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How To Calmly Respond To A Personal Attack

Some time ago, I experienced a personal attack. It arrived in the form of a letter written by another psychologist. The psychologist believed I had spoken badly of them and their letter contained accusations and judgements about my character and professionalism.

26 thoughts on “How To Calmly Respond To A Personal Attack

  • November 8, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    What I do when I get a personal attack is ask myself: What do I want here? It’s difficult, because my automatic reaction is to give the person back a piece of my mind, and answer the attack with another one. So I try to calm down enough to see what would happen if I actually answered that way, and whether it’s something I’d like. Hey, sometimes it is. Sometimes the answer to: What do I want here? is that a pitched battle is just what I want in this situation. But most of the time, when I ask myself, I have to recognize that I don’t really want a pitched battle. Or that I want entirely unrealistic things, so I’d better give up on wanting them.

    I don’t particularly go for “demonstrating my values” because in my experience, it doesn’t work. People that already don’t like you aren’t going to notice much positive about the way you behave. But creating some doubts in the way they see you is usually an entirely realistic goal. Responding in a way that is entirely inconsistent with their accusations is likely to help in that goal.

    • November 8, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Thanks! This is also a helpful way of handling it. The values component is mostly for you, to bolster you after the attack. sometimes these attacks make you doubt yourself/ the kind of person you are. so the intent to strengthen yourself but not everyone will need this after the attack.

  • November 8, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    I really like this…Yes, when attacked, it is about the “aggressor’s” personal needs. But you didn’t go into anything about those needs. And though your approach teaches calm and centeredness which is needed to respond a seemingly hostile communications, it was devoid of responsibility for any action that may have helped cause pain or empathy towards the person with a grievance.

    • November 8, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I thought the section about if there is any truth in their words then deal with that sort of addressed the responsibility issue. In this instance the accusations were false so that my have flavored the post.

  • November 15, 2017 at 11:57 am

    The toughest lessons are hard
    learned. And they really stuck.

  • December 8, 2017 at 10:12 am

    This is great, it’s so hard not to take an attack personally, but it so often has more to do with what the other person is experiencing.

  • December 8, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    The first one, Try not to take the attack as personal” speaks volumes. Many times it is something they are dealing with, not what we have done. Thank you for these tips to remember.

  • December 9, 2017 at 1:46 am

    These are really helpful tips! It’s hard to remain calm when someone personally attacks you. It’s most definitely a skill we all need, though. Because, unfortunately, we will all experience it at one time or another!

  • December 9, 2017 at 10:54 am

    These are some great tips. I don’t think I have the guts to ever respond and usually just ignore the person, but these are great tips for those who choose to as you don’t want to add fuel to the flame!

    • December 9, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Yes, sometimes ignoring is the best response to. This post just gives other options if it is important to face it

  • December 9, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    It took me a long time to realize 95% of attacks are not personal but reactions soley about the emotions of the other party. Once I was able to not be emotionally sucked into the attack, I was able to rationally see where the communication error or disconnect that caused the attack and work on managing the situation not the emotions.

  • December 9, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    I don’t handle personal attacks very well, so this was helpful.

  • December 9, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I love this. I have an especially hard time letting go of personal attacks, and 2017 was a record breaker for me in that department so I’m going to have to read this one a few times! Great work, as always.

    • December 9, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      Thanks Megan. I hope 2018 has less personal attacks. Even when you know how to handle them, they are challenging

  • December 9, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    I wish this is something I would have read a few years ago. i was a young mom of 3 kids close in age starting a special needs journey and often felt under attack.

    • December 9, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks Ashley for your comment. It saddens me that you had this experience when you most needed support. Best wishes

  • December 22, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Nadene, this is so helpful! Dealing with feelings of shame that arise as a result of the attack holds the power to deeply transform our self-perceptions. Thanks so much for sharing your insight!

  • December 22, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Thank you for the reminder not to take the attack personally because it says more about the attacker than you. That can be hard sometimes though!

  • December 22, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    This one is so true–“Detach from the need to have everyone’s positive regard”. I think going down this path alone can make dealing with the personal attack even hard because then you’re relying on others to help you move past the situation. So good!


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