‘I felt awful I missed the meeting this morning.’
‘At least you made it into work this time!’
‘Yea, I guess so…’
We’ve all experienced the bitter aftertaste of a put-down which caught us completely unawares. How do you typically respond? If you’re anything like me, you’ll think of the perfect response a day late, leaving you feeling frustrated and angry, both at yourself and at the person who delivered the sour remark.
Whilst living in shared accommodation in London I had the unfortunate pleasure of sharing with a man who by all means was the king of put-downs. I honestly think he lived his life in a state of constant anger and frustration and the only way he knew how to alleviate his pain was to put others down. Needless to say he was a very unpleasant character.
At the time I knew nothing about assertiveness and so had no idea how to reply, leaving me constantly bewildered and feeling attacked. I can see now that my ‘perfect responses’ were actually just put-downs themselves, and would have left me entering into a competition on passive aggression, which he would obviously win.
The reality of put-downs is that they are almost always indirect and so virtually impossible to address at the time without resorting to demeaning remarks back. Thankfully, after learning more about assertiveness, I am now better able to defend myself against put downs, but it still takes a great deal of courage to tackle them in a direct way and there have been times when I’ve fallen short of being assertive. Having said that, when I do respond assertively, I feel incredibly empowered, having said I find the behavior unacceptable.
Throughout this month’s series we will address how to respond to put-downs in such a way that you too feel empowered; standing up for yourself whilst maintaining your integrity by being respectful, diplomatic and firm.
What Is A Put-Down Exactly?
Dictionary.com defines a put-down as:
“A disparaging, belittling, or snubbing remark. A remark or act intended to humiliate or embarrass
The Psychological Reasons People Give Put-Downs
Often those who use put-downs towards others are very insecure and hide behind them, feeling it the only way they can safely communicate their anger or elevate themselves socially.