Nothing wrecks a perfectly good day faster than someone making a nasty comment.
Especially when it happens right when you need confidence the most.
That’s what happened to me.
It was the morning of a VERY important presentation.
I woke up early, giving myself extra time to relax and review. I did some stretches, troweled on a faceful of makeup, and chose my favorite boldly-colored dress to give myself confidence.
All that remained was to drop my daughter off at childcare, and it was game on.
As I pulled into the parking area, I noticed another mother getting into her car. I got out and headed to the other side of my car to help my daughter. But before I could get there, I heard a harsh voice shouting at my back.
“Must be nice not to have to work!”
I turned around. The other mother slammed her car door, jammed her vehicle into gear, and took off in a cloud of dust.
What just happened?
I found myself trembling as I unhooked my daughter’s seatbelt. There had been such vitriol in the woman’s voice. I couldn’t understand why she had made that assumption. Maybe, in her world, heels and red lipstick meant a night on the town, not a hot date with a Powerpoint.
After dropping off my daughter, I drove down the highway in a daze. My mojo had deserted me. I knew I needed to do something to get it back—fast.
And coming up with some clever comeback in my mind wasn’t going to do the trick.
Nastiness is now more socially acceptable than ever.
Whether it’s getting a laugh out of rude people on TV or scrolling the comments on a controversial article, it seems like there’s nothing wrong with saying mean things…
As long as they’re disguised with wit.
The art of the “burn” starts in school, where kids learn they can get a laugh by making fun of someone else. Making fun of others gives them a sense of power. As long as someone else is the target, they’re not.
Although cruelty can motivate nasty behavior, more often there’s a broader motivation at work:
Putting down others makes us feel good about ourselves.
Schadenfreude is a German word that refers to taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. It’s the reason we laugh so hard at slapstick comedy and rejoice when a rival team loses the game.
We delight in bad things happening to people who deserve it (in our minds) or people we envy. We feel proud of ourselves when we come up with clever put-downs. Ganging up on an outsider gives us a sense of community. On an even deeper level, we’re glad it’s happening to them and not us.
No wonder culture has gotten so nasty. It’s way too much fun.
A friend of mine shared what her mother had always told her:
“They must be very unhappy people to think they need to treat others like that.”
In a sense, that’s right. Energy vampires feed on other people. They get a burst of good feelings from causing distress. There’s even a slang term for it: lulz.
The Oxford dictionary defines lulz as “fun, laughter, or amusement, especially that derived at another’s expense.” 
And nothing gets more lulz than drive-by rudeness.
A 2012 study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that people are twice as likely to be hostile if they don’t make eye contact with their victims. 
No wonder trolling has become part of the fabric of the internet. Anonymity, invisibility, lack of morality police, and a sense that anyone writing online isn’t really a real person gives trolls all the permission they need to blast their victims to smithereens.
Editor of Spiked Brendan O’Neill believes that the risk of trolling comes with the territory if we want a free society. In the documentary “Rise of the Trolls,” he explains:
“Trolling is a free speech issue… And if you aren’t free to hate someone, then you’re not free.” 
Certainly no one would argue that we have to like everyone. But there are libel and hate speech laws for a reason. Hurting others with words does real damage.
So what do you do, when you’re the victim of nastiness?
Your immediate reaction might be to defend yourself, or try to think of an equally cutting remark to make back.
But neither of those responses go to the root of the issue.
That nasty comment had nothing to do with you. It had everything to do with the state of mind of the perpetrator. A state of mind looking for kicks by making others feel small.
So memorize these 4 words:
“Wow, that was rude.”
That’s all you need to say. Then walk away.
No reaction. No engagement. Just a clear labeling of what just happened and refusal to feed the perpetrator.
In the online word, there’s a slogan:
“Don’t feed the troll.”
We need to stop feeding trolls in real life, too. Life is too good to give away our mojo to green-eyed monsters.