Insults Without Intention

I am guessing this happens in every profession. Don’t you hate it when people make comments that completely belittle what you do for living?

I remember once the company I worked for was in talks to be purchased by another. And they pulled all the employees together in the auditorium to make us feel better about it. The new director of marketing from the acquiring company stood there and talked about how helpful I was. But with all these words and phrases that made it sound like I was her secretary rather than a graphic designer with 10 years experience.

Part of it, she was just clueless. Part of it, I was overly sensitive.

Back in college we had these reviews of our work that certainly taught me to have a thick skin. Once professor in particular was great and finding our weaknesses, and tears. Since then there have been many times when people have described what I do with inappropriate terms or in ways that make it seem trivial. Sometimes to make themselves feel more puffed up, sometimes to put me down – and, again, sometimes they’re just clueless.

The hard part is figuring out when you should get mad and stand up for yourself and when you should let it roll off your back.

Do you let someone insult you to your face and smile?

Especially when you can’t figure out if they’re just clueless… or mean.

Grand Central Station

This article has 11 comments

  1. zipper

    That’s a tough one. You dont want to be soft – or an asshole.

  2. Nancy

    I’ve been in PR for nearly 20 years and the trophies I’ve won for my work weigh more than my six-year-old son. However, I still have a father who thinks I’m just an overpaid secretary and I’ve had bosses who, despite the tangible contributions to the company’s business objectives, continue to paint me as the person who “makes things pretty.”

    In these situations my counsel is to stop and consider how much the opinions (and the people attached to them) matter to you. If they do matter, it’s an opportunity to educate them about the value you bring to the table. If they refuse to see it, then you have to rack it up to their own lack of confidence. Often times people have to step on you (and your credentials) to elevate themselves. Their comments aren’t about you. It’s about them.

    At the end of the day, have confidence in your talents and take stock of the things you do well. Yes, we all have room to grow, but when we can capitalize on our strengths, we give ourselves opportunities to shine.

  3. Aimee Giese

    Great points, Nancy! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sizzle

    Yes, this has happened to me. I’ve handled it different ways depending on the person and situation. Some people are clueless and I must educate them. Some are just jerks and must be schooled in r-e-s-p-e-c-t if you know what I mean. I’m no one’s assistant or doormat.

  5. Sunny Hunt

    The first time I was called a “bitch” to my face, I pulled the person aside and asked them to not do it again. It really hurt my feelings and I told them as much (mistake).

    The second time, I also pulled the person aside and told them how unprofessional their comment made *them* look. It didn’t phase me anymore, I clearly emphasized it was their problem and their insecurity about their own performance, not mine.

    I’ve been hurled accidental and intentional insults from inside the small network of marketing professionals but what can you do? Most of the time I either address it (if there’s a convenient opportunity) or just let it slide and adopt the Haters gonna Hate mentality. Sometimes it still bothers me, though.

  6. EatPlayLove

    In life, it’s always the easy route to cut someone down. I often wish it was the exact opposite, that a compliment or praise could roll off someone’s tongue with ease.

  7. Alexis Marlons

    There are really times when people tend to get insensitive and would just say what they want without thinking of the effect on it to the other person. If we don’t try to correct them, they will never know that they are not doing any good anymore.

  8. Alexis Marlons

    There are really times when people tend to get insensitive and would just say what they want without thinking of the effect on it to the other person. If we don’t try to correct them, they will never know that they are not doing any good anymore.

  9. Aimee Giese

    Great point Margie!

  10. MargieK

    I have the unfortunate ability to accidentally insult people. I try to empathize, but many times I miss the mark. I’ve lost friends who took offense at something I said where none was intended, and many who think it’s simply a matter of thinking before you speak (Which I DO — a LOT!). It’s not. It’s a curse. It’s having a brain that sees things differently than others, a brain that often cannot imagine what is going on inside someone else’s and therefore has no idea how someone else is going to misconstrue what to me is an innocuous comment. Sometimes I wonder if I have a mild case of Asperger’s (maybe I do!).

    I’ve finally learned to tell people ahead of time “I’m a nice person, rarely snarky. If you think I’ve insulted you, chances are you’ve probably misunderstood something and need to ask me, ‘did you mean X?'”

    I’m not sure if this applies to all the situations you were thinking of when you wrote this, but it made me remember the many times when someone got upset at me because THEY ASSUMED something I never intended, never would have said (and really, some of these people had known me long enough to know better).

  11. Kriddie

    The ongoing ‘joke’ in my family is that i’m like Chandler Bing… Everyone knows i go to work & that i do ‘something’ but no one can ever really describe it to anyone else (though it’s hilarious listening to them attempt to explain…)

    I started my company 16 years ago & am still going strong. I provide a very small niche service to a handful of radio stations around the country.

    I learned/accepted a long time ago that most people will never really understand what it is that i do, & that’s okay. Because the precious few who do understand exactly what i do, appreciate it tremendously. & most importantly, i know.
    I know at the end of the year, when all my stations have raised & donated several million dollars to charities who work everyday to make people’s lives better – because of something i helped to create – what i choose to do for a career matters.

    People may insult what i do, whether on purpose or out of ignorance, but at the end of the day it does not matter.
    I know how hard i work. I know that the work i do ultimately helps people. & at the end of the day, that’s what matters to me!

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