“Zingers”: why they feel good short-term, but undermine us long-term

By John Counsel

Q: Anyone else get angry outbursts? I’m finding I feel good at the time even though I know it’s wrong, but I don’t know of any alternatives; applying that filter is like bottling it up and the anger comes back with the memory of the situation and me wishing I had “given them a piece of my thoughts” instead because they deserved it.

I find the trick is to avoid rehearsing one-line “zingers” in your head. You know… those satisfying, one-line retorts that stop a bully in their tracks, preferably buying them in humiliation so that they turn tail and flee?

I’ve always been a master of the “zinger”, and I realised that I would rehearse them over and over in my mind, ready to release them on the next R-sole to try putting me down, in private or in public. It was a hugely successful strategy, and I built an international reputation as a “zingermeister”… to the point where I intimidated people and stifled discussion on forums and discussion boards. (I was often the admin or moderator, so I had the buttons and boots to enforce order as well.)

I remember the day when I realised that it was backfiring on me. I was losing participants and discouraging open and free sharing of ideas.So I did some reflecting and discovered the problem in all this: when we rehearse for a situation where we want to triumph, our subconscious mind tends to look for opportunities where we can put all that hard effort to work! To the point where it will engineer or contrive opportunities to trigger that person into providing us the cue for delivering that zinger in total triumph!

But it tends to be a pyrrhic victory… it’s only temporary, and for decent people with no long-term, selfish agenda, it can undermine our self-esteem and confidence.

So I stopped doing it.

Instead, I implemented what I call the “Enough Rope” strategy: if you give a bully or abuser enough rope, they’ll either save themselves — or hang themselves.

Discussion boards — like Facebook — are like pits. But too often they can become addictive, especially for people who are addicted to power, real or imagined. So my job, as Admin, is to lower them a rope with a noose in their end, with the clear message that, at some point of my choosing, I will hoist that rope — and they can either have their foot in the noose, or their neck!

It will be their choice, but the consequences will be inevitable.

I find this approach much more useful — and satisfying. No regrets, either.

PS: In situations like the Question (top) describes, I find the following strategy leaves my integrity and self-esteem intact, and gives the bully/r-sole a clear understanding of my position… without allowing them to claim any kind of victory. I simply respond something like this…

“Okay… I really don’t know why you feel it necessary to speak/act like that, unless you feel the need to protect your own fragile ego or superficial sense of power, but seriously, you could have gone all day without saying that. All it does is confirm your own fear.

“But that’s fine — whatever you need to feel superior, okay?” 😀

The Dos and Don’ts of handling put-downs and insults

©2018 John Counsel. All rights reserved.

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