Handling the Hostile

People often write or ask me: “How do I handle a hostile person if the person is someone I otherwise like, love or value?” My reply: If someone is deliberately insulting or hostile, assume they know what they’re doing. (They do.) Refuse to respond so long as they are that way. If your relationship with them has otherwise been good, then give them the courtesy of telling them what you’re doing, and why. But that’s it. Withdraw your warmth, your benevolence, your reason — even your presence or attention — until ALL hostility stops. If and when an apology is offered, take the attitude (and use the words if you like): “Don’t apologize. Just show that you understand what you did was wrong — by never doing it again. That’s all the apology I need.” You have given the person a second chance, because you chose to do so and because, in your eyes, the person has earned it. But there cannot be a third chance. A third chance is the beginning of abusiveness, and it’s not tolerable.