behavior. I resumed getting ready to leave work and I was going to clear the air with her but she had already walked out. I then composed an email letting her know that as professionals I am expecting that we raise our level of communication to something more productive and amicable and that everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I invited her to come speak with me in person if wished to discuss this further or we could just move onward and forward. Needless to say she responded saying she didn’t mean to insult or offend me and that ‘she was just joking’. As an administrator, I find that it is definitely important to be present and aware when managing a wide range of personalities. I am still learning, trying to be equitable and reasonable, but find that it’s not always easy. I am nearly fifty years of age and am working to help this school, to help the staff, to ensure a smoothing running business for the better of all, and yet I ask myself when people behave this way, why am I bothering with it at all? Why be there to help persons who are just plain assholes who are out there to purposely make other’s lives miserable? Luckily my boss is like me, we are there to focus on work and communicate straightforwardly…I am not there to undermine people, hurt people, be mean to people or any of those childish pursuits. Now I am wondering, if I quit and go elsewhere, is that a solution? Truth is, there are people like everywhere…I can’t escape it. So here I am, on your site…teaching myself how to manage people like that… and you are spot on…I am becoming keener at handling situations like that in a tactful manner. Thank you for your blog.

  71. Great article, it gave me great insight on how to deal with people who are unhappy with their position and place in the world. I always try to be kind to people but some people are just unhappy and want to blame others for their misfortune not really knowing that they have the power to change their life easier yo blame someone else positively 4th street bob Dylan I’m having a problem with someone right now this article gave some great coping strategies on how to deal with her I’m looking for a win win outcome by reading this I now realize she is acting really childish I’m going to ignore her insults and change the subject when she starts insulting me i will come back with love your shoes where did u get them let’s see if this works will let u know

    1. Update I read this post because I knew the next day I encountered this person she would insult me the minute I saw her. She did lol I knew it was coming as sure as a bullet flys from a snipper’s riffle I did try to kill her with kindness but her verbal bullets keep flying my way. So at one point I just agreed with her, yes I am the idiot. It didn’t stop she just reloaded her riffle lol. She should have thought about a military career she would be a very good shot lol she doubts my ability to do my job my boss promoted me and she didn’t get the promotion I did feel bad fir her because she is good at her job but it’s hard to have any respect for her because she blames me for it I don’t do that never did never will so the change the subject didn’t work next time I will try the direct approach and tell her you r not being professional or kind let’s see if this works she is so nice person so everyone deserves a 3rd chance will let u know this goes

  72. Thank you for this post! I sought out some help on the subject of insults. I’ve been contemplating a lot on my reactions and actions in social situations, and I think I fall into a subcategory specific to easily offended and sensitive. As the youngest of four, I’ve been picked on my whole life and have been easily offended my whole life. I know I’m sensitive and that most people have considered the teasing to be fun and enjoyable. So I start off social situations now by being the one saying the insults to others except I realize after the fact that I’m actually being mean and not funny. I have real difficulty in understanding that line and almost always cross it. My intent is *not* to be mean – it’s to fit in, but I struggle with this. I think the first step for me needs to be to think before I speak whether it’s before I am about to “tease” (read: be mean) or whether I am evaluating someone else’s comment to be an insult directed at me. Any suggestions on this?? Thank you!!

  73. I am of the camp who thinks that insulters reveal their insecurities while hurling an insult. It may seem like they do it just to be mean, but that too reflects insecurity. The insulter who intentionally tears someone down must be at least a little miserable to have made the attempt. While it’s perverse that hurting others might make them feel better about themselves, it’s part of the human condition.

    As mentioned in the acceptance of the ‘gift,’ if you choose to accept their misery, it can only bring you down to their level or worse. A healthy approach is to not allow anyone to let you feel badly, including yourself. If you care, you won’t allow it to enter your bloodstream. You choose.

    If you have compassion, you feel sorry for the insulter and might tell them just that. “It must suck to carry that around with you. I’m sorry you feel that way about ______. Any reason why? I can talk with you about it if it’ll help.” Note that the blank space separates the issue from the person (in this case, you). You are not responsible for anyone’s feelings about an issue, but you can choose to understand rather than be offended. I’m not trying to be new age or hippy, but I think the message of understanding and concern for others is the most rewarding way to deal with this.

  74. This is really a great post . Critisms are everywhere , As you said we need to learn how to handle with insults because that’s the only way we can grow and survive in this world . Thumbs up for the writer u did a great job!

  75. Hi Niall, I enjoyed that anecdote about the German who mistook you for being being British, and used it as an excuse to insult you. After telling him where you actually come from, you could have told him that a lot of Irish citizens hold British passports too, and are indistinguishable from other folks who hav always lived in the UK. This would have shown them how illogical it is to insult somebody because of a spurious national label that has been legally assigned to them!

    The difficult thing about dealing with insults or unnecessary criticism is retaining your awareness of the dynamic that is being played out, before you feel that twinge in your stomach and you begin to cringe. I try to be mindful of situations that experience has told me, may lead up to such behaviour. It also helps if you consider that the abuser could be insecure about something that’s going on in their life, or herself be the victim of bullying.

  76. Well the modern world has become so competitive that trading of insults is fast increasing. Thanks for your insights. In Hinduism there is also the philosophy of karma. If someone has insulted and hurt you it is very likely that you too did something like that and are being punished in same way. So you should be careful next time and be happy that at least one account is settled!

  77. Literally every time I am around the ppl who stop by my house to chill for a bit, all hurl subtle and not so subtle insults at me. I call them out but they say sometimes I’m just tripping, when they are full of shit, because I’ve even gotten confirmation that this was true. Idk how to handle these ppl who refuse to take responsibility for their actions and lies

  78. On a chat group my friend told me (this is with about three of my other friends) that I was “very no fun” – this is a quote from a pop idol. I replied, saying something like ‘you very no fun’ as a joke, to which she said ‘don’t disrespect the language of the gods’. She then changed the chat group name to ‘*me* is very no fun.’ I got slightly annoyed then and she started saying stuff like ‘you get angry really easily’ and ‘you need to meditate’. I spammed the group with the Korean version of the quote (not aimed at anyone, just copy n paste etc) and she said I was being passive aggressive and acting ‘butthurt’. She THEN told me she was just doing it to see how angry I would get, and said ‘we can’t make jokes when you’re around because you just get angry at every little thing.’ I then apologised and told her I needed to work on my anger but also added I didn’t find the joke very funny. She then called me a hypocrite, and when I suggested that she tells me before doing something like that (which I don’t mind because I need to work on my anger) and we should actually try me working on it, because AS SHE pointed out I got angry easily, she said ‘this child doesn’t listen.’
    How should I deal with this? The other people in the chat group all can see this and I’m embarrassed about how I reacted as well as the fact she said ‘we can never make jokes around you because you’ll get offended.’ My mother says I’m too passive (!!) but I really don’t know what to do anymore. How can I stop getting angry at the little things?

    1. Reread the blog above where he talks about reacting with anger. Also owning something (your anger) can help.

      I have written many a crisp response via email. I never, ever send something on that I know I wrote when angry. Sign off the group until you can think and regroup.

      I always set whatever I write in anger aside and rewrite it or don’t send it. It’s also the reason, I tell people, that I will not respond to them or why I pretend to not know someone is saying something nasty to or about me. Usually, people calm down or they get to know me better (I’m an introvert and come across aloof before you know me) and because I didn’t respond and pretended to not know, when they become civil toward me there are no bad words between us. Do you see what I mean? I never said anything back, so when they decide they like me or I am not the way they thought originally, we never have bad words between us to mar the relationship.

      I also recognize I’m very, very good and hitting people in their soft spots. It just comes from being very instinctive and paying attention to body language and facial expression. It’s something I’ve had since a little kid. I know the power of being able to do that, so when I do say something and it will not be nice, I mean it and it cannot and will not be taken back. You won’t be able to forgive me because I’ll hit you hard and you’ll deserve it. That is another reason, I do not respond. You really have to keep at it and keep at it and all bets are off for me to go there. Someone who is really an awful bully and taking my non-response as weakness, get a warning. Basically, I tell them, trust me, you don’t want me to respond. I will hit you (verbally) where you hurt. You will never like me again. They look at me (and being the cowards they really are, never take me up again). Immediately afterward, I act like nothing happened and treat them nicely. I don’t dislike people. I sometimes dislike their nasty behavior toward others.

      Always remember this, people, on average, are just people. So when they do something awful, just say, Oh he’s just being a people, and move on.

  79. I have been insulted by loved ones, friends and strangers. I don’t take offence easily, so they really have a go at it to evoke the response they want. I am an Indian woman and it is perhaps generalising, but most Indians find it difficult to express their feelings especially if it is a conflicting one…so these emotions often come out in the form yelling, screaming, insults etc. I have no issues with expressing myself, so I often clash with those that do and I have come to accept that. Insults vary from the correct Islamic dressing to how I am expected to behave like everyone else. Raised in a house with 3 brothers and no sisters, you grow up tough and learn to take criticism and know when the words are really about the insulter more than they are about you! there will always be those off days though, when insults are just piled onto an already bad day…and its alot more difficult to deal with on those days! Thankyou for this brilliant post!

  80. Pingback: Offended Easily? Learn How To Have Thick Skin! | Own Your Power Communications

  81. Really good post, I enjoyed it, and more importantly I learned a few things.

    It did remind me, though, of a neighbor who was obsessively concerned that my house didn’t match the grand standards of his (my house is nice enough, but it’s not a McMansion, and I have no desire to make it look like something it’s not.) Anyway, said neighbor tried several times to insult me, going on and on until he looked like he’d stroke out.

    I’ve found through previous experience that if you do as you say, pause, you keep control, and thus power. I also do this other thing, where I stand and just observe the behavior, as if he were a lab rat. The more I observed him, the more calm and deliberate I got, the angrier and more hysterical he got.

    I finally gave a little smile and a small laugh and shook my head, as if to say, “Look at how ridiculous this grown man is!” I turned and walked away, but before I did, I noticed his face was blown up, sweaty, and positively fuchsia.

    FWIW, he’s never spoken to me again. See? There is a God!

  82. Great post! If we are kind to people and treat them with respect and they still choose to put us down then we are not responsible for their view of us. I will never understand what people gain from making others feel bad about themselves.

  83. people are complex,to judge some one by where they live be it a apartement/flat,house,etc to how they get around ,be it by walking,bike,car etc, seems so shallow fake…
    i judge a person by there manner,humor and if i enjoyed been in their company…..if a person can make me smile laugh or just have a positive feeling i will make the effort to see or be in their company!

  84. You are spot on. Having recognized extremely early on (3rd or 4th grader) when a random kid walked over to me to insult me that he was a bully and bullies are afraid, I’ve pretty much walked this earth without making other people’s “gift” my own. As one kid told my friend once, you are way more fun to tease that her (me). Why? Because I didn’t react.

    I had/have different techniques – all of them work. A dead cold stare back, a continued blank stare as the trail off and slink away, an “Oh, my!”, a shrug, an emphatic “You are absolutely, right” (that one stopped an annoying employee cold, who liked to ask me, her supervisor, questions and then proceed to argue with any answer I gave – I was so tickled by the shocked look on her face), a look of utter disgust, asking the person, “Why on earth would you say/ask that?”, absolutely refusing in the face of every offensive comment/gossip/innuendo to defend myself (never defend yourself – just shrug, say, “Really?” and walk away or if you are feeling defiant, say, “Yeah, prove it” and walk away. Also, good after your response, timed just so they catch it in the corner of their eye as you turn your back on them, make a face (disgust, incredulity, aghast, wow WTH?)

    Trust me they won’t be back again and will find some other victim.

    Once I was told by a bully (my supervisor) that I was aggressive (no, I’m assertive, meaning I stand up to bullies like her, but I do not push my ideas on others), I smiled and said, “You said that like it’s a bad thing”, cracked a joke, made her laugh, stood up and opened my office door and gently ushered her out. We got along famously in the end.

    BTW, I get along with people quite well. When I’m minding my business and you see fit to whirl yourself into the vortex that is me to give me a “gift” I don’t deserve, need, want, nor asked for, you don’t necessarily deserve for me to treat you particularly well. Some people’s two brain cells collide, they have a thought (she’s fat) and feel they must share. I have the same amount of nosiness (not really), curiosity, etc. as the next person, but I know I don’t have to (and shouldn’t) share every nugget of every mundane thought I have.

    People, stop sharing so much. We don’t care what you think.

  85. Stephanie I couldn’t agree with you more…a person manner, humor, kindness empathy etc makes them far richer in personality than any flash car or house!!!??…open minded,tolerate knowledgeable person who understands other people independent ways,,,

  86. My situation’s a little unique, What do you do when you pay a “YouTube celebrity host” to advertise your business. You thank the host on social media plus let everyone know where they can hear the commercial, only for the host to advertise again, but this time, make sarcastic comments about you and your business? I was taken aback and offended by the comments

    1. Wow really? That’s surprising. Is there something about your business identity that’s off? Maybe the criticism could be a gift, or possible the person is mean spirited. When it comes to business some people do make marketing blunders and it’s important to make sure you are not one of them. That’s a tough one!

  87. this website has helped me a lot with dealing with other people’s jealousy/insecurities, spitefulness all forms of bullying and control over a person…that includes so called family members,
    its shows their lack of empathy and fears in behaving in such a negative way..
    they obviously very discontent in their own lives
    peer pressure can be extreme at times ,,,,and some people are easily influence by stronger manipulate personalities

  88. I wish I read this before I responded to someone who insulted me on my hat. Looking back on it, I must’ve looked pretty stupid, defending a hat which was expensive and which my mom bought for me. I kinda regret my words. But thanks for these tips. I sometimes have issues containing my anger and so this was a really good information source.

    1. I like your hat story. It’s nice that your mom bought you a remarkable hat, is a token of her love and so getting triggered by insults about it is also about getting your back up when someone is insulting your mom’s taste. It’s a sweet story and has a lot of appeal. I would wear the offending that with pride! I have a pretty strange looking hat my husband bought me. I really don’t think it looks that great on me since there’s just so much of it. It’s cold here sometimes and I wear it anyway since it was also a pricey one and I think it makes him happy to see me using it. No insults on it yet though, but when winter kicks in here (big time) we tend to loose some of our visual appeal even if we are wearing expensive hats!

      1. Thank you for your response! I really like your story as well. I think that visual appeal won’t necessarily matter when winter comes around. Since it’s cold and all, I do hope you enjoy wearing your hat that your husband gave you. I’m sure he’ll love the fact that you wear it.

  89. never let someone’s spite/jealousy/insecurities/nastiness what ever the reason is behind their negative insults/behaviour get to you or make you act out of character..
    sometimes you have to remind yourself ..your above the bullshit and walk away

    1. Deirdre, thank you for commenting. Today I needed to read what you wrote 2 1/2 years ago.

      I felt slighted this morning. I see now that I may have embarrassed him unintentionally. His insecurity lead to the insult. Now that I see that, my upset, my anger, my intense feelings are gone.

      His insult towards me is a reflection of himself. His insecurity has nothing to do with me.

      I am above the bs. It is time to walk away.

      Thank you.

  90. Truth is, we are emotional creatures and depending on our state of mind at that particular moment, our resposes to insults will vary and may be unpredictable. Our responses could be tactfully chosen if you are a skilled fast thinker. However, those brain reflexes do respond rather quickly – remember we are emotional beins. ANGER is natural and yes, the way we respond or handle anger is important. However, sometimes waiting how to respond to a diss makes us feel worst because “waiting” takes away some of our initial power and causes us to lose the opportunity to set those straight. Wishing that something had been said or done after the fact. Personally that feels worst. I have felt defeated and depleted. Giving power to someone is one thing, but “not defending yourself at that particular moment” feels worst in the long run. Responding to an insult regarless on the tool used, gives you a better handle on the situation. If you hurt them back with harsher words (not particularly necessary) them you both are even sort of. BUT, if you don’t say anything at all and wishing you had stronger back bones, will leave you feeling hunchback. Meaning, you allowed that individual to emotionally hit you in the gutt and you did nothing. You didn’t punch back. You can always, say later if the (you saw thay petson again)opportunity presented itself, that you are sorry for saying those things and tell the person your defense mechanism was activated. You have now sent a message to that person that you aren’t going to take their shit. That can potentially become a lessom to the offender. Leave him or her thinking “Becareful on who you pick on next”. SO in the future, the offender will think twice before offending someone else. IT’S not nice to make people feel bad or say hurtful things, because “sometimes” that person is dealing with something bigger. The world has a way of knocking us down to our knees and it sucks, so who knows where their poison comes from. But,I also know we live in a world where bullies excist and politeness or any tactful ways, gives them more ammunition. Bullies sometimes need to be looked at straight in the eyes and speak your peace, then walk away. Sometimes, you have to take on a mean approach. I believe in the boomerang affect, you get what you give. If someone has issues, (we all do) seek a therapist to fix your shit but don’t dish out your shit onto others. It stinks and we all have our shit to deal with. Simple as that. Then I think we can start to have a better tomorrow. Point is, be kind and think with your heart. PEOPLE are hurting. BUT when you come across an occassion insult; shit, insult them right back. I bet they will never give you such bad blow again. Also, use jugment, we do have some crazed individuals out there. So use your common sense.

  91. hypocrisy, spoofing/liars, these people are so pathetic your just best ignoring them
    do not let these vile,unreasonable,immature idiots insult your intelligence with their total bullshit nonsense,as the saying goes..tell me what you boast about and i tell you what you lack.
    its their issues their problem not yours…these clowns/trolls/bullies should focus on their own lives and stop judging others when its so obvious their in no position to do so!
    it is a form of harassment/bullying.

  92. Pingback: Niall Doherty from Disrupting the Rabblement - Blog Profits

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  94. Thanks for this site! It makes the landscape brighter and more useful!

    I have learned to simply agree with criticism. My mother was a full-bore critic of me. Whenever I would go home for a visits, she would comment on my hair by approaching me and fiddling with my hair with her hand:

    “Can’t you do something about THIS?” she would implored. “It makes you look like an idiot.”
    “Yes,” I would answer. “It really DOES look kind of idiotic, doesn’t it?
    How does it look on this side?
    How about the back?
    What do you think?
    I probably need a good trim. Do you have any good suggestions?
    Just a minute–let me write those down so I don’t forget.”

    Years ago I would have been psychologically destroyed [at least for a minute] if someone would have told me “My God your trousers look faggoty!”

    Now, with not a care in the world and a confessed delighted anticipation, I take a good look at my pants, give them a gentle pat or two and say something like “Yeah, they DO kinda look that way. What about my shirt? Are the cuffs and collar weird? Let me walk causually in front of you and see what you think. Do I look strange at all? What, specifically, makes me strange looking?”

    There’s a kernel of truth in everything and my imagination and empathy allow me to find that truth in most every insult that comes my way.

    1. I love your self-deprecating way of dealing with criticism. It illustrates perfectly how to take the sting out of an insult and turn it around on the abuser! Brilliant! It would shine the light on how ridiculous they are for picking on things that aren’t their business.
      I like to say, if someone calls you a slut, say, “so what’s your point?”
      But yours is even better… you could say, “well, yes I am kinda slutty aren’t I? Perhaps I should move to the red-light district.”
      Thank you for the humor.

  95. In a nutshell. I made a nice dinner party for my husband and myself and our friends, another couple. During the dinner, the woman was discussing a friend of hers (why I have no idea) and mentioned she dresses old fashioned and the went on to say…like you do meaning me. I dress in quality classic styled fashionable closing. Apparently not only did I inwardly cringe, but apparently I made a face. The next morning she called to apologize…she saw my face she said. Here is my stuck point. I am insulted in my home and when I called her out on it which I did, now she is offended and not responding to calls from me. Where have people’s manners gone? Don’t people know how to bring their best selves to other people’s houses? Insulting the host is never a good idea. And talking about people rubs mee wrong on every level. Her friend she spoke of to us would certainly be offended knowing she was spoken about in an unflattering manner to people she doesn’t even know. Manners!! Etiquette!

  96. Elisheva Malka

    It’s very easy for me to deal with people’s negative reactions and insults towards me from the outside than from the inside,I was reading a book sometime ago and came across this:”the greatest mountain in one’s life is the mountain within and not without”. Though I know who my friends,family and enemies are but sometimes I begin to doubt my self,because if I know who is who before time I would know how to deal with the situation I find my self in a that time,the thing is that I am still learning though they all tend to take me by surprise nagatively.

    1. You don’t get to know who is going to act like an ass beforehand… and if you did there wouldn’t be much challenge. I think the trick is to stay aware, all the time, which is a challenge but you get accustomed to doing it… and then when something off-putting happens, you have to, in that moment, challenge yourself to respond (you are keeping power), rather than react (giving power). My shaman friend told me years ago, what you feed grows, so you can either feed your negative response urge, or you can feed your Inner Peace. Ask yourself in that moment of challenge, “what do I want to create here?” Then you can set about creating it. If you want to create Love, you can forgive, not take it on, keep your peace. If you want to create distance, you can walk away and still keep your peace. If you get mad, you are letting them cause you to give up your peace.

  97. It made me think, it seems discouraging for bullies, when they are invited to insult.

    Thanks for the article. A useful one.

    PS It also partially changed my views on uncensored words etc. S Fry’s citation is great!

  98. Wow, great article. I’ve worked really hard on my reaction to insulting behavior, and this will also be very helpful to me. In fact, I encountered a rude person in a small group situation just yesterday. It was more of a relational aggression type thing, which is impossible to address without looking like a whackadoodle, but I was able to ignore it and reflect upon it later. I won’t say that it stung a bit, since she was treating me differently than others in the group, but it was good practice in shrugging off someone who was not being kind to me. Emotional regulation is a tricky endeavor when you are being mobbed at work (group bullying). This happened to me and my reactions made me look like I was, as I like to say, whackadoodle. So, yes, this topic is of the utmost importance and a great thing to practice in one’s life. Nice read and very helpful.

  99. I enjoyed your article very much so I’m afraid I can’t help you with your thicker skin making…
    My mom sometimes acts very nice and is very generous but then eventually she will turn on you and then the nice things she has done become a weapon. She becomes very insulting and rude and I realize it has nothing to do with me… it is because she is trying to control me which reflects on her, not me. Your article really did help me with my goal towards not being offendable.
    You have to get to the place where if someone calls you a slut, you say, “so what’s your point.”
    I love a story that Sylvia Boorstein tells in one of her books on Buddhism about Samarai’s pillaging the region and upon the arrival of one particularly vicious samarai at his monestary, the Abbot there sat meditating with no reaction to the presense of the Samarai… so the Samarai looked at the Abbot and said, “sir, do you not know that I am the sort of person who could run you through without blinking an eye?” To which the Abbot replied, “sir, do you not know that I am the sort of person who could be run through without blinking an eye?”
    I love that. And I love your article. I have bookmarked it. But you know, you can’t be too flattered by that either, lest you be vulnerable to insults as well… ha ha

  100. Didn’t help. This perspective might help with the slurs or insults randomly thrown at people on the streets by those who they will most likely never meet again.
    My problem is with the ones around me that I, unfortunately, HAVE TO meet over and over again such as the most recent case, my advisor for my thesis. The psycho started from day 1 (I had to go to him according to my school) throwing the most vile insults imaginable including the way I dress, my appearance, my gender, my prior education, why I talked to other professors, how ungrateful I am, how he’s doing me a favor for accepting my work, wishing me dead (!!!) and eventually sexual harassment and his attempts at making me go to his house “for thesis work” came into the picture too with the rudest offensive wordings that I never in a million years thought I’d be hearing! Eventually I called the whole thing off and felt some peace and security but I’m still bugged by the fact that a no-body who gets into fights with students almost every week and offends everyone dared to speak to me like that with no proper punishments and being taught we should respect professors I had to stay silent. I’m still angry and I keep wishing that I could think of some “respectful” words that could convey the rudest most shocking insults and say them to him so that I could tell him what he deserved to hear while protecting myself from getting called into the dean’s office. Honestly, the only thing that calms me down is knowing that when someone randomly attacks others (especially those he knows have little power up against them due to the administrative hierarchy) they are making a statement more about themselves than others, that they’re lowly pathetic beings with no sense of justice (funny that the field I’m studying is law too, making him even more guilty) and he mentioned this to a coworker too apparently, that he’s a miserable unhappy one who is left by everyone around him (very understandable considering how psychotic and ugly his behavior and words are) and how he’s in fact an incel who was also rejected by his family too. That’s the only thing that calms me down. I’m a polite one who minds her own business. When someone attacks someone like me for no reason, the problem is bound to come from them and hence it’d be about their problem that they need to cure themselves. I’m not responsible for someone else’s mental issues. Yet, the fact that he does allow himself to do this to others bugs me and that’s why I’m looking for more facts on such offenders, hoping that that’d make this thing easier on me. Whatever someone’s problems are, they have no right harming others over it. Plus, I still have to see him at school and I still need some “polite” words that gives him what he deserves, teaching him a lesson for good.
    Also, the ignoring thing you mentioned, in my experience that ALWAYS have failed because the offender thought there’d be no consequences for them insulting me and hence marked me as their “insult-punching bag” and made it worse. They never stopped until they bore some pain by me in response. Then they learned their lessons and at least never bothered me again. I’m not sure what to do with this “professor” though. I wish I could get him fired since he’s broke many norms but our school doesn’t come with clear rules to forbid that and the dean is irresponsible enough never to hear students out.

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