Handling insults with dignity

Feeling insulted isn’t new to anyone. We can go into the entire “your ego is what is affected and how you must focus on detachment from ego to avoid hurt”, but all that is difficult, time consuming and to be frank, unrelatable to many of those reading this column. People feel insulted and either go into shells, or hit back, get defensive or wallow in self doubt and grief. So how can you handle what seems insulting, slighting, or targeted in your stride? Insults aren’t just what are clearly verbally communicated. They could be indirectly thrown your way in the form of jokes, backhanded compliments, mimicry, expressions, false smiles, or strange comments. The big question is…. What are you going to do about it? Well, first things first, get your composure. Being in the right state of mind is the most important first step of dealing with an insult, because simply being reactionary is playing to their tunes. So, first step is to look at them, calmly or humorously and focus on a couple of deep breaths to calm down.

Your measured reaction will naturally be based on the nature of the insult. If it’s in your workplace and is discriminatory, threatening or sexist in nature, the most appropriate response is to walk away and report it to authority. Let them deal with the repercussions of their insults, it’s not your baggage to carry. And no, it’s not “tattling”, its self-respect. In a personal arena, there are various ways of engaging with an insult. Some choose the route of anger, some choose to ignore it whilst others may choose to return the insult either in the same tonality or with a sense of humour. Anger is the weakest, as it shows it affected you, that you are upset and hence it invites further insults. Humour to me is always the best way forward. There’s a lovely exchange between George Bernand shaw and Winston Churchill that demonstrates great wit in insulting exchanges. Shaw invited Churchill to his new play with an invitation that read, “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; please bring a friend, if you have one”. Churchill replied, “I cannot possibly attend the first night, but I will attend the second, if you have one”!!! However, not all of us have the presence of mind, or wit handy, especially at a head banging moment. What is always in your control is an ability to stand up for yourself with an attitude of not taking the offence as an insult. An insult has power only when you respond, and your reactions are completely in your control. It’s unreasonable to expect a klutz to be anything but a klutz, or to expect decency from them, so your strength lies in your handling of a situation. An offence taken by you, is your doing, and you have only yourself to blame. Choose dignified, choose humour, choose empathy, choose a winning expression, whatever you choose make it something that makes you feel great about yourself, long after the moment has passed.

I am a 24-year-old divorcee. I was in an abusive arranged marriage for four years and eventually decided to separate from my husband. While I am happy to be back at my parents’ house, they are already putting pressure on me to get married again. After what I went through, the last thing I want is to be in another relationship so soon. How should I explain this to my conservative parents?

Tell them you don’t want to be unfair to whoever enters your life at this point, because he will only be subjected to the demons of your past and rushing into relationships or a marriage and not having your next relationship work out as you are emotionally fractured, may only cause more damage than good. Explain that you need to work on healing yourself first if any relationship is to be successful. Most importantly, add that their choices led to so much grief, and this time around, you would like to choose your own marriage partner.

I am a 32-year-old man and like a girl in my housing society. No matter how much I try, I am unable to tell her how I feel. We are not friends, we only know each other by name and exchange pleasantries when we meet in the society. How should I take things forward?

Ask her out for a coffee. 32 years should have given you that skill set. Fact is you don’t know anything about her and you’re basing your feelings on physicality. Maybe you are well matched, maybe you are not. Sitting and chatting about things, no matter how trivial, will help factor many things.

I am a 55-year-old woman in love with a man who is 10 years younger to me. We have been together for five years now and are happy. Since the past several weeks, my neighbours have been passing snide remarks about me and my relationship. This has started bothering me a lot. How do I deal with the situation?

My mother always said “if the world laughs at you, laugh right back. It’s as funny as you are.” The problem doesn’t lie with them, it lies in your need for approval. If people can’t be happy for you, those are exactly the people who’s opinions you shouldn’t give a damn about. You have put your remote control into their hands, and they are pressing the “bother her” button. Take back your remote. Enjoy what’s good in your life and don’t colour it with their emotions, which are clearly not based on love for you.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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