Name Calling, Insults and Teasing

A Guide To Anger, Conflict and Respect


The last few blog posts have been devoted to encouraging readers to take a little time to stop and think about criticism.

In the most recent post, we took a look at four levels of responding to criticism.  Level one is viewed as the least mature response, and each higher level is viewed as more and more mature.  Let’s take another look at these four levels.

Four Levels of Responding to Criticism

1.  This level requires displaying one or more of the following:

  • Weeps or sobs with tears or pouts
  • Physically attacks the criticizer
  • Damages property

2.  This level requires displaying one or more of the following:

  • Insults the criticizer (either with words, hand gestures, the sticking out of a tongue, the rolling of the eyes, or smirks)
  • Glares at the criticizer
  • Threatens the criticizer
  • Punches, kicks, or throws an object without physically hurting someone or damaging anything
  • Criticizes the criticizer without first fully addressing the original criticism.

3.  This level requires displaying one or both of the following:

  • Displays defensiveness without directly insulting the criticizer (raising voice’s volume or pitch)
  • Displays a lack of interest either by verbally indicating this, or with nonverbal cues, or complete silence. 

Illustration by Deanna Martinez

4.  Level 4 individuals listen to the criticizer in a supportive, warm, friendly style, and then make it clear that they fully understand what was said.  Moreover, they put the criticizer at ease by making statements that indicate that the wise learn from criticism.  Some time is spent on showing that they are thinking about the criticism.  If, after thinking about the criticism the criticism is deemed to be correct, they make a statement frankly indicating, “I can see your ideas have merit and I intend to use them in the future.”  If they are not sure if they agree, they make a statement indicating that they are very interested in what was said, plan to think a little more about this over the next few days and then they will be ready to discuss this further.  If, after thinking about the criticism, the criticism is deemed to be incorrect, a statement is made designed to disagree without being disagreeable.  More specifically, a sense of humor, some listening in a caring way and a few smiles help to traverse rough terrain.  As the episode winds down, the criticizer is encouraged to feel comfortable communicating suggestions in the future.


As I mentioned in my last blog, one reason to consider learning to respond to criticism in a way that matches level four is because people are likely to end up liking and respecting you more.  But we might not want to choose to act in a particular way merely for this type of reason.  Just because others think a particular type of action is “cool” might be an insufficient reason as you look within yourself to see what feels right to you.  For example, if most of the students at school are tormenting and bullying a new student, you might decide that this just doesn’t feel right, and you may therefore refuse to join in.

Illustration by Eric Sailer

One way that people decide if something feels right or wrong is to use the golden rule—Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. 

If you criticize someone, how would you want that person to respond to your criticism?  Would you want the person to start yelling at you and calling you insulting names?  Or would you want the person to listen in a caring, supportive way?


If the level four description is how you would want others to treat you, perhaps that’s a good reason why you might want to learn to respond to criticism in a similar way.


Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on.  This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence.  To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.

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  1. Pingback: PROVIDING NEGATIVE CRITICISM: DEFENDING THE FIVE LEVELS « Name Calling, Insults and Teasing

  2. Mother used to say, “Sticks and stones break bones, words should never hurt.”
    The only time in my life words hurt as stones, was when a psychiatrist called me a paranoid schizophrenic.

    • Hi Pete,

      Thanks for your comment. If a psychiatrist called me a paranoid schizophrenic that would be a pretty rough blow to me as well. I hope you found some support along your life’s path to transform your pain into something helpful. That’s what this blog aims to do–provide some support for encouraging people to move from the pain that comes from name calling, insults and teasing to take some helpful action. As you know, MindFreedom at is another great place for this type of support.

      I hope you will continue to post your reactions to other posts on this blog.

      My Best,

  3. The Platinum Rule states, “Do unto others as they would like to have done unto them”. In a culturally pluralistic world, it seems the Platinum Rule would be beneficial to consider in whether the Gold Rule is appropriate in any given circumstance.

  4. Hi Lin. Yes, there is much wisdom in the platinum rule. It has us reflecting beyond our own perspective. Thanks!

  5. Pingback: IS IT WISE TO BE ASSERTIVE? | Name Calling, Insults and Teasing

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