Stand up for myself


Stand up for myself


your avatar   Sam, 21-year-old man

I got insulted by a damn salesman recently in front of acquaintances. I did not stand up for myself. He indirectly implied I was not smart and said he did not like my tone of voice. I ignored it and now feel angry at myself and ashamed. Did I just lose everyone's respect at that place along with my own? Should I just move on?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Sam my friend,

I can suggest two separate ways of addressing this problem. Have a go at both.

The first is to learn a new skill. Most people have an armory of two reactions to an insult: aggression or retreat. There is a third, called being "assertive." It doesn't work if the other person insists on being objectionable, but it has the best chance of working, and even if it fails it puts you on the moral high ground.

Here is a card I often hand out to my clients:

Assertive communication

You can handle an annoyance in three ways:

1. Bulldozer: "Get off my toes or I'll punch your face in!"

2. Doormat: "Sorry for being in your way. Please trample on me."

3. Assertive: "You're standing on my toes and it hurts. Please get off now."

The assertive formula is: "When you do this, I please do that."

You don't need the formula in words, but use the philosophy behind it.

Had you been assertive in this interaction, there may have been nothing in your tone to offend this fellow in the first place. If he wanted to pick on you anyway, you could have said something like "I find your judging attitude to be objectionable. Please treat me with the respect you expect for yourself." That is, you maintain your dignity and defend your territory without attacking.

This is a skill, and you need to practice it. Do that by replaying past situations in imagination, and responding assertively. Do it in front of a mirror, and in role play with trusted friends. Then try it out in real life.

Second, there is nothing wrong with you as a person. Some of the things you do are excellent. Most of the things you do are OK. The remainder are your growing opportunities. Learning to be assertive is one of them.

One way of thinking about this is to write a film script, whose hero is Sam. Only, this is the Sam you're going to be when you've learned the lessons you need. There is no story line for the film yet, but you need to describe this new Sam so well that an actor could step in. The more concrete and detailed you make the description, the better. But note what can go into a film script: only what the camera and microphone can capture. Thoughts, emotions, memories, images are excluded. Then of course you become the actor, and learn to DO the new Sam.

Good luck!


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:

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