How Should We Respond to Name-Calling?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

We don’t have a serious problem on our blog with commenters calling each other names.  I have had to delete very few comments because someone crossed over the line of good taste.  Every once in a while, though, people forget their manners and start hurling accusations at each other.  When someone calls you a name during a serious discussion, what should you do?

Recently I came across a short article written by the folks at Stand to Reason which suggests a good idea.  When someone calls you a name, just ask for a definition of the name they called you.  That’s all.

This approach will often work because people are rarely thinking clearly when they call names.  When you ask them to define the word they used to describe you, it will generally bring them back to rationality.

The article lists three likely results of using this tactic:

1. It will give them pause the next time they think about calling you a name. If they have to define every “bad” word they call you (intolerant, narrow-minded, homophobic, judgmental, etc.), then they’re less likely to call you a name and more likely to explain their concern. That makes for a more productive conversation.

2. It will make it more difficult for them to define you, a friendly person who is merely asking for a definition, in a horribly negative way. Instead, they’ll soften the definition and it won’t have the same negative rhetorical impact that the word had.

3. Their definition will likely also apply to them.

I think this is solid advice that any of us can use when a conversation becomes heated and names start flying.

  • Tim

    How about “I’m rubber and you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you” ?

    Stick with the classics.