By Dr. Ron Ross
There was a day when intelligent people could insult each other with some real class. The story is told that playwright George Bernard Shaw disliked Winston Churchill so he sent him an invitation to the opening night of his new play with this note: “I’m enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play. Bring a friend…if you have one.”
Churchill replied with this note: “Cannot possibly attend first night. Will attend second…if there is one.”
Now isn’t that much more elegant that the nasty barbs and prickly insults that have become the common fare of political antagonists?
No doubt you have watched and heard with disgust the chatter of political candidates, surrogates, and wags as they find increasingly nasty ways to insult each other.
Understand this – most insults reveal the hidden anger and insecurity of the one doing the insulting. A good way for an insecure person to cover up his own shortcomings is to put the other person down.
But who cares if politicians insult one another. None of us plain folks get hurt because one politician Tweets something nasty about another. We do get hurt, however, if someone insults us. So what should you do?
President Bush gave us one answer, brush them off. Time after time as people called him a liar and a cowboy and made other derisive remarks about him, he did as he had always done to his legion of critics: he took the high road. He quietly and respectfully brushed off the insult and said more than once that criticism is “just part of what happens when you’re president.”
His lesson for us is simple: ignore insults. Always take the high road!
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to ignore insults. I take things personally. Words can cause deep scars. My mother taught me the line, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me.” That’s not the only thing mother was wrong about. Nasty, insulting words can harm us, especially when they are spoken by people we respect.
Another way to deal with an insult is to respond with humor. If someone calls you a name the chances are it is a name you have heard before. You can respond with a big smile, “Wow! That’s a new one. No one’s ever called me that before. You’re a very clever person!” And laugh as you turn away.
I like the advice given by personal development guru Steve Pavlina. He says, “If someone offers you a gift, and you decline to accept it, the other person still owns that gift. The same is true of insults and verbal attacks.”
I can’t resist sharing with you one more elegant insult from Churchill when he said of someone, “He’s a modest little person with much to be modest about.” I share that cute little insult not as line for you to use but an example of what not to do. Want to wiggle out of the mud? Don’t take an insulter’s bait. Don’t return insult for insult. Take the high road and ignore insults.
© 2016 Dr. Ronald D. Ross
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