The Art of Deflecting Hurtful Comments

Stick and stones may break my bones
But words hurt the heart.

The reality of the situation is: humans are imperfect beings, and for some reasons, we often hurt each other (albeit unintentionally or not). Derogative words by strangers who barely know you could bring you down. And often times, the most painful of wounds came from the people closest to us.

I started to reflect about this topic a few days ago when someone close to me said some things that were kind of mean. In retrospect, it was a pretty minor incident. But it caused me to think: is there any better ways for me to deal with such situation instead of being wallowed in misery?

So I thought, if we can’t control the words that people speak to us… is there any good ways to deflect these hurtful comments?

What I meant by “good” here, are the positive, healthy ways to deal with the situation, instead of retaliating, nursing a grudge, or shutting down people and building walls around you.

I came up with these 3 very simple tips:


  1. Understand that often times, people don’t mean what they say.

I think, after a while, I began to realize that some of the most hurtful comments came as a passing, fleeting statement. This may make us think, “How thoughtless of them!” But hey, shouldn’t we take comfort that it is precisely because they are thoughtless, that they do not carry any weight?

I used to struggle in understanding this. What puzzled me is, if your words are a reflection of your heart, then how can you say hurtful things if you really never meant it in your heart?

But I started to accept that sometimes, our mind could be a pretty polluted place due to certain interactions and media that we consumed. (And that’s why we should try to stay away from pollutants as far away as possible). But anyways, I guess this is why sometimes people could say very dirty / rude / hurtful things, out of the top of their head, or by a slip of the tongue. And really, we shouldn’t take it personally.

Okay, I understand that maybe in certain circumstances, like during fights, people could intentionally want to hurt you with their word. But after the dust settles down, I think most people would admit (albeit sometimes silently) that they don’t completely meant what they say.

I also find it useful that whenever possible… when the situation has cooled down, to actually speak to the other party to clear the air. But when this is not possible, then we always have the choice, to simply refuse to take these thoughtless comments to heart.


  1. Know your self worth, and have a good self-image.

Granted, there are some comments that could be taken as a useful feedback. But most of the times, hurtful comments (especially the ones that are often repeated) could actually be damaging to our self-esteem.

Who wouldn’t want to have a thick titanium skin that can ricochet any bullets? But what we can have instead, is a healthy self-image, and the assurance of knowing who we are: imperfect and yet lovable people, with our own unique place in this world.

It took me a while to build a healthy self-esteem. And it is only then, that I could start to empathize for the people who bullied and shot me down.

Because sometimes, the reason that these bullies like to shot down others, is because they too, are struggling with their own self-image. So really, the way to stop this cycle is to understand your worth… and to make the choice to refuse to let hurtful comments define who you are.


  1. At the end of the day… forgive, forgive, forgive. 

Forgiveness doesn’t make you weak. Holding to hurt and nursing a grudge certainly doesn’t make you stronger. But I realized, that forgiveness actually heals the broken heart.

I spent many years of my life trying to act tough, labeling myself as frozen, convincing myself that it is better to not have emotions at all. But in the end, all I felt was numbness. I might have succeeded in avoiding the hurt. But I know that such numbness weighs you down and traps you.

Yet forgiveness liberates. It sets you free. And it lets our heart to finally begin healing.

Forgiveness is also a choice. It is a decision that we can all make, regardless whether the other party asks for it or not.

All these 3 things basically tell us that regardless whatever condemning words that people or society said to us, we always, always have the choice to deflect these hurtful comments.

So stop looking at others for justice. Instead, let’s start to examine ourselves… have we made the right choices?

An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you. –Goi Nasu


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