Seven Ways to Respond When Someone Humiliates You

How should you respond to public humiliation? What options do you have? Moreover, why do you find yourself in these kinds of situations? We give you some answers and some advice on what to do.
Seven Ways to Respond When Someone Humiliates You

Last update: 03 December, 2021

Humiliation can take you by surprise and leave you paralyzed. As a matter of fact, people who make others feel bad often seek that effect, creating feelings of shame and guilt through their actions. However, are there any effective ways to respond when someone humiliates you?

The answer is yes. While it’s difficult to avoid feelings of helplessness and humiliation when you’re belittled in front of others, you can stay in control. Naturally, you may feel like you either want to run and hide or strike back with all the strength you can muster. However, what’s the best strategy in the long run?

There’ll always be people who humiliate others without caring too much about the damage they cause. Ideally, you should try to separate yourself from these kinds of people. Nevertheless, you may not always have that option as their behavior may come as a surprise. Therefore, below, we share some tips on how to respond when someone humiliates you.

1. Try not to respond impulsively

What the humiliating person may want is for you to act without thinking. However, this can end up doing you even more harm. In fact, you may find your mind goes completely blank. If that’s the case, take a moment to calm down.

Man with weird face

2. Put the spotlight on the other person

When someone humiliates you, your attention may turn inward, since you’re the target of the aggression. However, bear in mind that what’s relevant here isn’t that others see you as having been humiliated, but that someone is subjecting another person to public derision.

Therefore, in the moments that you use to calm yourself, try to find out what may have motivated the other person to behave like this. After all, people don’t usually act only with the intention of doing harm. It’s possible that they did it without thinking, and will understand what they’ve done when you don’t immediately retaliate. Furthermore, you should move away in case they hurt you again.

Often, individuals who humiliate others have trouble controlling their own impulses. For instance, they might have a desire to assert themselves but not necessarily to humiliate others. Ask them, directly and calmly, why they did what they did. It’s highly likely that they won’t answer you directly. However, the focus of attention should be on them and not you.

3. Ask to talk to them on their own

One of the best ways to respond when someone humiliates you is to stay calm and ask to speak to them alone. In this way, you’re showing that you don’t want to subject them to the same humiliation that you just suffered. Furthermore, that their words don’t have the capacity to hurt you.

Humiliation by others in public loses much of its effect when the person on the receiving end is undaunted.

4. Get out of the situation

Do you feel able to cope with the situation at that precise moment? If not, state that you don’t want to talk about it. If there are people around, pretend they don’t exist. In fact, let them know that it’s a private matter and that the other person is employing a social pressure strategy.

5. Seek help

To overcome certain situations, especially those that involve serious abuse (sexual crimes, physical assaults, etc.), you might need a support network to help you overcome the results of the experience. Therefore, however you respond, make sure you surround yourself with people who are on your side and can help you.

6. Try not to act vindictively

In the face of humiliation, you may feel intense anger and the temptation to strike back. However, this first impulse isn’t usually the one with the best results. For instance, you might start a war that doesn’t really interest you or that causes damage you later regret.

Emotional intelligence can play a helpful role here. In other words, you can use the energy that your emotions bring in ways that are favorable to you.

Woman talking to boyfriend

7. Use figures of authority

Humiliation is a type of abuse that’s usually carried out by someone in a superior position. For instance, from bosses to subordinates. Therefore, before taking justice into your own hands, seek the help of someone who can help you balance the situation of power. For instance, teachers, human resources, police, and so on. It’s important that you act against this type of behavior. However, your actions don’t have to be direct.

You don’t deserve to be humiliated. If you’ve made a mistake or have done wrong, you obviously need to accept to assume the consequences and try to repair the damage caused. However, even in these instances, humiliation isn’t excusable. Therefore, the best way to respond when someone humiliates you is to make it clear that nothing positive is going to come out of it for anyone.

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  • Klein, D. (1991). The humiliation dynamic: An overview. Journal of Primary Prevention, 12, 93–121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02015214
  • Hartling, L. M., & Luchetta, T. (1999). Humiliation: Assessing the impact of derision, degradation, and debasement. Journal of Primary Prevention19(4), 259-278.