3 Effective Responses To Put Downs & Belittlement.
Have you ever been belittled?
Has anyone close to you ever put you down in the presence of others?
How do you normally react when someone does that you?
I can safely say that everyone (to some extent) has been subjected to the above-mentioned.
On my Life Skills radio segment, a listener asked a question (and, in all honestly, I have forgotten her name). She asked:
“How do I handle myself when someone is putting me down in front of others?”
Well, she is not alone in that! I have been there myself, and am sure that you must have been in that predicament at some point in your life.
It is never easy to cope with a put down. Especially, if it is in the presence of people you know and love.
On air, I provided this listener with 3 tips. And, here they are:
- Take a deep breath, and compose yourself – Remaining calm is the key here. If you react, and get into a negative state, you will be stooping to the level of the belittlement provider. Yes, it is very easy to fire back at them, and put them down too. Fighting fire with fire will only give aggression or intensity to that person. In a very enlightening article by Dr Neel Burton, he states “It (the return put down) tends to equalize us with our insulter, raising him up to our level and bringing us down to his. This gives him and his insult far too much credibility.” Your goal is to prove that you are bigger than the put down, and are not affected (in a negative manner). Yes, there will be an impact on you. Let’s not deny that please. The point is this – you should not and/or cannot let that person’s behaviour control your behaviour. Your goal is to minimise the impact of that person’s words, on you, your state, and your behaviour. If you prove it to them that you are composed, they will not only be surprised, they are less likely to repeat their offensive behaviour.
- Say something positive in return – This is the last thing that anyone who is throwing put downs at you will expect. Let me share a personal experience with you. A few years ago, I was at a fruits and vegetables market, a week before Christmas. The car park was hectic. People were queuing up to get a parking spot. It was a hot day (Christmas falls during summer in Australia). As I headed to my car, there were two men arguing loudly over a parking spot. One of them walked away, shouting at the other man. As I walked past him, he looked at me, and said in an angry voice “People are so selfish these days! No one cares anymore.” He was probably expecting me to ignore him, and walk away. Instead, I responded with “Beautiful shirt, you are wearing mate. That colour, light blue really suits you. Where did you get it from?” In absolute shock, he replied “Oh, my sister gave it to me on my 42nd birthday! You like it, huh?” He now had a smile on his face. We spoke for a few seconds, wished each other a Merry Christmas, and parted ways. Although this man wasn’t putting me down, he was very receptive of the positive comment. If you say something nice to someone who is trying to put you down, it will most likely break their state.
- Ask questions – if someone says something unpleasant about you (or any aspect of you), ask them questions about that unpleasant comment. For example, a colleague says to you “I saw your photos on Facebook on the weekend. You looked like a dag from the 1970’s in the clothes you wore to that birthday party. Ha ha ha”. You could ask them a series of questions :
- “Why did my clothes remind you of the 1970’s?”
- “What was daggy about it?”
- “What would you have worn?”
- “So, that would not have been daggy?”
- “Please tell me more”.
Your goal here it not to frustrate your colleague by asking all these questions. Your goal is to make them dig deeper and realise why they are saying what they are saying. This may provide them with insights into their own behaviour, and they may become less likely to throw unpleasant comments at others. I have tested this personally, and it works.
Now, let’s be clear on one point – a put down is very different to productive feedback. If someone is giving you productive feedback (I personally dislike using “constructive criticism”), be open to receiving it, and growing.
Quote: “Offense exists not in the insult but in our reaction to it, and our reactions are completely within our control.” Dr Neel Burton
I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can respond to put downs and belittlement.
And, please remember not to throw put downs at anyone. That way, you will be leading by example. As Paul Wellstone said “Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.”
Influencing you to your excellence,
PS: My Anti-Bullying Charity’s latest short video has one simple tip for parents “How to stop your child from being a bully” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p14KXSOyZSg