Disagreements are inevitable in life. But we can also often face all sorts of difficult – and outright toxic – behaviors in others, both at work with co-workers or business associates and at home with family members.
Unless you know how to effectively respond to insults or disrespectful comments, conflicts can quickly escalate and relationships can become irreparably damaged.
Suppose, for instance, you make a proposal during a business negotiation, and your counterpart haughtily retorts “You can’t be serious!” Or perhaps at home, your spouse chides you to “stop being so sensitive.”
Insults like these can easily trigger an emotional reaction and escalate conflicts. In a business negotiation, reacting emotionally can also give your counterpart the upper hand.
Below are 8 powerful ways to diffuse insults at work and home:
1. Keep your cool.
Our default is to become defensive when faced with angry or critical remarks. But reacting defensively will only ignite the situation. Therefore, it’s important to stay calm when faced with angry or critical remarks. It can often be helpful to take a few deep breaths and take our ego out of the equation. . .
2. Remember it’s never about you.
People who hurl insults are essentially insecure and feel a need to control others or situations.
3. Ignore the words.
No matter how insulting, disrespectful, or threatening the other person is, disregard what they’re actually saying. After all, when someone’s upset, chances are they’re not likely to mean what they’re actually saying. Instead, stay focused on ultimately directing the result you want.
4. Pause before you respond.
There’s a very big difference between reacting and responding. Responding is intentional, whereas reacting is a knee-jerk emotional response.
Remembering that you have the power to choose your response, decide exactly what you want to say. Choose your words deliberately and intentionally. Deliver your message with a firm, yet calm tone of voice and assertive body language.
5. Call it what it is.
“Power plays” are common, particularly in the workplace and business negotiations. It can be helpful to call out the power play. For instance, when your negotiation counterpart haughtily retorts “You can’t be serious!” you might try “Actually, I am serious. How about giving me a chance to finish and clarify what I’m saying?”
6. Interrupt with a break.
If things become particularly heated, taking a break can offer a much-needed respite to gain control of your emotions. Before taking a break, you might suggest to the other person a time to continue the discussion.
7. Divert the insult by shifting the focus back on topic.
If the other person accuses you of being overly sensitive, you might try saying “how about we avoid personal judgments and focus on the solution to this problem?”
8. Inject humor.
Using humor when someone insults you can be an effective way to diffuse a dispute. For instance, you might respond with something like “Wow, I didn’t know that! Thank you so much for helping me see the light!”
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