We’ve all been victims of tactless comments: a relative commenting on how much weight you’ve gained, a friend turning her nose up at your job, or even someone you just met asking why you aren’t married yet. How do you deal with these insensitive words?
In their shoes
Janet Locsin admits that she has a tendency to be tactless. So when someone throws out a comment that can hurt, she tries to see things from their perspective. “These people generally don't mean to be hurtful or insulting,” she says. “Some of them might be sincerely concerned or wanting to have a conversation but just can't put themselves in my place.”
As an artist, Risa Recio is exposed to a lot of criticism. “When I hear tactless comments, I try to consider where their comments come from. ‘Are they saying that to take a stab at me?’ ‘Are they threatened by me?’ or ‘Oh, she is totally misinterpreting my work.’”
Christine Kang agrees: “Behind someone who speaks without tact may lie a few factors: lack of information or awareness, or lack of consideration for another person's feelings or an ongoing behavior of rudeness accepted as normal.”
“I think the best way to deal with tactless people is with diplomacy,” shares Janet. “I consciously stop myself from a sarcastic retort. Instead, I try to provide a thoughtful response, which often makes the other person realize his or her thoughtlessness.”
Christine adds, “To those who make that occasional or unintentional mistake, I tend to say with a smile, ‘Whoa! That was inappropriate. Tell you what: if you can rephrase what you just said, then we can keep talking.’”
However, if she has to deal with someone who has already fallen into the habit of being tactless, “I say, ‘That was highly inappropriate and rude.’ From my personal experience, people who tend to make tactless comments have not been told that they are outside what is acceptable, and therefore carry on.”
Risa shares, “If their tactless comments are an attempt to provoke me or cut me down, I do my best to respond with a 'thank you' and a smile. I would rather come across as gracious and aloof than indulge them.”
Sometimes, you’re forced to answer insensitive questions. What’s the best way to respond? “In my case, it was ‘Why aren't you married yet?’ and later, ‘Why don't you have any children? You're not getting any younger,’” shares Janet. “I just answer sincerely, which often takes the questioner aback and silences him or her because they were probably just throwing thoughts out into the air. My routine answer to the children question is that I'm not really sure I want to bring up a child, so it would be unfair to bring that person into this world while feeling iffy about the whole situation. I haven't had anyone come up with a tactless response to that yet!”
Don’t just clam upMy problem when I’m assaulted by a tactless comment is that I am shocked and cannot reply until I process what has just happened. However, I have also learned that I cannot just keep mum and let my frustration and anger come to a boil in the pit of my stomach. Nowadays, I make an extreme effort to speak up. I am not confrontational, so what I do is ask questions and share my personal thoughts, always emphasizing that these are what I feel and think, making my point without causing any more hurt feelings. If it was particularly hurtful, I take the person aside so that we aren’t in a large group and tell them how I feel. If the person is not worth my time, I just avoid any more encounters with him. But if I must work with him or continue to be his friend, then this is how I invest in the relationship.
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Olivia Yao has been writing ever since she can remember. She has written for health, teen, parenting, and children's magazines. Her latest endeavor is being a mom to her three-year-old daughter—her toughest assignment yet.
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