People usually don’t insult you directly. If they did, you could say something right back and be done with it. Instead, people use indirect methods of insult, so that you are confused and unsure of what happened. In that case, it usually dawns on you too late to do anything about it. The indirect insult allows people to act out their aggression without taking responsibility for it.

Below are some hidden insults to look out for.

1. Disqualifications. Disqualifications usually begin with a cautionary statement. “Now don’t take this the wrong way.” Then comes the insult. “But sometimes you are a little bit dense.” The beauty of the disqualification is that it prevents you from reacting negatively to the insult, because then you’ll be taking it “the wrong way.” If you do get upset by the remark, the person can quickly rebuke you, “Oh, my. I was afraid you’d take it the wrong way. You’re so over-sensitive.”

An effective rejoinder: “Now don’t you take this the wrong way, but you’re being a snot.”

2. Jokes. Insults can often be hidden within a joke. A person might say, “Oh, I just love the wrinkled look of gloom that comes on your face when you think somebody has slighted you!” And at that moment a wrinkled look of gloom appears on your face and the person adds, “I’m just joking. Don’t be so serious!” Hence, you are made to seem foolish if you take exception to having your feelings disrespected; and to seem even more foolish if you even think your feelings are being disrespected.

An effective rejoinder: “Oh my, there you go being paranoid again!” “Paranoid?” “I’m just joking.”

3. Backhanded Compliments. “Oh, I just love the way you weasel your way out of things,” your spouse may say to you. And you are confused. On one hand, you like being complimented, but you’re not sure it’s a compliment, and you find yourself becoming angry. “What do you mean, weasel out of things?” And your mate replies, “Now don’t get upset, silly. I really do admire this ability. I wish I had it.” And you get more upset without quite knowing why.

An effective rejoinder: “And do you know what I love about you?” “What is that, dear?” “Not very much when I experience you making backhanded compliments.”

4. Guilt-Tripping. Guilt-tripping is another indirect way of insulting someone. Instead of saying to you, “I feel hurt that you don’t help me more,” the guilt-tripper moans, “I feel so tired all the time from doing all the housework myself. I think it’s affecting my physical health. I’m having stomach and lower-back pains. And I’m afraid I may be getting liver cancer. Oh, woe is me!” Instead of feeling sympathetic, you feel angry and then feel guilty about being angry. Once again, guilt-tripping is a way of sneakily expressing anger without taking responsibility for it.

An effective rejoinder: “Would you like me to help you dear?” “Yes, that would be nice.” “And it would also be nice if you just asked me. Moaning about your condition actually makes me NOT want to help you.”

5. Teasing. Teasing is all in good fun, isn’t it? Or at least that is the way it is made to seem. Children often tease each other children, such as when older siblings tease younger siblings. It can also happen with adults, as when a husband teases his wife in front of his guy friends or a wife teases her husband in front of her gal friends. “That’s my husband,” the wife may say. “He’s always running around the house with his shirt off, showing off his abs.” The wife is actually getting her gal friends to help her demean her husband, thereby acting out anger. If the husband complains, she quickly replies, “We’re just having fun with you, dear. Where’s your sense of humor?”

An effective rejoinder: “I find it hurtful when you demean me in front of your girlfriends. I’m going out for a walk.”

These are just a few of a multitude of sneak attacks people make all the time, all in seemingly good fun. It is sometimes not easy to come back with a rejoinder when you are taken by surprise. Therefore it is good to rehearse by yourself or with a friend to be prepared for the next attack.

“Oh, dear, you’re so funny when you get mad.”

“Yes, and you’re so mean when you don’t take my anger seriously.”