Insult Defense System
A much sought after skill is the ability to defend against insults. Much like physical defense, feeling vulnerable can put a serious dent in your ability to get out and enjoy life. From a purely physical standpoint, if you don’t feel physically safe enough to leave your house, the world can be a very lonely place.
This post will only be about defending yourself verbally. Only use these techniques if you feel vulnerable from an emotional standpoint and not a physical standpoint. If you even have a slight suspicion that any kind of verbal defensive techniques will put you in physical danger, the best case is to leave the area as soon as possible.
If you are in any situation where you don’t feel any threats to your physical safety, but wish you could defend yourself purely from a verbal/emotional standpoint, then these methods will work perfectly. What’s more, once you use these techniques on one person, that same one person will never want to mess with you again. They are that powerful.
Inside Or Outside?
Before we get to the actual words, it’s important to understand that it is your inner game that will make the words so powerful. Many people understand the difference between inner game and outer game. Outer game, as far as this post is concerned, is the words you say. Inner game is your internal state, your level of energy, your self confidence and poise, even your heart rate and blood pressure.
Inner Game Often Discounted
Since inner game involves things like beliefs and self-esteem, and since these things are hard to think about, most people discount the value of inner game. This is a huge mistake. In reality, inner game is far, far more important than outer game. In fact, with sufficient inner game (which we will see later) the outer game is largely irrelevant.
Inner Game Evidence
Think of a movie you’ve seen recently on any streaming service. A movie that was absolutely horrible. So horrible you couldn’t watch it for more than a few minutes. I’m a big fan of found footage movies. A good found-footage horror movie, from my own subjective tastes, is very entertaining. However, because they are so cheap to make, most of them are horrible. For every “decent” found footage movie that has held my attention for the entirety, there’s likely ten that were shut off within the first five minutes.
One of the hallmarks of a horrible movie is how horrible the acting is. The lines are repeated without any real feeling. There’s not really any specific or technical way to describe it. We can just tell (usually immediately) between a good actor and a bad actor.
Another way to describe it is that good actors are very congruent. In their minds, they really put themselves into the role. They actually believe they are being chased by ghosts, or they are talking to somebody that creates certain emotions. Bad actors are only repeating the lines without the congruence.
Bad Acting Is Weak Inner Game
Consider that whenever people practice lines, (for whatever reason) but don’t consider their inner game, they are coming across like those wooden actors that make us shut off their movies after a few minutes.
What’s Your Favorite Movie?
Think of a movie you really like. One that easily takes over your thinking. One where you easily lose yourself in the movie. One that fully takes your emotions. Now imagine a scene from that movie with little dialogue. One that, despite having very little dialogue is incredibly moving. This is supporting evidence of the monumental importance of inner game. Those actors in that scene had airtight congruence in their inner game. The horrible actors in the horrible movies had very lousy inner game, even though they remembered the lines of their “outer game.”
First Rule Of Insult Defense
The first rule of any kind if insult defense is your inner game is a kajillion times more important than your outer game. What that is will be described below. But understand that as a component, your inner game is the most important, and will take the most work. Once you’ve got the inner game handled, the outer game language is extremely simple, and is the easiest part to learn. Until then we’ll need to take apart the reasons for the particular inner game response that will be the most helpful.
Never Ending Frame Battles
A frame is the meaning of any interaction. If you are a salesperson trying to sell a car to a shopper, the meaning of the conversation is that it is a sale in progress, and will end with them handing over the cash, and you handing over the car keys. However, from their perspective, the meaning of the conversation is they are only gathering data for a purchase decision in the future. Whoever has the strongest frame will win the battle. Meaning the meaning of that conversation can’t be both. It has to be one or the other. It will be either sale, or an exchange of information. Whoever has the strongest frame will get their outcome.
Reason For Human Frame Battles
Humans are self-organizing, hierarchical pack animals. We live and operate in groups. These groups are not even. Every single group we belong to has a hierarchical structure. Plenty of studies have shown (here) that whenever researchers put strange humans in a group, they will always self-organize into a hierarchy.
Accept The Instinctive Need For Human Hierarchies
While the scientific reasons for this are fascinating, for our purposes here, let’s just accept that being in a hierarchy is something we humans do instinctively. This means we cannot not exist in a group of any kind, unless their is a hierarchy. This means one of two things. If we have been in the group for a while, there is an existing hierarchy that is more or less respected. This is true of our friends, our families, and small groups.
Enter The Dominance Battle
However, some groups we exist in have less than rigid hierarchical structures. This is also something that is extremely interesting from a scientific and social organizational standpoint. But for our purposes, let’s add another rule to our human organization rule of hierarchies. And that rule is that whenever possible, we will attempt to increase our hierarchical standing.
Insults Are Put Downs
This phrase, “put down” is a perfect description of the purpose of the insult. They are given for one reason, and one reason only. It is a verbal attempt to signal dominance of the insulter over the person being insulted. Even if the insult is given playfully among friends, it has the same purpose.
Acceptable Dominance Battles
When we are among friends, jostling for hierarchical dominance is expected. It’s something we humans enjoy. It is very much like baby lions play-fighting. Gently ribbing each other in a friendly way is like subconscious practice for the real world. It also increases our connection to the group. It increases the social bonds within the group. In fact, if you attempted the insult defense techniques from this post within your groups, they will have the opposite effect.
Playfully Insulting Friends
Within a group of friends there is an unwritten social code. Play-fights are play-fights, they are not real fights. The insults are supposed to be reciprocated. They are not meant to be ignored. They are invitations to “spar” on a friendly level. Sparring on a friendly level is fun. By playfully sparring with our friends and maintaining these unwritten rules, it’s a very subtle way of saying: “You guys are my friends. I’ll always have your back. I’d never hurt you guys.”
Non Playful Insults
But when people we aren’t close to insult is, even very subtly, they are not mean to build us up. They are meant to tear us down. Many of these are very, very subtle. Some of them are very insidious. They insult us, and at the same time, we don’t feel like we can insult them back. It’s a strange middle ground between friends and enemies.
The insulter says things that they can easily claim they meant only as a joke if we take them too seriously. But if we don’t say anything, they win, and we lose. They know this. We know this. It’s one of the most insidious insults. Like an illegal punch in a boxing match that the ref can’t see. This is also a common tactic in American football. When the ref isn’t looking, one player will hit another player. The reason is to specifically invite a retaliatory hit, which the ref will see and get the other player (who was hit first) a penalty.
Purely Evil Insults
Some insults are clearly designed to make us feel bad in front of others. To clearly put us down in a way where we are clearly hurt emotionally, and cannot respond. It’s a very clever way of harming us without touching us. And since we don’t respond, we invite attacks from others.
Common Defense Tactics
The most common defensive tactic is to try and “out insult” the insulter. This only works if you do actually have a handful of insults ready. Which means if you aren’t the kind of person who goes around insulting people, you’ll have to think of some. This isn’t very comfortable for many people.
Fastest Gunfighter Syndrome
Another thing that can happen is that you may out-insult them in the moment. They may leave you alone. For a while. But they will also go home and think up even worse insults. And since you’ve proven yourself to be a respectable slinger of words, you’ll invite others to “spar” with you. Very much like in the westerns. Once you prove how fast of a gunslinger you are, other gunslingers will want to challenge you.
We will recommend a much more powerful method. One that is easy, won’t require any fancy words or comebacks. One that won’t invite other young gunslingers to come and fight you. One that is very simple, once you understand the deeper issues behind all insults.
Always Power Plays
We’ll start from the assumption that any non-playful insult has the intention of literally putting you down. To make the insulter higher than the receiver on the social status ladder. The common response recognizes this. In a very real structural sense, an attempt to out insult the insulter takes the following form:
Insulter Giver: I’m better than you.
Insult Receiver: Nope, I’m better than you.
As mentioned before, this is very much the gunfighter strategy. It only works until it doesn’t. It’s dangerous because unless you know the insulter very well (and understand the quality and depth of their resource of insults) you might win temporarily, but they will soon be back for more.
A Better Approach
Most people are unaware of the never-ending social status power plays that are always present in human conversations and interactions. Humans are primates, and primates are social animals. Not just social animals, but where we are on the tribal hierarchy is of utmost importance. We can temporarily turn off any social hierarchy concerns, but not for long.
Whenever we are around strangers, and we know the situation is temporary, we tend to subconsciously and temporarily shut down our need to know and potentially improve our relative social status. Elevator rides, waiting in line in the supermarket, or passing people on the street are areas when our social status concerns are shut off. But as soon as we are in a group, it’s back to the social status contest.
Attack The Energy – Not The Words
Insulters use words, but they do so because they hope that on a subconscious level, the words will cement their hierarchy over us. Let’s think about this. If they were comfortable about their hierarchy over us, they wouldn’t be insulting us. People that have clear and defined social hierarchy never insult us. Consider that the insult is a signal that they are worried about their relative social status. To return fire with fire (word with words) would verify this.
But when you ignore the words, and attack the energy, it will have a much more lasting effect. The insult only works when the words do what they are intended to do. To weaken you emotionally. To literally “knock you down a peg” so they feel more comfortable in their own social hierarchical position. What is the best defense in this case?
Respond With Neutral Energy
This is the most important part. To not let the insult bother you at all. This is much easier said than done. This will require practice. Just understanding the strategy won’t be enough. If you want to defend yourself against a physical bully, it will require practice. If you need to defend yourself against a mental bully, it will also require practice.
How To Practice
Spend some time and journal two ideas. One, your worst imagined enemies. The people you feel would destroy you the most of they were to insult you. Once you’ve got a list of these people, the next step is to imagine the worst possible things they could say to you. This list is for your use only, you do not, and should not, need to share it with anybody. Be brutally honest.
Imagine Them Saying Them
Imagine actually hearing the worst possible insult from the worst possible person. Don’t respond, just imagine them saying it a few times to get used to the idea. Then practice hearing it and not letting it affect you. Imagine feel the energy coming at you, but instead of tensing up and readying a defense, keep your muscles as relaxed as possible. Feel it hitting you and just let the energy wash over you.
Understand It As An Opinion
See it not as a truth, but something they think might be true. Something that is just as objectively true as them telling you that mayonnaise is tastier than ketchup. Actually try to hear them say that, but with the same movements and energy as the actual insult.
Practice Hearing It As Muffled Sounds
Pretend you are surrounded by an invisible energy shield that goes up automatically whenever anybody goes into insult mode. One that muffles their words so you can’t hear them. This will take time, but it is actually very possible. Few people spit out insults without thinking about them first. With practice, you can see people shift into “pre-insult” body language.
Practice With TV Characters
When watching TV shows, spend some time practicing shifting into “pre-insult” defense mode. See the characters getting ready to spit out an insult, and prepare your body by preemptively relaxing and going limp. Very much like animals automatically respond when in the jaws of a much more powerful predator.
Keep practicing this until you feel you can withstand an actual insult from an actual person while remaining as neutral as possible. If possible, find anywhere you can sit or stand next to people who are having actual arguments. Paradoxically, the more relaxed you are, the safer you’ll be. The more you tense up defensively, the more of a target you’ll make yourself. Of course, you’ll have to practice this before it makes sense on a physiological level, so do so whatever you can.
How To Respond
When you do hear an insult, you are now ready to respond in a deadly way. Just maintain your neutrality, look at your insulter and ask a simple question:
What do you mean?
They were expecting their insult to do immediate damage. They won’t be prepared in the least to explain their insult. They will hesitate, unsure if they even understand the question. No matter how they respond, keep on the same tact. Remain neutral, and ask for more information. Use the Meta Model, which simply means find any vague words or sentences, and ask for more specific information.
Quick Meta Model Example
You Are A Dumb Fat Cow!
What do you mean? (calm and relaxed)
Huh? You’re dumb!
How exactly am I dumb? (calm and relaxed)
What? You’re just stupid!
I’m not sure I understand. How exactly am I stupid? (calm and relaxed)
Just look at you! You’re an idiot!
(pausing, quickly looking over yourself)
I don’t understand, what is it about me that makes you think I’m stupid?
(calm, sincere, relaxed)
End Result To The Insulter
If you can maintain your calm, and ask those questions with the utmost in sincerity, it will make the insulter feel like an idiot. Even better is if it happens in front of other people. It will have the exact opposite effect of what they intended. They will have effectively lowered themselves considerably on the local social hierarchy, and you will have increased your social standing considerably.
Be Sure To Practice!
This is something that you can only do with practice. Luckily, you can try these Meta Model questions any time you want. Just be careful, most people aren’t ready to answer them. However, when you see how ill prepared most people are to handle these questions, you will gain a lot more confidence to use them as your own secret deadly weapon against whomever you want.
Basic Meta Model Rules
Any time you hear anything that is vague (which is pretty much anything anybody says) you can use Meta Model Questions. These usually start with how, what, where, when, etc. They are best asked with absolutely zero emotions and as much open sincerity as you can. If you use any “wrong” emotions, they will be likely interpreted as an interrogations, and they will make people angry in a hurry.
Journal Whenever In Doubt
To build in your ability to think of useful Meta Model questions, journaling after the fact is a great way. Whenever you hear anything that you didn’t know how to respond to, you can later write it down in the following format:
What They Said
Write down anything that somebody said that you wish you could have come up with a better response to.
What I Could Have Asked
This is when you can get creative, and think of any Meta Model questions to get more specific information.
Replay The Event
Once you’ve got some good questions, replay the event, or even act it out if you can. Imagine them saying whatever they said, and then ask some simple questions that might have worked.
If you make it a point to practice this simple technique, you’ll soon develop a rock solid core of massive and un-insult-able self-confidence. This will make you seem more intelligent, more confident, and more charismatic.
Mind Persuasion has plenty of books and courses designed to improve your communication skills so you can get much more out of life with much less effort.