Thursday, 13 May 2010

Hit where it hurts

Some insults are more hurtful than others. It rather depends on your particular sensitivities, and what sort of person you want to be seen as. I'm always stabbed by certain words.

"Mean". Who wants to be known as mean, keeping everything to yourself and never giving anything away, piling up your cash and never using it to help others? Not me. Generosity is much more attractive. And it spreads happiness.

"Cowardly". I like to think that if someone was in trouble and needed help, I would step in even it was a bit dangerous. And I like to have the courage of my convictions, saying what I really think and not what's polite or convenient.

"Bad-tempered". My father flew into colossal rages, terrifying me and my mother and sister, and I vowed never to be the same way. To this day I seldom get angry, and I'm very patient with other people's failings and idiocies (and even their insults!)

"Stupid". Stupid I am not. I may be slow to react, I may consider things carefully, I may see things from a strange viewpoint, but that's not stupidity, any more than the obvious, predictable response shows intelligence.

"Lazy". I don't know how to be lazy. Not interested, maybe, or having better things to do, or not seeing the point, or not wanting to be a dogsbody. But not lazy. If I'm really committed to something, I'll put my heart and soul into it, I'll do whatever it takes.

"Anti-social". I like my own company, I like to sit and think, but I also enjoy being with others if they're funny, intelligent, open-minded and compassionate. Unfortunately a lot of people are dull and narrow-minded, and I avoid them for my own sanity.

Now if people call me a leftie, or a nutcase, or ungodly, or effeminate, that's just fine. I freely admit to being all those things - in a big way. What's to object to? But some words are thorns. They pierce me easily, and it can be hard to pull them out. They can get lodged pretty deep.

So what insults hit you where it hurts?


  1. Ah sticks and stones . .if only that were true. Names can hurt. I was once told 'you are incapable of attention to detail'. Now that hurt (probably because it's true! Haha!) I also get called a pessimist quite often, which I am sometimes, life will do that to you.

  2. Baino - I would get annoyed if those two were aimed at me, as my attention to detail is excellent and I'm a habitual optimist! But I'm not surprised if you're a pessimist in your present difficult circumstances....

  3. i'll have to think about it but almost anything will get to me if it's done the right way.
    last week i commented art work that i was experimenting with cooking porridge overnight in the slow cooker. everyone thought it was hilarious and i have no idea why. anyhow a bit of friendly ribbing was ok but after a week i was just hurt

  4. And once they're deep they fester don't they?

    I won't allow my children to call each other stupid or idiots. Of course they do! However they know they shouldn't!!

  5. And once they're in they fester don't they?

    I try to get my children NOT to call each other stupid or idiot. It works sometimes!

  6. I gave up worrying years ago what people call me. At my age time is precious and not to be wasted on what others think.

  7. I agree with Grannymar, life is short. I am trying to be the best person I can be... sometimes I succeed, sometimes not!

  8. Kylie - That's very mean of them. What exactly is wrong with cooking porridge overnight? I bet they do much more eccentric things themselves. And yes, repeated, persistent ribbing is a killer.

    Suburbia - Not sure which was the final version, so I've left both! Strange how insults can sometimes fester for years, however much you try to forget them. And children just love a good insult.

  9. Grannymar - That's remarkably philosophical of you, I wish I was that mature!

    Brighid - Ah, but do other people always appreciate your virtues? I hope they do.

  10. It tokl me a minute since I read "mean" as "unkind" rather than "stingy." A British/American difference, I believe.

    Most insults can get to me if they are said in a condescending way. I have a real issue with those who take a holier-than-thou approach to me.

  11. Nick, people tend to confuse criticism and insult. Criticism can be useful feedback - a bit like looking into the mirror and discovering a zit on the tip of your nose. An insult is a deliberate attempt at derailing someone for the sole purpose of kicking him in the shin.

    People have different pain thresholds as to how easily they feel insulted. What is one's nosebleed is another's water off the back.

    And do remember, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is our perception of each other.


  12. A while back Nick I made up my mind not to care what others called me or felt about me. I decided it was none of my business and that freed me up to be whereever and whoever I wanted to be.
    I know the truth about me and believe it.
    That's helped me to accomplish my goals.

  13. Secret Agent - Mean refers to both things over here too, sorry for the confusion! I can't stand condescension either. Unfortunately it's very common among Brits.

    Ursula - A valid distinction. Yes, constructive criticism is fine. But the throwaway insult that belittles the real me is hurtful. And you're right, what's a nasty insult to one person is harmless banter to another.

    www - I like the idea that it's none of your business as well as none of theirs. I must try to think that way.

  14. I'm okay with anything that is said to my face - okay it can hurt but at least I can defend myself. Its backbiting that gets to me... a new member of my team at work went to my manager and accused me of saying things that I had definitely not said. Fortunately my boss knows that I am an experienced manager and told me what had been said - when I spoke to the young girl in question she denied everything and said my boss was lying.

    Now, neither of us trust her and she has put a black mark on her probationary period..

    I just don't understand that sort of behaviour and find it extremely difficult to deal with.

  15. Kate - A lot of people go in for that sort of backbiting/ smearing in the hope that they'll discredit the other person and improve their own prospects. It never occurs to them they might have underestimated other people so it just backfires on them. I'm glad it seriously misfired in her case.

  16. Nick, this is a phenomenon that I have tried to understand for many years and have not been able to. Why should people communicate with each other in either direct or indirect ways hurting the other person involved? I am not a psychologist, but it would fit into one of the explanations that does the rounds frequently. Behaviour is an attempt to cover up an internal discomfort. For example, the so called complexes, inferior and superior, result in exactly the opposite forms of behaviour. So, when someone offers some hurtful comments about me, I try and think that it is an interior feeling of that person that tries to camouflage it through passing it on to someone else. It works for me.

  17. Ramana - I think there's some truth in the idea that people who feel inferior try to boost their own self-esteem by undermining others. Otherwise, as you say, what on earth is the point of being gratutiously nasty?

  18. An interesting subject, Nick, how ever do you come up with them??? Based on my experience, some people who behave nastily may have a mood disorder and inflict their versions of reality on others either out of anger or because they want or feel they aren't getting attention. I have an adult neice like this, and dealing with her is always like waiting for the other shoe to fall. Had I not seen how much she has hurt her parents, siblings and others with her behaviour, I might easily have fallen for her notion of an offence I committed earlier this week. As it is, I simply told her in response that if she felt that way, I'd make sure to keep our future contact to a minimum. While that may be in some ways unfortunate, it is the best I can do since her m/o won't change.

  19. e - These things just pop into my head, who knows how! Anger and attention-seeking are very plausible motives. Which makes me think of my father again - he was always angry and always insulting my mother and me (but not my sister who was daddy's pet). He was an attention-seeker too, since he was a total control freak.

    Your niece sounds like a real handful. If she's so prone to hurting others, I wonder if it's because she was badly hurt herself at some time.

  20. Interesting topic! As people add in the comments above, it's often someone's insecurity or view of their own problems which cause the name-calling. Trying to think what would be the worse thing someone could say about me- all of your words would be hurtful, but maybe intolerant would be the worst. It's something hard to understand in others and try, try to squash in myself.

  21. Niamh - I don't mind intolerant if it refers to those things I AM intolerant of, like violence, or war, or religious prejudice. But I wouldn't like to be seen as generally intolerant.