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Switch to Forum Live View Handling Verbal Ambushes
9 years ago  ::  Oct 20, 2008 - 10:37AM #1
Posts: 1,847

I copied this off another site from Oprah.  Hope you find it interesting.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Lady



   Martha Beck shows how to handle passive-aggressive friends.
Illustration: Adam Simpson

Cutting remarks, "helpful" suggestions, subtle (or
not-so-subtle) stabs—how to handle these verbal ambushes? You can slink
away, lose your cool…or employ Martha Beck's cleverly adapted martial
arts techniques to turn your attackers' words against them. Hiiiiii-yaa!

"Don't worry, hon," said Theresa's husband, Guy, when she failed to
extinguish all her birthday candles in one breath. "A woman your age
has to be in shape to make wishes come true. You just don't have the
lung capacity." Guy chortled. Theresa's face turned scarlet. The rest
of us chuckled nervously. We were used to Guy, to the jocular way he
planted and twisted stilettos between his wife's ribs. Like most of
Theresa's friends, I'd always found him just charming enough to be
tolerable. But as I watched him serve Theresa's cake, something dawned
on me: Guy was a mean person. He'd intentionally humiliated his wife,
and he did such things often. It was like that moment in a horror movie
when you understand that the rogue car, rather than simply straying off
course, is actively pursuing children and puppies.

I recall an urge to kick Guy in the throat, which I controlled by
reminding myself that it was both illegal and difficult to pull off in
heels. I was studying karate at the time, and though it didn't occur to
me then, I would eventually realize that the basic principles taught at
my dojo could be used to fight evil not just in action but in
conversation as well. I think of it as martial arts of the mind, and if
you're subject to subtle stabs, deliberate snubs, or cutting remarks,
you might find these techniques an effective defense against the Guys
of your world.
Principle 1

Find your fighting stance.

Every form of
martial arts requires a fighting stance that's fluid, flexible, and
centered. Standing this way makes you much less likely to lose your
balance, and if someone jumps you, you can quickly duck or dodge in any
direction without falling.

Physical fighting stances involve balance, alignment, weight
distribution, and posture. A psychological fighting stance is all about
emotional balance: self-acceptance, abiding by your own moral code
(something you're probably doing anyway), forgiving yourself for
failing to reach perfection (this is rarer), and, finally, offering
yourself as much compassion as you'd give a beloved friend (I suspect
some of us need work in this department). Simply put, you must never be
mean to yourself.

This works because cruelty, to be effective,
has to land on a welcoming spot in the victim's belief system. Guy
mocked Theresa's age and lack of physical fitness because he knew she
hated those things about herself. If she hadn't already believed his
insults, they would have left her feeling puzzled but not
devastated—the way I was when I learned that calling someone a
"turtle's egg" is a horrific insult in China. She would have seen Guy
as the pathetic head case he was. And that may have led her to our
second principle.

To Be continued
Be gentle with yourself and as Gandi said: "Be the change you want to see in others" and I add the world around you will change.
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9 years ago  ::  Oct 20, 2008 - 10:41AM #2
Posts: 1,847
Principle #2

Practice the art of invisibility

I once
purchased a book that promised to teach the ninja's fabled "art of
invisibility." I was crestfallen to read that the first step in a
technique called vanishing was "Wait until your opponent is asleep."
The whole book was like that: Get your enemy drunk, throw dust in his
eyes, thump him on the head with a wok, then tiptoe away, forever.
Well, I could've told you that.

Nevertheless, I recommend these ninja techniques for dealing with mean
people. Get away from them, full stop. Sound extreme? It's not.
Cruelty, whether physical or emotional, isn't normal. It may signal
what psychologists call the dark triad of psychopathic, narcissistic,
and Machiavellian personality disorders. One out of about every 25
individuals has an antisocial personality disorder. Their prognosis for
recovery is zero, their potential for hurting you about 100 percent. So
don't assume that a vicious person just had a difficult childhood or a
terrible day; most people with awful childhoods end up being
empathetic, and most people, even on their worst days, don't seek
satisfaction by inflicting pain. When you witness evil, if only the
tawdry evil of a conversational stiletto twist, use your ninjutsu. Wait
for a distraction, then disappear.

"But," you may be thinking,
"what if you're stuck with a mean family member, co-worker, or
neighbor? What's poor Theresa supposed to do?" Well, Grasshopper,
that's when the martial arts of the mind really come in handy.

To Be Continued
Be gentle with yourself and as Gandi said: "Be the change you want to see in others" and I add the world around you will change.
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9 years ago  ::  Oct 20, 2008 - 10:42AM #3
Posts: 1,847

Principle #3


Master Defensive Techniques

All martial arts
teach strategies to deflect different attacks. For instance, I was
taught to defend against a lapel grab with a punching combination
called Crouching Falcon, follow that with a multiple-kick series known
as Returning Viper, and finish with the charmingly titled technique Die
Forever. (I prefer my own techniques, such as Silent Sea Slug, which
entails lying down and hoping things improve, or Disgruntled Panda,
which is mostly curling up and refusing to mate.)

I also learned this closely guarded martial arts secret: Although there
are countless techniques, most fighters need only a few. For instance,
judo star Ronda Rousey has clobbered numberless opponents using the Arm
Bar technique. Her opponents know she’s going to do it, but that
doesn’t keep her from snapping their elbows like dry spaghetti. Each
good technique goes a long, long way. The following are a few that I
highly recommend, in order of degree of difficulty.

Yellow Belt Technique: Trumpet Melodiously

I’m a lifelong fan of “Japlish,” English prose translated from the
Japanese by someone whose sole qualification is owning a
Japanese-to-English dictionary. One classic Japlish instruction, which
I picked up from a car rental company, advised: “When passenger of foot
heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but
if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”

I borrowed the phrase “trumpet him melodiously” for your first
anti-meanness technique. It’s meant to nip hurtful behavior in the bud.
Use it when someone—say a small child or an engineer—makes a remark
that may or may not be intentionally cruel: “You smell like medicine,”
“I can see through your pants,” “Why don’t you have a neck?”… You can
trumpet him melodiously by saying, “Hey, dude, that’s kind of mean.
Back off, okay?” If the behavior continues, tootle him with vigor by
saying, “I’m serious. You’re out of line. Stop it.”

these lines until you’re saying them in your sleep, with clear
delivery, calm energy. Then, when you use them in real life, a normal
person will react by immediately ceasing all hurtful behavior, and even
mean people will be taken aback by your directness. They may even begin
to behave themselves. Mission accomplished.

Brown Belt Technique: Zig-Zig

As a martial artist, you’ll need to get used to doing the opposite of
whatever your enemies expect. For example, if someone were to push you
backward, you might push back for a few seconds, then abruptly reverse,
and pull your assailant in the direction he’s pushing. He’d be toppled
by his own momentum.

This is zig-zigging. It works beautifully
on mean people. They expect a fight-or-flight reaction from their
victims—either angry pushback or slinking away. The one thing they
don’t anticipate is relaxed discernment. Scuttle their plans by zigging
instead of zagging, cheerfully accepting any accurate statement they
might make while ignoring their malicious energy.

You can observe this technique in the movie Spanglish,
when a young wife, played by Téa Leoni, lashes out at her mother, “You
were an alcoholic and wildly promiscuous woman during my formative
years, so I’m in this fix because of you!” As the mother, Cloris
Leachman nods and says pleasantly, “You have a solid point, dear. But
right now the lessons of my life are coming in handy for you.” This
response stops the daughter cold, partly because it’s true and partly
because it contains not a whiff of pushback. The mother zigs when the
daughter expects her to zag. The result is peace.

Black Belt Anti-Meanness Technique: Wicked-Kind Parent

If you keep a balanced stance and surround yourself with normal people,
you'll eventually master the black belt skill I've named Wicked-Kind
Parent. Mean people are adept at adopting the tone of a critical
parent, making others unconsciously regress into weak, worried
children. To use this defense, refuse to be infantilized. Instead, use
the only thing that trumps the emotional power of a bad parent: the
emotional power of a good one. This is what happened at Theresa's
birthday party. As Guy served cake and cruelty, Theresa's older sister
Wendy spoke up.

"Now, Guy," she said, in precisely the tone
Supernanny uses with kids on TV, "that kind of petty meanness doesn't
become you. Show us all you can do better." Guy tried to laugh, but a
glance around the room silenced him. Wendy had called on her
good-parent energy to tap a great resource: normal people. Kind people.
Outplayed and outnumbered, Guy slunk away, leaving Theresa to enjoy her
birthday. This is virtually always the outcome when a mental martial
artist encounters a Mean Guy. If you choose the way of the warrior, it
will happen for you.

To be continued
Be gentle with yourself and as Gandi said: "Be the change you want to see in others" and I add the world around you will change.
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9 years ago  ::  Oct 20, 2008 - 10:45AM #4
Posts: 1,847

Principal #4


Walk the Way of the Warrior

Being a martial
artist is a way of life. You can't use your skills in an emergency
unless you practice them every day. And such daily practice may lead to
unexpected adventures. You’ll no longer watch helplessly as some Mean
Guy emotionally abuses his wife—even if you happen to be the wife in
question. Where your prewarrior self would've simply wilted, your
warrior self will speak up or, if you're the wife, walk away.

This may require drastic changes in your life. Are you ready for that?
Well, you are if meanness has pushed you to the point of anger or
despair. You are if you want to be the change you wish to see in the
world. You can begin today. Adopt the stance of dauntless
self-acceptance, avoid combat when possible, and practice your
techniques until they become second nature. Though it might be helpful
to remember that it really does help to wait until your opponent is

Martha Beck is the author of Steering by Starlight (Rodale) and five other books.
Be gentle with yourself and as Gandi said: "Be the change you want to see in others" and I add the world around you will change.
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9 years ago  ::  Oct 22, 2008 - 12:02PM #5
Posts: 1,210
Thank you for this article - just call me "Theresa" BUT I learned from the best there is about rebuttal; now I have to "unlearn" that and let it "go and flow" and change my stance - never much liked fencing anyway.
Love, Light and Laughter is the Universal Language, Betty
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9 years ago  ::  Oct 23, 2008 - 9:48PM #6
Posts: 1,847

I was reading the following message when suddenly under it's own power (that of the Universe) this DG just popped up in front of us (I guess there's someone  here with me I cannot see) sooooooooooo I accept this message and will copy it here.

The Power to Outgrow Problem People in Your Life



Exclusively for You...




more about this topic in "Seeker's Guide to Self-Freedom." For a
limited time our Key Lesson members receive a 15% discount when
ordering this item. See below for details.

When someone acts thoughtlessly towards us, and we react negatively
towards him or her, it is a similar thoughtlessness in us that
responds. In other words, our own hostile reactions take no thought for
anything outside of what they call into account for their suddenly
heated existence -- so that the only awareness we possess in these
times is that low level of cognizance that possesses us, making us
"entitled" to attack back! And with our own aching heart or pounding
thoughts providing the fuel, we lash out! After all, it is our "right"
to set the record straight.

in these moments, if we could learn to step back from ourselves -- to
see and to be aware of ourselves as being but a cog in an ever-turning
wheel of hurting and being hurt -- there would follow a great and
liberating self-revelation. We would see, clearly, that before we rise
up and attempt to hurt someone who has hurt us, it is we who hold this
hurt first. And if we realize the dynamic exposed here -- how one hurt
always gives rise to another one  -- then we should also be able to see
that each of us is always the first to hold this unwanted pain.

we see the truth of this unconscious cycle, then we are ready for the
next truth we will need to escape this circle of suffering: It doesn't
matter how, or where, this dark cycle got started. It is not important
any longer. Why? Because once we understand that to try to hurt someone
-- even just to want to -- is to hurt ourselves, it makes no difference
who did what to whom, or for whatever reasons. Once we come aware to
the fact that when we hate, we feel this hatred first in ourselves, our
relationship with this darkness is done. The whole issue becomes as
simple as this: Hatred hurts us, not the person we blame for it. To
hold a wish to punish someone begins with the unconscious embrace of
the very pain we wish to inflict.

These discoveries all tell one
story: Nothing grows on a battlefield except for the number of cries.
Nothing can develop in us as long as the truth about our condition
remains buried beneath so much misunderstanding. The point is that the
pain we pass onto one another must stop somewhere or this cycle of
conflict will never cease. And it must, or else the vital energies we
need to grow beyond ourselves will simply be poured back into the earth
for purposes unknown to us, even as we are compelled to serve
conflict's dark plan through our unconscious suffering. What is the

Most of us already suspect what needs to be done if
we are to have any hope of moving beyond the conflict so common in
today's relationships. Nevertheless, here is a brief description of the
spiritual action to be taken: We must stop giving to our friends and
family the pain we cannot bear to carry ourselves. Said differently,
each of us must agree to be the one who will "taste" what we would
serve to our "enemy du jour" before we throw it upon his or her plate.

this moment forward, let the conflict stop with you. Make it your
intention to forever quit yourself from the turning of this invisible
wheel-of-woe. Each time we will consciously refuse to strike back in
anger or act out some aggression toward the one who hurts us, we sow
the seed of a new order of a conscious life. Now instead of being used
by dark forces that grow at the expense of our soul's development, it
is we who use our endless differences with others to grow endlessly.
And at the same time that we learn to rise above the pain of our own
negative reactions, we create the possibility and opportunity for
others around us to do the same.

Each time we will choose not to
respond to someone's mental or emotional blow with a blow of our own,
that person is left no choice but to see that the only antagonist he
has is his own pain. And just as this person's awakening to the
continual cause of his unconscious aching is the beginning of the end
of it, so too is this true for us. Our newly awakened understanding
reveals that there is nothing for us to do with our pain but to let it
be nothing to us. And with each such spiritual step that we will dare
to take outside the circle of suffering, so do we make a way for
everyone else... because at last the circle has been broken.

-- Guy Finley


Be gentle with yourself and as Gandi said: "Be the change you want to see in others" and I add the world around you will change.
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9 years ago  ::  Oct 24, 2008 - 12:25PM #7
Posts: 1,210

In essence, turn the other cheek.

Love, Light and Laughter is the Universal Language, Betty
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9 years ago  ::  Oct 24, 2008 - 9:28PM #8
Posts: 1,407


Interesting article - thank you! These techniques are all better than meekly accepting criticism or cringing but tolerating unacceptable behavior.

And it will likely come as no surprise that in my view the trult masterly approach is based on tracking.  Tracking is to the approaches listed here as Aikido is to Karate.  The goal in Karate is to defeat your opponent; the goal in Aikido is to achieve harmony.

The author's goal seems to be to "get back" at Guy.

In my view, the misstep the author makes is by branding Guy as a "mean person." Perhaps it was a mean thing to do, and doing something mean does not make someone a mean person.  In fact it is most likely Guy's projection of wounded places in himself that is driving the comment.  Guy is likely about the same age as his wife, so if he is making disparaging remarks about her age and lung capacity it is because he has fears himself about being old and weak.  His comment also speaks to his disappointments and unfulfilled dreams.  In other words, what appears to be "mean" is an expression of his pain.

That doesn't justify it of course.  So after tracking Guy, Theresa can ste a limit using an impact statement - that doesn't blame or "make wrong".  In fact, setting limits that way is the most effective way to do it.  It maintains boundaries and, perhaps more important, enhances the relationship.

While the author's advice is better than being a doormat, using the Aikido-like skills of tracking and impact statements are my preference.  That approach has the gentleness of "turning the other cheek" while also making it clear that unacceptable behavior is not tolerated. (Like Hatman's saying of "teaching other how to treat you.")


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9 years ago  ::  Oct 26, 2008 - 8:40PM #9
Posts: 1,847
Each time we will consciously refuse to strike back in anger or act out
some aggression toward the one who hurts us, we sow the seed of a new
order; a conscious life."
Be gentle with yourself and as Gandi said: "Be the change you want to see in others" and I add the world around you will change.
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