OWN
10/11/2017 12:37 pm ET

3 Stand-Up-For-Yourself Strategies For Sensitive People

How to handle put-downs and insults without losing your cool.
A-Digit

Ever been bashed for wearing your heart on your sleeve? Slammed for being thin-skinned? Knocked for not being able to take a joke? In a world filled with microaggressions and macro hostilities, psychic bruising is often difficult to avoid. But you don't have to see your sensitivity as a character flaw. It could indicate that you are accurately reacting to an antisocial allergen—in other words, jerk pollen.

Everyone has sensitivities. Some of us respond by striking back with anger and rage. Others bury, deflect or mask their reactions, fearing retaliation for any comeback. If you're sensitive, what can you do to handle those difficult moments? How can you cope?

Start by rethinking what it means to be "sensitive." After all, it's an ability to see, hear and feel the nuances of human experiences that don't register a blip on the radar screens of others. And as radar screens detect threats, hazards and anomalies, you likewise have a detection capacity for spiritual peril. So, when confronting an incoming threat or a situation where you might be hurt, start by taking these steps:

1. Be a "BITCH"

Rather than thinking of it as a misogynistic slight, embrace this word as an instructional acronym: Being In Total Control of Herself. If you sense a nano-vibe of incivility, set your compass for self-control with this one simple truth: When people drop depth charges on you, they reveal the content of their character, not the basis of your being.

As an executive coach, I tell sensitive clients to assess damage with a "sticks and stones" reality check: Are you bleeding? Have you lost consciousness? Did you lose a limb? No? Then you're still afloat.

2. Scan for Specifics

It's not easy to do in the moment, but it's imperative that you remind yourself that this isn't about you; it's about them. This allows you to assess your situation for factual information—the exact words and conduct of your offenders. Did he call you a name? Did she shout and curse? Did he pound the desk? Did she point her finger in your face?

3. Reword. Rethink. Respond.

Words form thoughts, and thoughts lead to actions. So, while, yes, you may feel "hurt", "helpless" and "humiliated," those words form thoughts that lead to passive actions. If you think of yourself in these terms, instead of standing up for yourself, you'll cower. Rather than hold your own, you'll yield. I advise clients to quickly remind themselves that they own their mental geography. Let no one invade your space. Your new words: "reject", "resist" and "resolve."

Next, shift your outer dialogue. When faced with a particular insult, you have to respond. Here's how: Without name-calling, strike at the insecurities their comments have revealed. A colleague and I have been using the line, "Your comment reveals much more about you than it does about me." But clients have told me that this might feel too aggressive in their workplaces, so I would advise variations, saying something like, "That's revealing how polarizing this topic is," or "Your comment is surfacing a significant rift." This type of comment allows you to defuse the current situation, protect yourself and make them think twice about returning fire.

Alicia Bassuk is a leadership coach and performance consultant with Ubica Strategy. Follow her on Twitter.

 
CONVERSATIONS