How do we deal with insults?

The feeling caused by someone's gesture, action, or word may or may not have anything to do with the intention of the "offender." And vice versa. The insulter may intend to hurt, but the effect could be the absence of…

Ida Protuger



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Leaders hold a crucial role in nurturing collective thinking as a resource. Those appreciating the value of experience and knowledge in each team member foster a safe space for exchanging ideas. They see the synergy from combined resources as valuable input toward better, well-informed, and inclusive decisions.

Breaking the stigma of seeking help for mental health

Everyone faces life challenges, and dealing with them, and seeking support from a professional, either for personal development or psychological assistance, is self-care. To step out of an uncomfortable situation, to understand that it’s okay not to feel okay. There are solutions and support out there.

“You don’t take the insult. You leave it to the insulter,” advises the famous psychotherapist Milton Erickson.

However, that is easier to say than to do. Insults can cause intense emotions that are difficult to deal with.

Hence, it is essential to distinguish the intention of the act and the feeling it causes.

An insult is a remark or behavior intended to hurt, offend, or belittle someone. It is often used to attack someone’s character, intelligence, appearance, or other personal attributes. Insults can significantly impact self-esteem, emotional well-being, and relationships.

Feeling offended is a subjective perception of a gesture, event, or words that causes negative feelings in us, such as humiliation, sadness, anger, rage, etc.

Emotional management

In psychology, more important than what happened is how someone experienced it.

Hence, the feeling caused by someone’s gesture, action, or word may or may not have anything to do with the intention of the “insulter.” And vice versa. The insulter may intend to hurt, but the effect could be the absence of an expected emotional response.

Whenever something triggers a strong emotional reaction, it is good to observe within ourselves to find the answer to why this is so.

Sometimes it is because we are emotionally connected to the person who insulted us, and sometimes because someone touched an “Achilles’ heel” in us.

After the initial emotional reaction, the logical question is: what will we do with the insult? How should we position ourselves towards the insulter or the situation we have experienced as insulting?

The act of insulting is a  violent sort of communication. It is sending a message to someone. It is emotional communication, expressing open or subtle aggression, anger, and frustration.

One technique called Reframing helps deal with insults or negative feelings when someone hurts us.

Reframing is a technique used in psychology and counseling to help individuals view situations from a different perspective. The idea behind reframing is that by changing how we think about a situation, we can change our emotional response to it and improve our ability to cope.


Reframing involves identifying and changing how we think about a situation or event. For example, you may initially feel hurt and upset if someone insults you. However, reframing the situation can change your perspective and response. For example, instead of taking the insult personally, try to reframe the situation. Consider that the insult may say more about the person delivering it than it does about you.

Reframing can be used in various situations, from dealing with difficult emotions to coping with challenging circumstances. It can help individuals shift their focus from negative thoughts and feelings to more positive ones and help build resilience and coping skills.

We can, for example, see the situation through the prism of the person who made the insult. What is the reason for frustration? We don’t need to take the insult as it is true, but to question it. If something triggers an intense emotional response, it is useful to recognize the feeling and go deeper to understand the core of that feeling.

Staying in a passive mode, we could sink into our own emotions and in the victim role. Or, we can actively position ourselves towards people or circumstances and choose a response for our benefit and well-being.

We can’t control emotions because they are bodily responses to external and internal (memory, thoughts) stimuli. But we can manage them, and that is emotional intelligence. Instead of letting emotions overwhelm us and take charge of our behavior, we can control the impulse and wake up the “adult” part of us, the reasonable self, to help us understand the situation.

Resilience building

If the insult is one’s weapon to defeat and belittle the other person, the most effective response is building resilience.

Self-acceptance plays a significant role in strengthening resilience. We are all complex beings. We have a shadow – a part of us that we consider weak, unacceptable to social norms, the “villain.” The other side is a persona – the socially acceptable part that fits norms and that we want to present to the public. Self-acceptance is the integration of both the shadow and the persona. By knowing ourselves and accepting ourselves, we can focus on our resources as strengths in the context we want to change.

Suppose someone tells you you are irresponsible because you are late for a meeting. Instead of getting overwhelmed with emotions and getting defensive with a counterattack or acting in anger, you can reframe the situation. Is that true? Did I offend someone or hurt someone’s feelings? Do I need to set boundaries to protect myself from these attacks? Does one “weakness” define me? (Ex. Yes, I’m sometimes late for a meeting, and I would like to change that, but at the same time, I’m a good listener, I respect my colleagues, etc.).

To strengthen resilience, besides self-acceptance, it is its “twin” – self-confidence to enhance.

If someone constantly seeks confirmation outside and looks for his value in other people’s “eyes,” he is on the way to losing himself. Self-acceptance and self-confidence are the basis for building healthy relationships with others. Self-development and self-awareness are the instruments that support building resilience, self-acceptance, and self-confidence.

However, there is one exercise I find helpful, and I’m suggesting it to my clients. When someone insults you and says terrible things about you, imagine your skin is covered with massage oil. The words slide along the body and fall on the ground.