There as so many sources of information about ourselves that some days can feel like a battle against incoming arrows of insult. In some workplaces and schools, putting others down is just part of the culture. This can become overwhelming — putting the recipient on the defensive.
There are lots of comebacks for such situations, but to use them you first have to get yourself into a less defensive mindset. Consider that the people who insult others, even in fun, are saying more about themselves than about you. If the slights are coming from all around you, then you’re likely in a work culture that is highly political or even pathological. I’ve written about this in The Secret Handshake and It’s All Politics and on this site. And about ways to handle those kinds of cultures.
But some of it may be you. It takes two people to make a slight work. “Is that all you have today?” is a short way to tell the inflictor that you have his number, so to speak. “You must have been up all night thinking of that one” is another useful phrase. Of course, you may want to start delivering these when it’s just the two of you. Suddenly slamming him or her in public is only necessary if your credibility is in jeopardy. Even then, you can start with a look of exasperation followed by, “Let’s get some work done.”
There are many ways to deal with slights. But the effective ones begin with a mindset that is not defensive. You can decide to let some slights slide, but when they sting, you need to have a comeback. Try looking at the person just a little longer than you normally would. Suggest he get some new material, give her as good as you got one time and then ask if she wants to make a habit of that kind of exchange. These are just a few thoughts. We’ll be back with more.