How to respond to insults from friends

four cats asks: Most of the time my friends tease me and joke me and I always go low on my personality; then actually they start to bite me! So can you please give me a way to put them down when they start to put me down?

Hi four cats –
Wow, I am used to people using verbal put-downs of their friends, and I’m used to us pups biting each other for fun, but I have never heard of anyone doing both!  Your friends must like you a lot!

You asked me for ways to put them down, and I’d be glad to help with that, but I’d have to know exactly what they were saying, so I could come up with funny responses.  But I think there’s a much bigger question: Do you want to have funny comebacks to these friends, or do you want them to leave you alone?

If it’s the latter, then your best response is to not let them see how their comments affect you, to just roll your eyes or say “wow that’s the best you got?” or something like that, and then walk away.  People who give put-downs, whether in affectionate fun or out of bullying meanness, do so to feel powerful and good about themselves.  So if you act in a way that they can’t get that feeling, they’ll find someone else to pick on.

But if you are asking how to keep them as friends but just get better at comebacks, I do have one really odd trick, I’m borrowing from a great French playwright named Edmond Rostand.  Rostand is most famous for his play Cyrano de Bergerac, about a brilliant man with a gigantic nose (seriously, I know a lot of dogs with smaller noses than this guy!).  In one scene, he’s in a tavern and someone starts to make fun of his looks.  Instead of complaining about them hurting his feelings, he turns around and puts them down, by insulting himself!  He shows them up by coming up with ten insults about his nose to every one insult they have – and his are far more clever.  By the time he’s done, he’s completely shut them up.  (While I recommend reading the original play, or either of the terrific feature films of it, you can also have a great time with the easy-to-watch modernization of it, Roxanne, with Steve Martin).

So that might be worth a try.  Think of what it is that they usually make fun of, and try coming up with twenty insults about that aspect of yourself that are funnier, harsher, and smarter than any they could invent.  Then when they come at you with theirs, hit them with yours, and add in, “You really think you’re that smart?  Now, let’s start talking about you!”  And you might well find that they change the subject… and fast!

But then, about that biting!  Of course, as a dog, I’m going to give my natural suggestion – if they bite you, bite them back! But I can understand why you might not want to do that.  So one other thought might be, if there’s a place on you they tend to bite, to put something on it that tastes terrible!  Imagine what it’d be like to think you’re tricking someone by biting them, and getting a mouth full of really nasty medicine!  (And if you don’t think I know just what that experience is like, you don’t know us dogs!)

I hope these ideas help.  Let me know how they work.  And if you want to throw some specific insults my way, and see if I can come up with some ‘biting’ responses, just let me know!

All my best,


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