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Archives for September 2013

Getting Past Sticks and Stones


“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

How many times did your mom say this to you growing up? And yet, in the real world, it seems that increasingly few people abide by it. Tearing people down is something of a national pastime; countless magazines and websites are devoted to mocking others. You might even take some pleasure in some celebrity trainwreck’s foibles splashed across this week’s issue of US Weekly.

But what happens when the person on trial is you?

Some get defensive; others get angry. Most people, however, absorb the abuse in near-silence and allow the criticisms to seep in.

Some of the most hurtful comments are those inflicted by the people we care about: family, friends, coworkers, boyfriends. They might thrive on making others uncomfortable or embarrassed: what they perceive as “joking” or “friendly banter” can be incredibly hurtful to more sensitive parties.

What can you do?

If you’re an opinionated soul, you can always tell them off. This won’t necessarily stop future comments, but some verbal aggressors will back off when met with resistance. If you don’t enjoy the comments, tell them to knock it off and warn them that bringing it up again will not fly with you. At the very least, they’ll know where you stand and what the consequences of revisiting the comments will be.

If you don’t like confrontation, don’t reply for a beat after the comment lands and stare at the speaker. A simple, “I don’t appreciate that” or “Please keep those thoughts to yourself” is often a good enough indication to the insulting party that you won’t tolerate their nasty comments.

If someone persists in critiquing you, you will be forced to have a serious talk about why their actions hurt you. Make ample use of the word “I” (“Your snide remarks upset me”; “I don’t enjoy that”) instead of the more inflammatory “you”. If they cannot stop or are unwilling to alter their behavior, you’ll have to take a long, hard look at why you’re spending time with this person in the first place.