Whether he's your friend, a family member or a romantic partner, when someone belittles you at every turn, it isn't always easy to stand up for yourself and argue your point. That said, backing down and letting someone else talk down to you won't do anything for your self-confidence. Before bantering with some who routinely belittles, ask yourself if the argument is worth it in the long run. If you don't want to just walk away because you feel your relationship is worth the battle, collect and calm yourself, reduce your reactivity and reclaim your power.
Maintain your composure. Take a deep breath, count to 10 and calm down, suggests Preston Ni, who holds a master's in business administration, in his Psychology Today article "8 Keys to Dealing With Problem People." Focus on communicating instead of arguing back. Doing so includes listening to what the other person is saying and asking questions that are not masked accusations. This will help you to regain perspective, think clearly and handle the insults spewing from the other person's mouth, instead of simply biting back with an equally as belittling quip.
Focus on the real problem, not the belittling remarks. It's important to understand what the true problem is before acting, suggests licensed social worker Josh Kates in his article "Arguing vs. Fighting." For example, both you and your co-worker friend are up for a promotion. You get the promotion, and he doesn't. Your friend picks a fight, adding belittling comments, such as "You're just getting the promotion because our boss feels bad for you" or "He only promoted you because he's threatened by the amazing job that I do." Instead of focusing on his belittling remarks, concentrate on the real reason for your fight. In this case, it's likely that he feels badly about himself.
Show empathy. Instead of fighting back with an equally belittling line, show that you care and understand the other person's perspective. For example, your sister always calls you "stupid" or an "idiot" when the two of you argue; perhaps this is because she doesn't have confidence in her own intelligence. Calm her with a statement that lifts her up and lets her know that you have confidence in her abilities.
Assert yourself in a confident way. Self-affirmation -- or a positive self-outlook -- has an impact on conflict resolution, according to a 2011 study headed by Andrew Ward of Swarthmore College and published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Instead of giving in to the other person's belittling comments and believing that they're true, give yourself an inner pep talk and mentally list your positive qualities. For example, your roommate tells you that you're dumb and lazy and will never be as successful as he is. Remind yourself that your entry-level job is in the field that you love and your last performance review was stellar.
Tips & Warnings
- Don't expect to win over the other person. If the other person always belittles everyone because she's a narcissist, she may lack the empathy necessary to truly care about the hurt that she's causing. Her immense ego isn't likely to deflate during your argument.
- Never belittle back to the other person. Just because she talks down to you doesn't mean that you have to stoop to her level.
- Psychology Today: 8 Keys to Dealing With Problem People
- Josh Kates: Arguing vs. Fighting
- Sage Journals: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin: Affirming the Self to Promote Agreement With Another
- PsychCentral: 5 Difficult Workplace Types and How to Get Them to Cooperate
- Psychology Today: Dealing With Difficult People
- Photo Credit BartekSzewczyk/iStock/Getty Images
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