Insensitive Comments: Ideas on how to respond
Let’s face it: some people have the ability to play dumb, socially.
In other words, their abilities to filter what comes out of their mouth is little to non-existent. Reacting to insensitive comments can be very tricky.
There’s no perfect way to respond to someone’s rudeness or insensitive comments. What’s “best” in that situation depends on your relationship with the person, your comfort level, and what you think would make you feel better.
When faced with insensitive comments, use your best judgment on how you think you should respond at that particular moment. Not only can you help someone understand the power of their words in the future, but you can avoid feeling targeted and helpless as well.
How to Handle Insensitive Comments?
In the Moment:
Take a few seconds to assess the situation
Some people are socially unintelligent and have the tendency to say some unacceptable things. When insensitive comments are made by this kind of people, chances are they are not intentionally trying to be mean to you. Take a second and pause before reacting: is this the first time they throw such a rude comment? Or is it uncharacteristic of them? In that case, you can give them the benefit of the doubt and choose to drop it. They might simply be dealing with a lot in their life. You might also choose to question them at a later time ‘hey, is something going on with you? Your comment is not typical of you. Anything I can help with?’
Sometimes, simply ignoring a comment is better than the alternative. This way may depend on the person and the context. Some people just blurt out things without thinking, but never mean to hurt anyone, while others say things to get a reaction out of you. You know best, so trust your intuition on this one. Retorting back or getting defensive might actually reward that comment, therefore ignoring it may be the best option.
Use the ‘Repeat’ Button
When you ask the other person to repeat themselves, that puts them under the spotlight without really butting heads with them. It’s a very subtle way to direct attention to their inappropriate comments. Repeating something more consciously can cause them to realize that they were out of line. Your answer can be ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t catch what you meant, can you please repeat what you just said?’ This tactic is a favorite in my younger clients’ population, for those who need to respond to bullies in a gentle, less confrontational yet very effective way.
Use humor to diffuse the situation.
So, someone tells you a bad comment or throws an inappropriate joke, keep it light, tension-free. My advice here is to be careful though with nervous laughter, don’t overdo the pretending with a laugh that would sound creepily awkward.
Call it Out
If you’ve decided that something is completely out of line, saying something like ‘that comment you just made was really hurtful, I wonder if you meant it or not?’ can directly dissipate any confusion made as to the purpose of such a comment. You’d know immediately how to take it from there once the intention is clear.
Correct what the other person said
This may be as simple as just acknowledging what was said but may also be taken a step further to educate the person or correcting them. It is a sure way to vent off and express those anger feelings instead of bottling them up. The underlying drive is to be truthful about what has happened and to remain authentic in your response.
After the incident:
Practice some Self Reflection
Put some thought into what kinds of situations and comments call for a response, and then draw a few hard lines by setting firm boundaries. You can decide what’s worth spending your valuable physical and emotional energy on. Sometimes, a person’s unfit comment is a sign of the baggage they’re carrying, nothing more. And it’s not in your best interest to unpack it for them!
Seek Professional Help…if this is repeating itself.
Dealing with hurtful and insensitive comments can be challenging sometimes, especially if it becomes a pattern. If you find yourself in need of seeking professional help from a healthcare provider, or mental health therapist don’t hesitate to make this step.
Dr. Carla is an excellent resource to provide you with behavioral modification tools that will allow you to change that pattern and finally overcome these situational challenges. Learn more during a free inquiry consult with her.