We all had encountered that one person who tried to bash our worth by pointing out everything wrong with our lives. Some of us, especially those who have been victims of name-calling and verbal bullying, may have heard the childhood rhyme, “stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.” However, realistically speaking, we know that a couple of strongly-worded sentences from a hot-tempered individual can leave us emotionally scarred for days. The tongue is indeed the strongest muscle in our bodies. Its combination of elasticity and forcefulness gives us the ability to speak, for better or worse.
Fortunately, you do not have to turn down every opportunity for summer parties to keep your chin up. Here are several ways to deal with a negative conversationalist.
1. Get ready.
Why should you let your opponent have an advantage over you even before the “battle” begins? You should handle this person before you even reached the “battlefield.” Have a couple of polite yet succinct lines to keep clear of sensitive topics. I find that being sparse with the details is the best way to go. From my experience, phrases such as “I would rather not mention anything about it” not only sounds ill-mannered but also will attract further curiosity from the person whom you are trying to get away from. When your relatives want to know why you are still single, politely convey why you are not in a hurry to see someone, let alone getting married.
2. Be mindful that everything remains unchanged.
No amount of discouraging words you have heard or doubts about your own skillset can influence the outcome of the final job interview. Obviously, it is much harder to develop a convincing resume when you feel like it is worth nothing. Hence, you excuse yourself from the discussion and remind yourself of what is actually unfolding. Were you confident that your communication skills would take you far and wide? Remind yourself that those skills never left you. Make yourself aware of the emotional fluctuations you are experiencing by adopting some mindfulness exercises.
It is worth noting that your thoughts and feelings are not identical to each other. The aim is not to assume that your feelings of discouragement are non-existent. Instead, the goal here is to try to acknowledge that you are reacting to a harsh comment, just like a regular human being would–and that is all right. Do not forget that your grief does not reflect the way things truly are, and it does not transform you into a lethargic human being who is not worthy of any job.
3. Your story is something they do not know.
Judging people and their intentions through our eyes is a common human behaviour, regardless of age and upbringing. We, humans, tend to make impulsive, half-baked conclusions about people because it saves our time and helps us earn our place in society. Some people like your relatives who have a differing set of opinions over how your money is managed have no idea about the thoughts repeatedly playing in your head. They will never know the emotional struggles you are going through in order to build a business on your own or understand the rationale of you renting over buying a property once you are married to your significant other. So, relax, smile and patiently remind yourself that it tends to be chaotic behind the curtains.
4. Transform criticisms into building blocks for yourself.
Suppose you have a critical thinking cap. Now, wear it and ask yourself: what exactly about those negative comments that keep you awake at night? At times, the reason negative comments haunt us so much is that, when we go right to the core of them, they are true to a certain extent. For example, did it really bother you that your aunts and uncles think you are not independent for living at home with your parents because it is a baseless claim or because you are aware that you would be able to afford moving out at some point in the future if you ceased spending all your money on the latest Nike collection? Uncomfortable truths may be just what you need to remind yourself not to self-sabotage. However, if you accept the comment at face value and realise that it is nothing but a sequence of nasty words, the time is now to put the next battle plan into action–which leads us to the next point.
5. Chat with someone else.
When you have exhausted all avenues, it is worth returning to a more rudimentary, time-tested approach. When those harsh words strike your eardrums, and your confidence is fading away, it is time to tune in to another frequency. You can talk to your father, your significant other or even one of your close friends whom you know since high school to smother yourself with pearls of wisdom. Over the years, I found that it is better to call, instead of text, a friend so that I can drain out all the thoughts in my head. That way, she can approach each thought of mine objectively and offer me reasonable solutions.
Final 2¢: No one deserves to have a grip on you.
Dealing with people who rebuts your views and slams your actions can be complicated, especially when you are unsure. Fundamentally, however, you are no longer a child. You are in the prime decade of your life. Who is to tell you what you “should have” by the age of 25? So, understand yourself and deal with conversations politely and with style. After which, the problem is no longer yours to solve, and you are free to relax and continue writing.