blog,  Essay,  Life Lessons,  Mindset

How to Defuse the Power of Words

As I wrote recently in “Insults Don’t Matter” one of the most important skills of a no bullsh!t mindset is the ability to be impervious to insults, attempts at character assassination, name calling and other rat behavior meant to topple the power dynamic leaving you on the losing end.

On the flip side, one must also be unaffected by flattery as it is also a form of deception. Flattery is a lie that feeds the ego and creates an inflated sense of self.  Believing the flattery or the insults instead of relying on your own self-awareness is to live a lie and to allow deception. If there’s one current that runs through a no bullsh!t mindset it is to have an unflappable awareness of yourself and the world around you that is founded in truth.

Words can be used to manipulate others.  Words can shift the power dynamic in a relationship or interaction by appealing to someone’s emotional side (pride or shame) as opposed to their rational side. When we become emotional, all of us, we are vulnerable.  A healthy no bullsh!t mindset is one that does not see vulnerability as weakness, but appreciates that healthy vulnerability happens in the right context. One allows themselves to be vulnerable after vetting the situation and choosing to invest emotionally. Weakness is a kind vulnerability that comes not by choice but as a reaction or a result of someone else’s action or choice.

So, if someone calls you stupid and ugly and you have an emotional reaction to that by taking offense, having hurt feelings, feeling insulted, then you have slipped into a weakened state because you are not vulnerable by choice but in reaction to someone else’s power move. That person is asserting power over you by labeling you in a way that you don’t like. The reactionary response is to argue that to call someone  “stupid and ugly” is “wrong” or “mean” or to feel bad as if their words define you.

A no bullsh!t dater doesn’t care about “wrong” or “mean” or “politically correct” or pleasing, etc. A no bullsh!t cares about truth and value. So the best way to defuse the power words have over you is to ask:

Is it true?  Does it have valule (Does it matter)?

If information provokes a strong emotional reaction that challenges you and makes you uncomfortable. Don’t ignore it. Explore it!

No Bullsh!t Mindset and Truth

No bullsh!t mindset revolves around revealing and actively responding to truth.  Deception weakens us because it places us in a place of vulnerability without our consent. When you are deceived you are given false or incomplete information. Without the complete truth, we can not make sound choices. If the truth is kept from us through deception then the power of making the choice is also withheld from us.  The choice is made for us. When others make choices for us, they do it out of their self-interest, not ours. So this is not a good situation, it is a place of weakness due to deception.

An example of this is cheating. When someone cheats on the other person, they have taken the power of choice out of their partners hands.

Another example is pretending to like football just to spend more time with someone. That person may be excited to find someone who likes football. That trait may hold value for them. You robbed them of the choice to be with someone who truly likes football by being deceptive about who you are.

“Oh but it’s just football, who cares?”  You might say.

Who are you to say what should matter for someone else? That’s what I say. Everything matters when it comes to integrity. You have no right to make personal choices for other people. It is arrogance and self-serving to be deceptive. It is weakness and cowardly to manipulate.

These skills are as important in evaluating how others are treating you as they are in keeping yourself in check with how you treat others.

Step One: Don’t Get Emotional

Back to the original topic of defusing the power of words used against you. Before you react, remember that you can’t evaluate something rationally if you are angry or sad. Developing emotional discipline is critical to staying in the moment and not letting others make you their marionette of reactions.

Step Two: Ask yourself, Is it true?

Asking if something is true and then asking if it matters, is the crux of defusing the power of words. Defusing the power that words or other people or situations have over you is the key of self-determination. You determine your own path instead of reacting to outside factors.

Using the example of being called stupid and ugly, which is an insult, which naturally would grate on anyone and create an emotional reaction, lets defuse its power.  Are you ugly? Are you stupid? How do you know?

If someone has accused you of something or insulted you, the only way to know if it’s true is to know yourself and know the world. To know yourself you have to take a hard look at yourself, without attachment, without emotion and assess who you are. This is not who you want to be. This is not who your friends tell you that you are, this is not about what makes you feel good, this is an unapologetic exploration of what the hell makes you tick, what inspires you, what holds you back.

So, is it true? Are you stupid and ugly?

You’re not? Then it doesn’t matter.  End of story, ignore this person.

But what if you are? Honestly, maybe you are, just a little? Kinda?

Armed with the self-control and emotional discipline we have power over ourselves before reacting emotionally.

Armed with self-awareness and cognizance, we have power over the situation and can be prepared for whatever we face.

So, being stupid means “lacking intelligence or common sense.” It’s actually pretty easy to figure out if you are intelligent. The results of your intelligence are reflected around you, can be verified by the kinds of things you do, the impact you have, the quality of people around you. It doesn’t always have to do with test scores, grades or the type of work you do.  You don’t have to be the “most smart” to be intelligent. You just need to be smart. If you’re smart, you’re not stupid. If you’re reading this, you aren’t stupid. If you’re a functioning person, you’re not stupid. Done. Stupid has no power describing your intelligence. It was empty. Move on.

Common sense on the other hand is sometimes harder for us to assess about ourselves. I myself realized at a certain point in my life that I was lacking common sense. Not about everything, but certainly about some things. (read: most) And this lack of common sense meant I was making the same mistakes over and over again. I was smart so I could talk about these mistake coherently, I could function and even excel in work and school but my personal life was a bit of a mess.  I made bad decisions. I wasn’t stupid. Often I even “knew” better, but I didn’t “do” better.  As a result of those bad decisions, I often got hurt.

Common sense is about being able to make appropriate judgement calls. Making a judgement to do something that harms you is bad judgment. Self-destructive behavior is a bad decision. So, as a result of my assessment of myself and my life, I can come to the conclusion that I’m intelligent but I sometimes have poor judgement or engage in self-destructive behaviors. So, sure. Maybe I’m stupid then. Maybe this person is telling me an unflattering truth about myself. But to what end?

Step Three: Does it Matter?

I’ll just get to the point, very little matters. We make things that are so small and useless matter so much more than they should and it makes us miserable and distracts us from the few things that really do matter. So to save yourself some time, always start from the assumption that it doesn’t matter and look for evidence that it does matter instead of the other way around.

What is the source?

In this case, if it were my father or someone who loved me and who I trusted to give me honest feedback with my own self-interest in mind (these people are very few, some people have no one in their life like this. It’s a worthy goal to cultivate a friendship with at least one person who will be genuine and care about you on this level. This is a luxury and a gem. Take care of this person.) If this insult isn’t coming from someone trusted, it doesn’t matter.  Things that don’t matter have no power.

Does it change anything?

Does this information change anything?  If you already have taken stock of yourself in an honest manner, like I did, then you might already know you’re stupid, or at least can be stupid at times. And if that’s the case, you likely are working on developing your common sense, resisting temptation to indulge in self-destructive behavior. So this person just told you something that is old news. It doesn’t change anything. It has no impact. Things that make no impact have no power.

Does it benefit you?

Were you just being stupid or doing something stupid? Did this person do you a favor by pointing out that you are doing something stupid? Did you not know it was stupid?

Or does this insult benefit them? Ways that insulting people benefits others is by making them feel big while they make you feel small. Or it gets a reaction out of you which causes you to drop the important things you are doing so you will focus your time and energy on them. It’s self-serving. If it doesn’t benefit you and help propel you toward your goals, your focus, your best life, then it doesn’t matter. This is a cry for attention or a desperate grab for power. You never feed negative pleas for attention and you never give away your power.  Reward the good in others, make conscious choices about when you give up your power.  Someone else’s dysfunction is not worth your loss of power. Doesn’t benefit you and it doesn’t even benefit them, because it is a toxic plea an expression of a dysfunctional need, and so you should not feed it.  Starve it by giving it no attention and no power. Move on.

Defusing the Power

That’s how you defuse the power of words. And when you take away their power, they won’t weaken you. So you can stay on task, keep moving toward your goals, focusing on the good and not getting caught up in desperate pleas for your attention, attempts to make you small to take your power or be deceived by fallacies.

The truth can’t harm you. The truth can’t take power away from you. The truth, your self-awareness, your self-determination is your power. No one can take that from you. And with the right skills you won’t give it away or fritter it away carelessly.

What if it matters?

If a trusted person called you stupid because you are doing or about to do something that is a disservice to you and awareness of you will change your decision. Then it matters.  And you should thank them for calling you stupid! They just did you a favor! They did something that rarely happens, they were looking out for your self interest and had the convictions to tell you something uncomfortable about you for your benefit. That’s a good person. Keep that person.  BE THAT PERSON for others.

Final Words

You have to push yourself to make this exercise worthwhile or you can tumble into self-absorption if you’re not careful. Focus on the goal, “Is this information or exercise adding value? Is it benefiting me in my pursuit of a better life?” Here’s the test: If you’re having fun, or feeling great about yourself, you’re wasting your time because you are still in denial about your true nature and the nature of others. If it isn’t making you uncomfortable and you aren’t struggling with what you are finding, you aren’t growing.  Growth happens with resistance. If you aren’t resisting the information on some level, you are wasting your time. And as hard as it may be to look at yourself in an unflattering light, this is the easy stuff, superficial stuff for the moment. Looking at your nature, the environment, the world and asking, what is the truth? What is deception? Who has deceived me? What was their agenda? That’s where the rubber hits the road, burning and stinking as you realize on a bigger scale why this is all important.  I will address these in my next posts.

1. Everyone is looking out for their own self-interest

2. Deception is everywhere

3. The biggest liar of all is you

4. Your biggest abuser is you

You can improve your life by changing your mindset. It won’t be pretty, but it will be worth it!



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  • R Prakash Prakash

    “If *information* provokes a strong emotional reaction that challenges you and makes you uncomfortable. Don’t ignore it. Explore it!” – I particularly think this is catch word. If anything that is said to you or about you, is treated as information instead of as description, you have half won over the situation. Next, checking it for veracity and credibility of the source, you conquer it. A very beautiful blog, Kitten! I admire your insights very much.

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