Responding to Verbal Attacks

ozar­que said some­thing in her jour­nal that I’ve been think­ing about:

There is a metaprin­ci­ple for the entire Gen­tle Art of Ver­bal Self-Defense sys­tem which says that in ver­bal con­fronta­tions and dis­agree­ments your goal is that there should nev­er be a loss of face on either side. That applies to every tech­nique, and is intrin­sic to the system.

When a response would mean sac­ri­fic­ing your dig­ni­ty or com­pro­mis­ing your prin­ci­ples, it’s not sat­is­fac­to­ry, and some­thing else should be cho­sen in its place. What that “some­thing else” will be is going to depend on you, the person(s) you’re talk­ing with, and the con­text; all I do is pro­vide some tools to use in mak­ing your choice.

Does this apply to every­one in your life? I tend to get very snarky if some­one attacks me ver­bal­ly. Just how snarky depends on how impor­tant the rela­tion­ship is to me. If I actu­al­ly care about inter­act­ing with the per­son, I don’t need to “win.” If you focus on com­ing out ahead instead of improv­ing and main­tain­ing the rela­tion­ship, you lose the relationship. 

I will cut oth­er peo­ple down with­out hes­i­ta­tion, though. I sup­pose that’s pet­ty of me, but if some­one attacks me for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son, I fig­ure they need to be cut down a bit. 

And yes, ran­dom strangers do attack fat peo­ple, espe­cial­ly. I know there are oth­ers who have expe­ri­enced these kinds of unpro­voked attacks, too.

They don’t expect the tar­get of their attacks to respond with any­thing but embar­rass­ment. We’re fat peo­ple (or queer peo­ple, or dark-skinned peo­ple, or what­ev­er). We’re sup­posed to roll over and take it, right? We’re minorities!

In my expe­ri­ence, the attack­ers usu­al­ly make these attacks in our hear­ing, but not direct­ly TO us. We aren’t sup­posed to acknowl­edge them. It’s part of the attack­er’s assumed power.

Some­times, they aren’t worth a response. Some­times, though, if I hap­pen to have the time and ener­gy, I will take them down ver­bal­ly. In fact, I enjoy it.

Are the attack­ers like­ly to learn any­thing from it? Hon­est­ly, no. But they aren’t usu­al­ly open to much in the way of edu­ca­tion any­way, and they aren’t my prob­lem. If hav­ing an “easy tar­get” respond in kind is enough to make them think twice before attack­ing oth­ers in the future, that’s enough for me.

The Gen­tle Art of Ver­bal Self-Defense sys­tem is great for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple with whom you are in a rela­tion­ship. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­niques are no more “one size fits all” than any oth­er part of life.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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