Name Calling, Insults and Teasing

A Guide To Anger, Conflict and Respect

Insults Because of the Desire to be Left Alone

For Better, leave aloneIn the above For Better or For Worse comic, we can see that a little interference with what Mom wants to be doing might not upset her to any great extent, but there may come a point when enough is enough and suddenly there is a kind of explosion. Even a little before the point of the explosion, some acts that normally wouldn’t be much of an annoyance may begin to feel terribly obnoxious.  And she might, therefore, end up suddenly acting in a very disrespectful manner and throw insults at someone. In such a case, the insults that she provides will occur not because she has a desire to encourage someone to do something better or to engage in playful teasing, but because she has fallen into a crabby mood.

When people get hot, are around a lot of noise, or have met up with one too many hassles, they oftentimes become irritable. At such times they are more likely to say insulting things, to start shouting, or to put on a nasty-looking face.

In the millions of years that people have evolved, what survival value might crabby responses have? It seems to me that when people begin to get overwhelmed by environmental or social conditions, there may be value in their sending out a signal that says, “Leave me alone! I need some quiet time!”

Now suppose you come upon Jon in a crabby mood, but you haven’t observed the various annoying events that led up to his mood. Far Side 2Perhaps the heat is getting to him, but you are one of those people who finds heat quite pleasant.  If you find that Jon begins to insult you for no apparent reason or for something so trivial that it is hard to believe he is so worked up about it, you might feel puzzled. You might feel that you’ve been mistreated and begin to insult him back. If he’s already in a crabby mood, do you think returning insults will be helpful?

If someone starts to insult you in a manner that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, one useful thing to say to yourself is, “Maybe the insults don’t have much to do with me. Maybe the insulter desires to be alone.”

To test your theory it may be helpful to softly ask, “Is everything all right?” Some listening in a caring way, followed by encouraging those close by to keep it down for a while, may be the wisest course of action.

Lucy1Now I understand that it is no fun when someone is speaking to you in an insulting, disrespectful manner.  You may, therefore, be very tempted to try to respond in a very different manner than how I just described.  Perhaps you might decide to look firmly into the the insulter’s eyes and assertively say, “It seems to me that it is best to leave you alone for awhile.  After you have some time to calm down, I’ll be wanting to talk to you about how you just spoke to me in a very disrespectful manner.”

I have tried out this approach.  Most of the time it seemed to work fine.  But on occasion things escalated to a point that led to some very ugly comments, and it became far more difficult to fix things up even after a reasonable period of time had passed.  And so I recommend that you consider carefully whether it is wiser to avoid any mention of the disrespectful actions until after the insulter has had ample time to calm down.

Jerk storeIf you find that you are becoming irritable and desire some quiet time, it’s important to recognize that insulting people may not be the best way to achieve what you want. Insulting may create the very conditions that will lead to the opposite of what you desire. People who are insulted often insult back, and their anger can create very noisy, even violent, interactions.

Instead of insulting the person encroaching on your time, consider saying, “Please, I want to be left alone for a while.” Seek to use a tone of voice that is as calm as you can muster. As you speak, look squarely into the eyes of the person you are speaking to. Attempt to communicate with your eyes that your request is urgent. Then smile and say, “I hope you don’t mind.”

Well, those are some ideas I wanted to share with you this week. May you soon find Mother Nature beginning to do some wonderful things with her paintbrush after this long, hard winter.


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 and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.


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