This column focuses on assisting people in getting the most joy and satisfaction out of life, even improved health and less aging. One of the main ways to leverage life from what you have to what you want is to stop managing stress sources and manage your energy instead. Difficult people are a very common source of stress. They can totally suck your energy and leave you exhausted and frustrated– if you let them. How to deal with them is the subject of some columns here and a number of books. Knowing exactly what to say to them is an art. To respond quickly and effectively to difficult and nasty comments is an important skill set. If you are one of those people with a fast wit, who always has a funny quip to break the tension, great! However, if not, and if you want to feel good instead of hurt, distracted, and tired in these situations, here are some top tips to use for retorts.
Tip #1. For a quick insult or nasty comment, don’t react at all. A person who walks up and says something rude to you is trying to get a rise from you. We often have the illusion that telling them how exactly they have offended or hurt us will somehow cause them to change. Remember “assertiveness”, circa 1985? That’s a waste of time with someone who is trying to hurt you. Telling them how you feel will only satisfy them and increase their approaches. Assume they will never change, or at least that changing them is not your personal mission. Observe your blood pressure rising and your stomach and other muscles tightening while you are around this person. This is hurting your health, your stomach lining, and your blood pressure. This in turn erodes the integrity of your kidney valves and enlarges your heart. Does this person have the right to do that to you? No. What will work best for your energy management? Perhaps simply turning away. And no cheating with a derisive expression—look neutral, as though the person never spoke. Don’t give them energy.
Tip #2. To respond to a quick verbal assault, with a cheerful smile on your face, say something extremely short and globally pleasant, such as, “Well, bless your heart!” Then walk away with a pleasant smile still on your face.
Tip #3. If the person has just made you the butt of a joke in front of others, with a cheerful smile on your face, and possibly a little laugh, say, “Isn’t it wonderful we all have such a great sense of humor!” Then quietly walk away. No flouncing! No making faces other than pleasant neutrality. If you think they were trying to humiliate you, they were. If you can pretend you found the humiliating circumstance funny, do that, laugh, and again, walk away, because you are very busy and need to get to your next meeting/deadline/appointment. If you laugh with the person, they get no satisfaction and they will try again. They may act like you are clueless and failed to get the put-down. In this case, they will say, “Oh (Name)! You’re so funny!” Then your best line is one of non-resistance: “I know! I’m a very funny wo/man!” At this point, if you are a very good actress/actor, you can really drive your attacker—and that is what the person is—crazy by continuing to stand with the group for another minute or two, smiling and being apparently perfectly comfortable.
Tip #4. If you must see this person regularly, at work, at your social organization, at family events, or at school/training, keep it light, cheerful, and brief with them whenever you must cross paths. Others are dealing with the same issues with this person, so you have silent support. If it’s an instructor, switch to another section or take the class at another campus. Eventually, his/her classes will be so small that he/she will no longer be hired as an instructor there.
You have a right to lead a healthy and happy life. Be brief in dealing with anything negative. Soon, you will notice your stamina rising and your true cheer taking over. Why not go for it?
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