Perhaps you listened to Here & Now on PBS today. Professor Gary King of Harvard University was interviewed. In a study involving 64,000 congressional press releases, he and his team discovered that our representatives taunt 27% of the time. He observed that more taunting appears to come from representatives voted in by homogeneous constituents. So, if you win by a large margin due to one party backing you, you’re more inclined to taunt. It amuses your followers.
Taunting is a verbal jab of sorts about the other person or group. And there are useful examples at the PBS site.
In my books, I’ve written also about verbal sparring. These involve slight to nasty insults bandied back and forth. At the lower end, verbal spars can be quite humorous. If you and your verbal sparring partner are proficient at this, enjoyment obtains even as somewhat offensive comments are conveyed. Less skilled people spar to the death. They metaphorically draw blood because they don’t know where to draw the line.
While taunting and verbal sparring may seem a waste of time and certainly can be when taken to extreme, they can also serve a purpose. Admiration comes to those who deliver a verbal jab, make a point, and make even the target smile. Admiration comes also to those who take a verbal jab well or counter with one equally or more proficient.
Comebacks at Work provides a host of taunt replies. Without them the person taunted, if present, instantly loses credibility. He or she is at a loss for words.
There are some general taunt comebacks. For example, “Now that we appear to know so much about me, let’s talk about you,” delivered with a slight smile at the end could prove valuable in response to a gentle or moderate put-down. “You’re funny sometimes, Al. Just not this time” is another useful one. Of course, it too must be delivered in a somewhat jovial yet slightly perturbed manner.
Being able to take what’s dished out and dish out your own comebacks is a good part of demonstrating one’s leadership competence. Maybe it shouldn’t be. But it is. So, if taunting and verbal sparring are frequent where you work, there’s no time like the present to start learning how to hold your own when the offenses start flying.