There seems to be no escaping from words hailing from all directions. Vocal zingers spare no one but some of us get verbally raped more often than others. Life becomes a perpetual day-to-day struggle when you hear incessant verbal zaps such as;
- Congratulations on your new job. Did someone set you up?
- If you reduce weight, you may start looking acceptable.
- You look beautiful for as long as you don’t speak.
- Why waste time when you can never learn computer?
- Do you plan to shed weight or continue looking like a cow?
- Hey midget!
- You are not black, just deeply dark.
- Look at her – dressed up precisely as a whore would.
Criticism is endless and comes in so many styles that I cannot outline them all here. Common everyday zaps can be snappy but sometimes these exceed the limit and become so hurtful, they can leave us depressed for days. Some of the comments come from our own family and immediate relatives and can have double stingy effect.
- She is again doing what she is best at – eating!
- Oh you are so short, John doe!
- Sit at some distance, won’t you? Your scrawny body pinches.
- With this big nose, you may want to consider a surgery.
- Hey baldie!
What hurts more is that all this is put under the definition of ‘constructive criticism’ (blatant lie). These are not words but downers that can push anyone into the abyss of self-loathing and loss of confidence.
The big question however is; how do we defend ourselves from these verbal insults? Is there a way around these spiteful words?
Next time you find yourself amid criticism, you may want to try any of the following strategies;
1. Question the Remark – Behind each snarky remark hides an assumption or a hearsay. Break down the criticism into parts and respond to the unspoken assumption without playing the victim. For instance when you hear;
If you didn’t consider yourself superior, you’d have invited me to lunch.
How long have you harbored this misunderstanding for?
Sometimes, it is the mere misunderstanding that drives people to become mean deliberately. As soon as you address the underlying issue, the verbal stream of complaints stops.
2. Confront the Critic – Don’t Let him Get Off Easy – Remember, it is not easy to stand up to insults. However, one way to squash the criticism is to confront it directly. Be direct and straight-forward. Would instantly put the critic in the defensive position when you’d confront him with questions like,
Is there a particular reason why you would want to hurt me? Or
Why would you use such strong and inappropriate words for me?
3. Be better – Let the Insult Fly-by – This is the strategy that 90% of the people follow. They let go of the criticism saying it doesn’t belong to them. I am personally a witness of people who let go of the snarky remarks because they are either too polite or shocked when they are caught off-guard.
However, this is a trick. Just make your critic realize that while you’ve registered their sarcasm, you’ve decided on the spur of the moment to not stoop to their level. You hear them hurl a hurtful remark about your conduct or appearance, go quiet…. maintain your grace and let the silence make them feel awkward where their words but hang in the air. If they have an iota of good judgment, they would think before being needlessly rude to you again.
4. Look Beyond the Insult – Sometimes people are hurt and just want to unload their anger on you. Give people the benefit of doubt. They may have had a bad day.
Your friend is being snarky with you because her parents snubbed her last night. Your husband doesn’t like the food because his boss is giving him tough time at work. Your boss suddenly finds faults with your work because he has just lost a valuable client.
In these cases, the criticism isn’t exactly aimed at you. Look beyond it and maintain your grace. Ask the person politely about what is bothering them.
5. Add Humor – Laugh it off – One of my friends gets immense criticism on her extra pounds and while she is struggling to lose weight, she laughs off the criticism by adding humor;
As soon as I beat sumo wrestler, I’ll get back in shape. It’s a competition, you know and I am trying hard’
Other times she would add;
Despite all this fat around me, you can’t beat me in looks or
I reflect class, luxury and abundance.
A friend told me how he stopped people mocking his shaved head by answering;
My natural head-air-conditioner works non-stop despite the heavy load-shedding. Envy me, don’t you?
And last but not least, remember the world is full of mentally constipated people who live off degrading remarks. Sometimes they are unaware of the put-downs that are nothing short of weapons. Refuse to accept their insults. Tackle them properly so that they do not add to your worries and affect your self-confidence.