Have you ever found yourself in a social situation where someone makes an off-hand comment, a vaguely critical observation, that is so hurtful to you that you feel instantly shattered? One stupid sentence, and it feels like someone knocked all the wind out of you? Of course you have, we all have. It’s been happening since the dawn of time.
In the Stoic school of philosophy, the masters taught that the best way to handle a specific criticism in a social setting, is to accept it, and respond by turning it into a self-deprecating joke. Like this:
Criticism: “Boy, you’ve really gained a few pounds since I last saw you.”
Response: “You have no idea, I’ve been eating everything in sight. If you think this is bad, you should see the nightmare happening on my thighs.”
By taking in the seemingly negative comment, and turning it into a joke, said the masters, you’ve taken back power over your own emotional state (from “insulted victim” to “in on the joke”), and subtly let the other person know their negative comment doesn’t affect you.