When someone puts you down or presses your buttons you’ll likely have an emotional reaction. Before you even have time to think it through you are Mad! Sad! Disappointed!
You won’t make your best comeback thinking about it with that mental state. First order of business is to get centered.
Try “Cooling Breath”. Breathe in through your mouth as if you are sipping through a straw. Then exhale through your nose. Do you feel a cooling drying sensation, as if there is a wind tunnel over the top of your tongue? Good, you’re doing it right! (Extra benefit: it’s detoxifying your liver where negative emotions build up to cause disease…)
Here are strategies to help you respond so you get what you want from the interaction:
1. Shift from talking to them to talking to yourself:
Notice the rant going on inside your head as you find yourself talking ‘to’ that person: “You shouldn’t do that to me… Why can’t you just be cooperative…You are a ___!” As long as you are talking “to them” in your mind you will feel a lack of control. Start by talking “to yourself”: “What I feel is…What I want in this situation is…etc” That will start to help you feel calm.
2. Identify the outcome you want:
Have your response be Intentional not Reactive. Don’t return a put down with a put down, or emotionally trying to defend yourself. These are not powerful, they don’t help you achieve the outcome you want.
Decide who you want to be and what outcome you want: Do you want to protect yourself and make sure the person respects you – then make a response that shows them you will not tolerate disrespect. I had someone difficult in my personal life who felt it their duty to criticize me. When they started to put me down I might say: “I appreciate your concern but I am not open to your criticism. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss, if not I’m going to go now…”
Is it an important personal relationship and you want to keep the relationship strong? Then speak your truth in a way that preserves the relationship: “When you say X (stated objectively; not “when you are a jerk”), I feel Y (emotions; not “I feel you are an idiot”), because I need Z (deep needs like: “to be safe, respected, emotionally close to others, autonomous and not bossed around”). Can you work with me so I can feel Z…”
3. Turn their negative into a positive:
You will disarm the person if you show appreciation for their comment, with a little tinge of guile. “Thanks for putting so much thought into providing me feedback…” Or if you call out their put down “Were you trying to be hurtful when you said that?” Usually when you say that the person will justify what their REAL intent was (“I was just trying to…”) and if they admit they were trying to be hurtful then they look bad.
4. Protect yourself from their negativity:
Protect yourself just using your imagination: Surround yourself with a shield using whatever metaphor is fun for you (e.g., rays of white light, a glass cone like in the movies, wear a breastplate). Then their negative energy won’t affect you!
5. Kill them with Kindness:
Have you assessed that person is never going to change and you’ve given up on trying to improve the relationship with that person? Then shift into a mode to survive – not inflame- their behavior. “Kill them with kindness” by smiling on the outside, protect yourself on the inside, and minimize all non-essential interaction with them.
When other people are difficult to deal with, they are revealing their limitations. Rise above their limitations so you can get what you need and be who YOU want to be!