After writing about being called “touchy” last week, I started wondering what’s the best way to deal with someone who insults you, belittles you, mislabels you, misunderstands you, makes fun of you, upsets you, triggers you? What do you do if you’ve perceived an insult but you’re not sure?
Do you take the high road?
Do you shake it off or try to? Refuse to acknowledge it? Refuse to admit something bothers you? Refuse to sink to their level if they’re particularly obnoxious and nasty? Do you wax philosophical and say to yourself “hurt people hurt people”?
Or do you take the low road?
Do you shut them down with your own insult or witty retort? Do you say something that is ensured to hurt them so they never look at you funny again? Do you embarrass someone who embarrasses you? Do you defend yourself swiftly and vociferously? Do you hurt people who hurt people?
What I used to do
Until very recently I would take the high road but not because I was morally superior but because I hated confrontation. That and I wasn’t quick enough for witty retorts. I didn’t think of anything to say until later after the shock wore off and I realized “That person was being a jerk to me!”
My stance was “I’m not going to be a jerk like that jerky jerk”. But, it was a lie. I thought taking the high road meant I could avoid pain. I wouldn’t avoid pain; I hoarded it, internalized it and for longer than necessary. And I was a jerk. A silent jerk. I would only think (and write) what others would say.
I don’t think it’s a high road if you’re in pain.
What I do now
The answer: it depends. I hate when people answer questions with “it depends”. Everything depends. It’s too wishy-washy, but sometimes it’s true and it’s as definite as you can get.
1. Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign, collects his army and concentrates his forces.
2. When in difficult country, do not encamp. In country where high roads intersect, join hands with your allies. Do not linger in dangerously isolated positions. In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem. In desperate position, you must fight.
3. There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must be not attacked, towns which must be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.
4. The general who thoroughly understands the advantages that accompany variation of tactics knows how to handle his troops.
When do you take the high road and when do you take the low road? It depends on who’s involved, where you are, what was said. You have to vary your tactics depending on these factors.
There are two tactics when dealing with an insult, etc. as I see it: say something or don’t say something.
My only tactic used to be “don’t say something” but sometimes saying something is taking the high road. Sometimes it isn’t. And what do you say? Exactly what you think and feel? Or just enough to make your displeasure known like an “eww”? What do you say when other people are around? See? It depends.
“It depends” is not a very comforting or inspiring strategy. Someone could hurl “you’re too sensitive” at me in the next hour and I still don’t know what I would do.
This is what I know for sure: no matter what anyone says or does, no matter if I choose to say something or not, being present and feeling everything and being in my body and acknowledging hurt feelings even if it’s just to myself and doing something with it, like writing a blog post about it, is the ultimate strategy. Saying to myself “that hurt my feelings” or “that was rude” or “I don’t like that” is sometimes enough.
And sometimes it isn’t.
The writing of this post was supposed to help me answer the title’s question and I realize there is no answer. Life is messy. Sometimes you just have to wing it.