How to Handle INSULTS & INTIMIDATION in a Fight

How to Handle Insults and Intimidation in a Fight

Chicken, Loser, Clown, you can say much worse to provoke a fight. We touched on the power of words in our video on Trash Talking in MMA. We call is the Psychological Warfare of Intimidation.

Here we’re going to talk about how to respond to such insults intended to provoke you to fight or to mess with your head. First, we’re going to unpick some simple insults, then we’ll look at 3 common ways to respond to insults in a fight.

Before we dig into the technique, it must be noted that responding to insults doesn’t just relate to street fighting, MMA or Boxing, but to life in general. There might be many times in your day that someone says something you find personally insulting. For example, someone may say that “you look fat today”.

In this situation do you (a) hit the guy or (b) respond in a manner that avoids violence and diffuses the situation?

Your response doesn’t always have to resort to violence. In fact, if you want to appear dominant and in control of the situation, losing your cool and fighting is the worst thing you can do. After all, people are attracted to confident individuals, especially those with a sense of humour.

Now with that said, let’s look at one other important factor that many people aren’t aware of. This factor can be a major influence in violence, driving people to fight over petty insults.

This is Hostile Attribution Bias. It refers to the tendency to interpret the simplest things as personal attacks. For example, someone might smile in public and you think they are laughing at you.

Hostile Attribution Bias suggests that some people are more likely to view comments negatively with a hostile intent. We can say this is how they are “framing” the situation, and this determines the trajectory and outcome of the situation. Don’t forget, the attacker and even bystanders have their own frame on the situation, too.

Read on for some of our ideas on how to respond to insults and intimidation.

So what are the common responses to insults used to provoke a fight?

Well the first is to get offended, react, and retaliate physically or verbally.  The insult is interpreted as “what you said is offensive; You’re right, I’m weak and I’ll show you that I’m not”.

The second common response is to say nothing. This option is safer at times as it doesn’t escalate the confrontation, and it may work well if supported by strong body language and posture.

Bear in mind, silence can send other messages to the person provoking or attacking you. In saying nothing at all you are suggesting that their assertion is true, you’re a push over.

The third option is to Amplify.

This is to react with humour. Using humour as a response to being teased or insulted is often an effective response. It disarms the Hostile Attribution Bias by reframing the insult. Humour can diffuse a tense situation, disarm the aggressor, and even undermine the insult. Most importantly you portray a level of confidence that if supported by strong body language, can go far in diffusing a potential fight. Try making a joke when someone insults or teases you.

You can’t control what others say to you, but you can control what you say and do about it.


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