Dealing With Verbal Attacks: 6 Ways to Handle An Insult

Posted by on March 10, 2016 in Conscious Living, Happiness & Humor, Thrive with 0 Comments

Andrea Still | Tiny Buddha


“Pain can change you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad change. Take that pain and turn it into wisdom.” ~Unknown

Sometimes other people’s words can stir up very painful emotions in us.

Do you remember when you felt so disempowered by someone’s remarks that you froze on the spot and couldn’t think of anything to say back to them?

Or maybe you did say something, but it was so lame that you wished afterward you’d kept your mouth shut and just sucked it all up.

This happened to me recently when I was helping someone and, instead of gratitude, I received verbal abuse. I learned a valuable lesson from it that I would like to share with you.

When Words Make You Speechless

As part of my job, I provided home care for an elderly lady, and from day one I had a feeling we would clash.

She was eccentric, quick to judge, and unafraid about voicing her opinions. Being a timid person, I always tried to avoid conflicts with such people.

One seemingly unremarkable day, as I was finishing my duties at her house, I began to engage in small talk with her. I was stunned when she replied out of the blue, “You are so stupid! Your whole being, and the way you are!”

Within a split second I was swimming in negative emotions, so shocked that I literally froze in my tracks. I stood there in disbelief, unable to say a single word, wrapped in embarrassment and shame.

Then came the internal chatter. “How could she be so insensitive? Does she realize how hurt I feel? I should say something back, but I just can’t think what.”

From deep pain to personal empowerment

I walked away that day vowing never to feel so weakened by someone’s statements again.

I went over this episode in my mind, looking for answers. Within a few weeks, I no longer felt hurt. Instead, I had developed a new perspective—I needed this experience to resolve something within myself.

I have had similar incidents since then, and my reaction is now completely different. I’m freer and stronger.

You can be, too.

It can take a while, but determination and conscious effort will bring you the gift of a new perspective, just as it did for me.

Taking the Sting out of Insulting Words

Being verbally abused hurts. It’s perfectly natural to react defensively—but once the initial shock has worn off, here are six ways you can turn your reaction into something positive.

1. Allow yourself to ruminate in a healthy way.

It’s normal to replay upsetting events in your mind to get a handle on them. Done right, introspection is a valuable device for personal growth and empowerment.

Thoughts and images from a hurtful episode will pop up time and again as long as it still bothers you. So instead of suppressing them, allow them to surface. Observe them—but without obsessing and getting stuck in a mental loop.

Then, each time memories of the event surface, ask yourself if you are ready to let go of the shame that accompanies them. Think of this process as using an eraser; every time you rub away, the pain will start to fade and soon only a faint mark will remain.

2. Identify the other person’s (possible) motive.

In situations like this, convincing yourself you’ve done something wrong can be an automatic reaction.

Although you’ll never know for sure why someone gains pleasure from dishing out verbal abuse, you can make some educated guesses. Unless the person is a total stranger, you’ll have some understanding about them and you can figure out if they are intentionally malicious or just thoughtless and not worth wasting your energy on.

But don’t just rely on your own intuition—get a second opinion. Be a detective and quiz mutual acquaintances. They’ll likely share similar stories, and might even add insights that will help relieve more of your emotional burden. (This is not gossip—it’s for your own peace of mind.)

When I spoke to friends about my experience, I heard nearly identical tales of how this woman had bullied and intimidated others. I knew that bullies are usually suffering themselves, so these stories confirmed to me that she had acted from a state of pain herself, meaning that her words were not true reflections of me.


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