What to Do and What to Say When Someone Insults You (33 Tips)

Getting insulted never feels good, right? We’ve all faced those moments where someone’s harsh words leave us unsure of how to react.

Knowing the best way to respond isn’t always easy, but it can make a big difference in how you feel afterward.

In this article, I’ll share simple strategies to deal with insults. You’ll learn how to stay calm, respond nicely, and keep your self-respect intact. Curious about how these tips can help? Keep reading to find out!

Stay Calm and Composed

When someone throws an insult your way, it’s easy to get worked up. But keeping your head cool means you’re in control of the situation. It shows you’re not going to let someone else’s words shake you.

Calmness also allows you to think clearly about whether you want to respond, which makes you seem like the bigger person.

What it looks like:

  • Your face stays relaxed, not all scrunched up in anger.
  • You’re not jumping into the conversation right away; you’re taking your sweet time.
  • There’s no finger-pointing or raising your voice. It’s all about that relaxed vibe.
"If someone close to you insults you, a family member, or a dear friend, it is advisable not to react instantly and start a fight with them. It is better to stay calm for the time being and see whether similar insults are happening again or not."

Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD | Certified Psychiatrist, TheMindFool

Take Deep Breaths

Okay, so you’ve been insulted, and the adrenaline is pumping. Deep breathing is like hitting the reset button. It helps your body calm down, and it’s a great way to collect your thoughts.

You’re making sure you don’t fire back something you might regret later. Just a few slow breaths can make a big difference.

Example: Someone says something mean, and you feel the heat. Breathe in, count to four, breathe out, and suddenly, you’re not as heated.

"As Viktor Frankl said, 'between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.' If you are able to take a deep breath and take a step back (literally or cognitively), you are giving yourself that space that Frankl talks about."

Amy Launder | Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor, The Awareness Centre

Maintain Eye Contact

Making eye contact when you’re insulted can be hard, but it’s powerful. It’s a way to show you’re not afraid or upset by their words. You’re giving the message that you’re standing your ground, quietly confident.

Just by looking them in the eye, you tell them they don’t get to push you around. It’s not about staring them down but about staying present.

Pause Before Responding

Pressing “pause” before you dish out a reply gives you time to collect your thoughts. It’s like step one, only you’re extra sure you’re ready to speak.

A pause helps you figure out if what you’re about to say is really worth saying. It can make the difference between a heated argument and a conversation that goes nowhere fast. Pausing is basically you double-checking with yourself: “Is this what I want to say?”

"Take a moment to collect your thoughts and present your case to the other person. Rather than being accusatory, initially, it is perhaps better to give them the benefit of the doubt and to ask them if they realize they are hurting you."

Amy Launder | Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor, The Awareness Centre

Choose Your Words Carefully

Choosing your words carefully is like picking the right tool for a job — it makes sure you get the best result. It’s not just what you say but how you say it. By being careful with your words, you avoid saying something you might regret.

This also means you’re likely to stay civil and respectful, which can really throw off someone who’s trying to bring you down. You’re keeping it classy and smart.

Example: Okay, so they insult you, and you’ve got all sorts of things you could say spinning in your head. But you pick the most polite and spot-on response, delivering it like a pro.

"In therapy, this kind of response is called a process comment. You are simply sharing what is happening without any judgment. 

For example, let's say that someone said, 'I think you have terrible taste in fashion.'

Instead of getting defensive and either fighting back, 'Well, I think you are ugly,' or being passive by saying, 'Yeah, I suppose you are right,' a process comment would sound something like, 'It seems like you are trying to insult me. Is that right?'"

Timothy Yen, Psy.D. | Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Author, "Choose Better: The Optimal Decision-Making Framework"

Acknowledge Your Feelings

It’s okay to feel hurt or angry when someone insults you. Ignoring your emotions won’t make them go away.

Recognize what you’re feeling so you can deal with it better. This way, you won’t let negative emotions control you. Acknowledging your feelings helps you respond more thoughtfully.

For instance, someone says something that’s really not nice, and you feel that pinch in your gut. You think, “Okay, that wasn’t cool. I’m ticked off,” but you’re keeping it together.

Stand Tall

Standing tall when someone insults you shows confidence. Your body language can say a lot about how you feel.

Good posture can make you feel more powerful and less affected by negative words. It’s a simple way to boost your self-esteem. Plus, it shows the other person that their words don’t bring you down.

Smile Kindly

Smiling kindly when faced with an insult can be a powerful and disarming response. A gentle smile can cool down a heated exchange and may even influence the mood and behavior of the person insulting you.

This doesn’t mean you are accepting the insult; rather, it shows you are choosing to stay positive and respectful despite provocation. Smiling kindly can throw the insulter off their game, as they expect anger, not kindness.

Example: They start with the mean comments, but you? You flash them a smile that’s all sunshine. It’s like you’re saying, “Nice try, but I’m not letting you get to me.”

Don’t Stoop to Their Level

Getting insulted can feel like a slap in the face, and it’s tempting to respond with the same low blow.

But hold up right there! Hold onto your class and keep that moral high ground. Responding with another insult just turns you into a mirror image of the insulter. Stick to being the cool, respectful person you are.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • If they’re mean, you don’t have to play that game. You have better games to play.
  • Keeping it polite doesn’t mean you’re weak — it means you’re strong enough not to play dirty.
  • By not throwing mud back, you stay clean, and honestly, cleanliness feels pretty darn good.

Stay Positive

Even when someone’s trying to bring you down, you can choose to look up. Staying positive is like your own personal shield against negativity. It shows you have a strong mindset that isn’t easily cracked.

Example: There they go, hitting you with a harsh word, but you keep your grin. Just keep on shining like the cool, positive person you are.

Stay True to Yourself

When someone insults you, it can be tough not to change your tune just to fit in or avoid conflict. But sticking to who you are is crucial. It’s about being the same you, no matter what anyone else says.

Your values, beliefs, and personality shouldn’t shift because of a mean comment. This way, you respect yourself even if they don’t.

For instance, they might try to knock you with their words, but you’re not changing colors like a chameleon. You just keep being the awesome person you are, and that’s that.

Don’t Retaliate

Hearing an insult and firing one back might seem like the way to go, but it’s not. Payback isn’t as sweet as it’s cooked up to be — it actually can leave a pretty bad taste. It’s smarter to hold your fire and opt for peace instead.

Example: If someone insults you, resist the urge to insult them back. Instead, take a deep breath and say, “I don’t have anything to add to this,” and then move on.

"When we react on instinct, either by lashing out or by internalizing the insult, we lose our sense of control and our sense of self, and, ultimately, the person who insulted you wins."

Amy Launder | Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor, The Awareness Centre

Avoid Shouting

Loud doesn’t equal power, especially in arguments. When someone insults you, and you shout back, it’s like you’re playing the same noisy game.

Keeping your voice down is a sign of control. It helps keep the situation from boiling over into a screaming match that nobody wins.

A few things to consider:

  • Shouting tends to make things more heated, and who needs that?
  • A calm tone can speak louder than any shout.
  • When you keep things quiet, it’s easier for everyone to actually listen.

Stay Neutral

When someone slings an insult your way, getting all worked up can be the knee-jerk reaction. But if you manage to stay neutral, you’re basically telling them their words aren’t worth your energy.

Imagine you’re a judge — just watching and listening without getting caught up in the drama. Staying unbothered and impartial helps defuse the situation. You’re setting the tone for a more chill conversation, even when things could get tense.

"Sometimes, not taking an insult seriously is the most effective way to respond (i.e., 'oh, you know he/she/they always say silly things'). It allows you to assign less or no weight to the insult, possibly even the person themselves."

Jephtha Tausig, PhD | Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Clinical Instructor at Mt. Sinai Medical Center

Change the Subject

Here’s a slick move — when insults start to fly, spin the conversation wheel to another topic. It’s like a ninja redirecting an attack.

By changing the subject, you avoid getting caught in the insult trap. It tells the other person, “Hey, let’s talk about something worth our time.” And who knows, you might land on a topic that’s actually fun or useful.

What it looks like:

  • Bringing up a neutral topic.
  • Asking a question about something unrelated.
  • Mentioning something positive or interesting.

Agree to Disagree

Sometimes, you hit a standoff with someone, and neither of you is going to budge. That’s when agreeing to disagree can be a winner. It’s not giving in or saying they’re right — it’s more like saying, “Let’s let it be.”

You’re acknowledging there’s a difference in opinion without making it a big deal. And that can be the escape hatch you both need to get out of the argument.

Example: They’re adamant that pineapple on pizza is a crime, and you’re just not having it. Instead of locking horns, you say, “Guess we feel differently about that,” and let it rest.

Keep It Brief

If someone throws an insult your way, sometimes less is more when you hit back with words. A short response can be just what you need. It shows that you’re not going to waste your breath on a long back-and-forth.

Quick replies can also prevent the conversation from spiraling out of control. For instance, they make a jab at the way you dress, but instead of a lecture, you just say, “Thanks for your input,” and leave it there.

Suggest Talking Later

When you get hit with a mean remark, sometimes the setting isn’t right for a proper talk. You might be too steamed, or it’s just not the right time or place.

Suggesting to talk later gives you the chance to cool off and chat when you can both be more reasonable. It’s a smart way of putting on the brakes before things get out of hand.

For instance, right in the middle of a heated moment, you suggest, “Let’s talk about this later,” and it’s like hitting the pause button on the drama.

It’s About Them, Not You

Often, when someone insults you, it’s more a reflection of their own issues and emotions than about who you are. Recognizing this can significantly lessen the personal sting and emotional response you might feel.

It helps you understand that the insult may stem from the other person’s frustrations or falsities. By internalizing this perspective, you protect your self-esteem and are less likely to take the comments personally.

People Project Their Insecurities

When people fling insults, it’s often their own insecurities doing the talking. They might see something in you that makes them feel less sure of themselves. It’s kind of like they’re trying to pass their insecurities to you with their words.

But here’s the deal: you don’t have to take them. Recognizing this can make it easier not to take what they say to heart.

Example: They might tease you for being careful about your work, but really, they’re probably feeling unsure about their own stuff. You keep doing you and let them deal with their own worries.

"Was the insult really about you, or is the other person trying to make themselves look or feel better?"

Amy Launder | Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor, The Awareness Centre

Insults Often Come From a Place of Hurt

Have you ever heard the saying “Hurt people hurt people”? It’s true. When someone snaps at you, it might be because they’re dealing with their own pain. Realizing this can help you respond with a bit more patience instead of just getting upset.

What it looks like:

  • Understanding that hurt people often hurt others.
  • Keeping a compassionate mindset even when insulted.
  • Not taking their words as a true reflection of your worth.

Some People Seek Attention

Some individuals insult others to get attention. They might feel ignored or want to provoke a reaction.

Recognizing this can help you respond more effectively. By not giving them the reaction they seek, you take away their power. It’s a way to control the situation and keep your peace.

For instance, if someone insults you to get a reaction, respond with, “I’m not interested in arguing.” This denies them the attention they are seeking and maintains your peace.

Consider the Source

When you get stung by a nasty comment, think about who it came from:

  • Is this person always negative?
  • Do they have a habit of cutting others down?

If that’s their usual deal, then their words shouldn’t carry much weight with you. Remember, if they’re known for being harsh or rude, that’s on them — not you. You don’t have to let someone’s history of negativity affect your self-esteem.

Remember, Their Words Don’t Define You

Somebody else’s words can’t tell you who you are. You’re the one who gets to decide that. Just because someone says something mean doesn’t make it true.

Their words are just that — words. Keep a tight grip on who you know you are, and don’t let their comments make you doubt yourself.

Example: They make a crack about your job, but you shake it off. You know you’re doing great work, no matter what they say.

Understand Their Intent

When someone hits you with an insult, it can be a move to provoke a reaction. They might want to unsettle you, upset you, or even just see if they can.

But getting the picture behind their act can help you not fall for it. If their goal is to shake you up, staying cool and unshaken is your power move.

For instance, if a friend makes a rude joke, consider if they were trying to be mean or just joking badly. Respond accordingly, maybe saying, “That comment felt hurtful. Did you mean it that way?”

"Ask yourself what their likely intent was. Did they mean to insult you?... You can still address what they said even if you can see that they didn't mean to be insulting."

Cheri Timko, M.S., LPC | Relationship Coach, Synergy Coaching

Talk to a Friend

Talking to a friend when someone insults you can be very comforting. Friends can offer a different perspective and remind you of your worth. Sharing your feelings helps you process them better and feel less alone.

Sometimes, just voicing your frustrations out loud can be incredibly therapeutic. Friends can also provide advice or simply listen, which can make you feel supported.

Write Your Feelings Down

Putting pen to paper and jotting down what’s going through your head can work wonders. It’s like offloading all those heavy thoughts onto the page, leaving you feeling lighter.

Writing helps you work through the emotions instead of letting them swirl around inside. It’s also private — you’re the only audience until you decide to share, if at all. Getting it all down can turn a mess of feelings into something you can handle.

Take a Walk

Taking a walk can be a simple yet effective way to clear your head after being insulted. Walking allows you to step away from the immediate environment where the insult occurred, providing physical and emotional distance.

Physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. They help soothe any agitation or sadness. Being in a different setting can also refresh your perspective, making it easier to handle the situation with a cool head.

Example: You’ve had a spat, and you’re twinging from their harsh words. So, you lace up your shoes, head outside, and with every step, you start feeling a bit freer.

"It can be really hard to keep a cool head when you feel that someone has insulted you. Your immediate reactions might be to lash out or to turn inwards and take the insults to heart. However, taking a moment to distance yourself from the insult, and the person who has insulted you, can make all the difference."

Amy Launder | Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor, The Awareness Centre

Practice Mindfulness

When an insult tries to knock you off your game, mindfulness is like your personal anchor. Staying in the present moment helps you avoid getting tangled up in past hurts or worries about the future.

It’s about tuning into what’s happening right now:

  • How you’re breathing
  • How you’re sitting or standing
  • What you’re feeling

This can help you ride out the insult without getting swept away by your reactions.

Focus on the Positive

Someone just slung an insult your way — bummer. But here’s a trick: zone in on what’s good in your life.

Shifting your attention to the positive is like turning up the brightness of your mood. You’ve got plenty to be thankful for, and remembering that can help mute the negativity.

For instance, someone was less than nice to you, but you think, “I’ve got great friends, and I’m really good at my job,” and suddenly, their insult feels a lot smaller.

Engage in a Hobby

Diving into a hobby is a great way to shake off that yucky feeling after someone insults you. Whether it’s painting, gaming, playing an instrument, or even gardening, hobbies take your mind off the sting.

They’re like fun distractions that also make you feel productive and happy. Bonus: You might even create or achieve something cool while you’re at it.

Seek Professional Help if Needed

Sometimes, dealing with insults can be very challenging, and talking to a professional can help. A therapist or counselor can:

  • Provide you with tools to manage your emotions and stress.
  • Offer an unbiased perspective and help you work through your feelings.

Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It’s important to take care of your mental health, especially if insults are deeply affecting you.

Example: If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by constant insults, consider saying, “I might benefit from talking to a counselor about this.” This helps in taking the first step towards better mental health.

Give Yourself Time to Heal

Healing from hurtful comments takes time, so be patient with yourself. It’s okay to feel upset and take time to recover emotionally. Don’t rush the process or expect to feel better overnight.

Allow yourself to experience your emotions and gradually move past them. Remember, healing is different for everyone, and it’s important to go at your own pace.

Excerpts From the Experts

“If the person who has insulted you often insults you, it is perhaps time to have a conversation with them about why they are doing this and how it is impacting you.

They might not realize that what they are saying is insulting to you — they might think they are providing constructive feedback. Having this conversation will be beneficial to keep a cool head and try not to get too heated.

… If you attack someone, they are likely to become defensive and attack back, but if you approach someone calmly, you are more likely to get a proper discussion going.”

Amy Launder | Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor, The Awareness Centre

“If some unknown person or just an acquaintance insults you, you may retaliate instantly and easily show your displeasure and disgust. How do you do it, then? Some self-help tips can help:

  • Let the person know that they have crossed the boundary and you did not like it. You can use humor and defend your opinion in the best possible way. Tell them calmly that you will not tolerate this same behavior going ahead.
  • If it is a close family member or a good friend of yours, you can ask them whether they could have used some other word or did something else to tell you what they have said just now. This is an indirect attack letting them know that you’re annoyed.
  • Avoid showing anger, fights, bad mouth while dealing with insults, no matter with whom you are confronting. Anger can seem to be an easy reaction in such situations, but it will do more harm than good.
  • Stop making instant reactions. Be calm and composed, and try to handle situations peacefully.
  • If you come across someone who has a habit of insulting others, it is desirable to avoid such people because they are by nature toxic, and no matter how well you explain them, they will never change and will repeat the same abusive patterns in the future as well.
  • Directly talk to the person and tell them to stop it right away. If you do not like it, just communicate clearly that you want them to stop it right away. You will not tolerate it any further.
  • Say harsh things or mock them about their weak points in front of others. It helps them to know that what they did with you was not right. Use the same level of intense insult if you’re following this tip. The immediate result will be that they will stop instantly because they were not prepared for such a response from you.
  • Sometimes, you need to think twice before you backfire because they may have insulted you for a good reason.
  • Be positive and never become too emotional at the moment… If it is an unknown person, you may show your immediate displeasure, but if it is someone close to you, be collected and listen to their logic about why they insulted you.
  • You need to pay less attention to the words that they say and rather look for the feelings that led to such sayings. Then only will you be able to handle things peacefully.”

Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD | Certified Psychiatrist, TheMindFool

“If you decide to speak up, consider these tips:

  • Address the issue soon after it happened.
  • Take deep breaths or remind yourself that you are going to be okay, so you remain calm.
  • Consider asking for clarification before reacting to the insult.
  • Focus on how it impacted you rather than criticize or blame the other person, even if they were completely in the wrong.
  • Set a clear boundary about where you stand on this kind of statement.
  • Keep the conversation short unless the other person is willing to engage in a deeper conversation about the issue.”

Cheri Timko, M.S., LPC | Relationship Coach, Synergy Coaching

An insult says less about you and more about them.

I have an autistic son, and one day during the Christmas holiday season, when he was a child, we were in a Toys R Us store… He was in his own world, flapping his fingers and staring off into space, oblivious of the treasures that surrounded him.

I was a few feet away from him, and as I looked up, I saw two teenagers standing at the end of the aisle, mocking him, laughing, and copying his hand movements.

Then, before I knew it, a woman came up to me and, in a very sympathetic fashion, recognizing my son’s condition, consoled me in an extremely supportive and caring way.

At that moment, I realized that my son, like any untypical person, is really a mirror that reflects the souls of people who interact with him.

This inspired me to think of the disabled, or any out-group, as God’s Secret Shoppers, divine examples who have come to test your integrity and virtue. It was one of many wonderful insights my son has given me over the years.

It is important to remember that someone yelling insults is bankrupt: emotionally, logically, and spiritually.”

Howard Rankin Ph.D. | Communication and Cognitive Neuroscience Expert | Host, How Not to Think Podcast | Author,” I Think Therefore I Am Wrong

“First and foremost, it’s important to seek clarification. I find that many times, an offense is taken where none is intended. This is especially true in our multicultural world.

For example, some international cultures find heft attractive. A member of that culture might say, “Ooooooh, you’ve gotten so nice and fat!”

In my culture, this statement would be beyond insulting; it would be horrifying to many people. But if we take a moment to understand the context and the speaker’s intent, which was to say that we looked robust and healthy, we can appreciate more humor in the situation.”

“It’s not hard to seek clarification in a very neutral, non-combative, non-judgmental way. It’s truly a matter of asking a simple question: ‘Can you tell me what you mean when you say (the thing that sounded like an insult)?'”

Miriam Ruth Bowers-Abbott, MA | Associate Professor, Communication & Conflict Management, Mount Carmel College of Nursing

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I should respond to an insult?

Decide if responding will actually be helpful. If the person is just looking to argue or hurt you, it might be better not to give them the satisfaction of a reply.

Is it unwise to confront the person who insulted me?

It’s only worth confronting them if you believe it will lead to a constructive outcome. If you don’t see the situation improving, it might be better to focus on taking care of yourself instead.

How can I practice being more resilient to insults?

Build up your confidence by focusing on your strengths, practicing self-care, and reminding yourself that your value isn’t determined by others’ opinions. Over time, you’ll find that insults have less impact on you.

What if the person insulting me is someone I can’t avoid, like a coworker or family member?

In cases where you must interact regularly with the person insulting you, set clear boundaries and communicate assertively about what is not acceptable.

If the behavior continues, consider discussing it with a supervisor at work or another family member who can provide support or intervene if necessary.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with insults can be tough, but with the right approach, you can handle them calmly and with dignity. An insult reflects more on the person saying it than on you. Don’t let their negativity bring you down or change how you see yourself.

Practice these tips regularly. Over time, they’ll become second nature, and you’ll feel stronger and more confident. Trust yourself, stay true to your values, and stand up for yourself when needed. You’ve got this!

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

As you found this post useful...

Share it on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Photo of author

Jessa Claire is a registered healthcare provider. Music lover. Daydreamer. Thalassophile. Foodie. A hardworking Capricorn. Most days, an incurable empath. An old soul. Down-to-earth. Vibrant.

When she's not writing, she can be seen relaxing with headphones on or engrossed in her favorite fan fiction book.