That they trample on our dignity does no good to anyone. Humiliation is a very unpleasant feeling, usually the product of social situations in which others underestimate us, consciously or unconsciously, and who live in deep pain.
Reactions to humiliation can be varied, and not all are appropriate. Some get angry and make the situation worse, others cry and others try to fight back. It’s amazing how words misunderstood or interpreted as offensive can affect us so much.
Being clear on how to respond correctly to humiliation is easy, not easy. It takes a bit of calm and poise, plus having the strength to stop the words of others from affecting us. Let’s take a closer look below.
How do we react to humiliation and ridicule?
The feeling of humiliation is an experience with such an intense impact, so strong that it can destroy us. Feeling humiliated is synonymous with feeling overwhelmed, confused, helpless, full of rage. It can even manifest itself in physical sensations, such as stomach pain, and visible emotional reactions, such as crying or temper tantrums. A common response to humiliation is wanting to hide, for the earth to swallow us up and disappear. Often when we are humbled we lose all capacity for action.
All of us have felt humiliated before and it is very likely that we are thinking about what we could have done now, or later, to protect ourselves. It’s hard to go back to that exact moment and do the right thing, but it’s not a bad idea. think about what we could do to protect ourselves if this happened to us again, because by the time they humiliate us, we probably can’t think much about how to escape.
It’s inevitable that we somehow react to the humiliation, but we can avoid the way the words spoken to us affect us. We must not give more power to the opinion of others than to our own. Self-esteem is the key to dealing with a humiliating experience. Here are some suggestions on how to respond to humiliation.
1. Take the time to think
It is difficult to think clearly when we are humbled, as our minds are frozen in horror and frustration. However, if we accidentally turn our brains back on immediately, we may find a way to respond.
But otherwise, it is best to take the time to think about an answer while keeping as much as possible calm and serenity..
We should not apologize, accept the guilt or counterattack, as all of this can be counterproductive at the moment. In this situation, the victim can be easily victimized in the most unpleasant way, even when they are absolutely right about the complaints.
2. Don’t take it as a personal attack
It’s okay to interpret humiliation as a personal attack at first, but … what if it isn’t? It could be that our “abuser” is having a really bad day and that day he found us and made the humiliating comment, or it could be that he is already so normal and we crossed paths.
A good piece of advice is that when faced with a humiliating comment, instead of saying nothing and fighting back with anger, we remain silent and we show in front of him our mouths ajar and expressing that emotion of surprise. You might not even know he made a sour comment, and by showing us this gesture of surprise and dissatisfaction with his words, captures may have made an inappropriate comment and listen to what he told us. Also, maybe understanding what happened now, it is the person who is ashamed.
If you think the person who made the humiliating comment really didn’t mean to embarrass you in front of others, a good way to respond is to respond in the right tone, simply but directly, in private. You can use the phrase “I know you didn’t mean to, but when you told me I was a little upset.
If you want to be ashamed of yourself, you need to be clear: no matter what we did wrong we don’t deserve humiliation for it. It is true that we must take responsibility for our actions and correct the mistake we made; now we must not think that being wrong means that we are people to be denigrated.
If a person wants us to feel bad about ourselves, chances are the problem is there, they are frustrated with their life, and they feel the need to try and look for flaws or humiliate others in an attempt to reassert oneself. Of course, this is pathological behavior.
Not taking it personally is knowing that you are the victim and not the cause of the problem.
3. Understand the motivation of the other
If the humiliating situation has just happened, now that we are safe, we can take some time to think about what might happen. Understand the motivation of the other this can give us a more holistic view of why this happened and, related to what we have already said before, it can help us understand that there was really no intention to harm.
Understand it doesn’t mean forgiving or feeling sorry for the other person, at least not necessarily. It is simply a tool to help us get out of the potential and harmful consequences of their behavior. It is also a way of helping us not to take their actions personally, and to see more clearly that this is a problem that is in that person rather than in ourselves.
4. Seek support from others
No one can escape humiliation. It’s hard to find someone who has never felt humbled in their life. For that, it is very easy to find other people who can tell us about their experiences with this emotion, making us feel listened to and, at the same time, to provide mutual emotional support in the face of situations where one felt that one’s dignity had been violated.
For example, if we have been humiliated by our own boss, we may not be the only ones, and the rest of our office mates may have had such an experience. Talking to them can let us know what tools or strategies they used to get out of the way, and also understand why our boss told us this.
5. Better not to fight back
Humiliation is a mixture of anger and shame, so feeling like revenge or retaliation is a consequence. We believe that by taking revenge, we can restore our damaged self-esteem after someone humiliated us.
The problem with doing this is that we run the risk of acting without thinking, putting our foot down even further, and giving our humiliator more material to humiliate us further. We can turn a situation where we were already the victim into an even worse situation, making it look like the villains in the movie are us. Not fighting back doesn’t necessarily mean we are weak.
The best reaction to humiliation is not allow the person to influence us, whether they have done so innocently or responsibly. We have the strength and the ability to live a full life despite the nasty comments of some individuals.
If the person who humiliates us is doing it everywhere and on an ongoing basis, the only possible adaptive option is to cut the relationship with them, whether it is a partner, a colleague or a boss. Granted, this can be worked around, but not unless you’re a techie who knows what he’s doing.
- Molina-González, Liliana Cecilia. (2018). Humiliation as a socially tolerated form of moral evil. Consistency, 15 (29), 37-64.
- Hartling, LM and Lindner, EG (2017). Towards a Globally Informed Psychology of Humiliation: A Commentary on McCauley (2017). American psychologist, 72 (7), 705-706.
- McCauley, C. (2017). Towards a psychology of humiliation in asymmetric conflict. American psychologist, 72 (3), 255-265. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000063
- Barth, FD (2020) 7 Ways To Respond When Someone Ashamed You Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/es/blog/7-formas-de-responder-cuando-alguien-te-averguenza