How to respond to a negative comment without losing your temper?

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Robert Maurer
@robertmaurer
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Everyone has an opinion. In a tolerant, empathetic and intelligent environment, divergent opinions shouldn't be a problem. On the contrary, they enrich. However, in a world where people are too busy, angry or frustrated, opinions become a source of conflict and negative comments take the place of constructive criticism.

Negative comments are daily bread, always present in our life and swarm on social networks. They can come from both close people and complete strangers. They can turn out to be completely out of place comments or insulting criticism.



People who are hypersensitive, those who take things too seriously, or who find it difficult to control their early impulses can be overwhelmed by the emotional impact of negative comments. In these cases, learning to respond to a negative comment without losing your temper becomes practically a survival skill.

Avoid emotional contagion

Emotions are contagious and negative ones like anger or sadness are even more so. Rudeness, coarseness and arrogance are also contagious. A study conducted at the University of Florida revealed that when we witness or are the victim of an episode of rudeness, the chances are that we behave disrespectfully towards others.

“Low intensity negative behaviors like rudeness can be contagious. This effect can occur on the basis of unique episodes, anyone can be a carrier of these emotions and, obviously, this contagion has consequences for the people with whom we will interact in the future ”, conclude the researchers.

Other research conducted at Georgetown University revealed that even particularly nasty negative comments end up affecting our performance. People who have been exposed to hostile situations have noticed a decrease in their performance in daily and creative activities.


The explanation is simple: when we are treated badly or unfairly, our emotional brain takes over and prevents us from thinking clearly. We can obsess about what has happened and continue to mull over it, which takes away cognitive resources that we could allocate to other, much more relevant and satisfying tasks.


Therefore, the golden rule for responding to a negative comment is to avoid emotional contagion. If the other person infects you with their anger or frustration, they've brought you into their playing field. One way to avoid contagion is to pause and breathe before responding. We need to take a few seconds to stop the first impulse. It's about learning to act instead of just reacting.

When we react, we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the opinions and emotions of our interlocutor. When we decide what to do, we stay in control. A simple technique to take a psychological distance from what is happening is to try to discover the emotions that our interlocutor is expressing. This psychological exercise, which we must carry out with curiosity, will transform us into an outside observer and help us to remain calm.

To answer or not to answer? This is the question

The question is not always "how to respond to negative comments?" but rather “should we respond to all negative comments?

The short answer is NO.

There are comments that are simply not worth the emotional effort, the cognitive work, or the time it takes to respond. When the other does not want to dialogue but simply criticize or impose his opinion, it is not worth replying to his comments.

Nor is it worth responding to negative comments if we don't want to invest in that relationship. Ultimately, a response usually involves dialogue, and there may be times when we're not interested in having a conversation that will lead nowhere.



The idea is that we wonder if it's really worth sacrificing some of our inner peace to fight that battle. There will be times when it will be worth it, other times it will not. After all, it is wise to know which battles are worthwhile and which are not.


Other times, the best way to respond to negative comments is to indicate our limitations, making it clear that we will not allow anyone to violate our assertive rights or treat us badly. An example of a response to a negative comment is: "you are raising your voice, you are insulting and criticizing me and I am not willing to be treated like this."

We can also respond in a more subtle way, with a question that changes the dynamics and forces the other to rethink what he said and its consequences. We can answer with a question that highlights the absurdity, malice or tactlessness of his words. For example, some responses to negative comments in the form of a question might be: Did you notice that your words hurt me? o Do you understand that you cannot criticize what you do not know?


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