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We’ve all had exchanges where we came up with the perfect reply — ten minutes too late. Write down one of those, but this time, make sure to sign off with your grand slam (unused) zinger.

There are so many times I’ve wanted to reply with a zinger, and I haven’t. I’ll think of something, but not say it, or I’ll think of 10 things later that I could have said.

Can I think of any of those now? No, and it’s not my age! I hate confrontation and angry verbal arguments and used to avoid them at all cost. But there was a cost — to myself. I had to learn to express myself. I didn’t have enough self-confidence, but eventually I knew I was unhappy and had to do something about it. I did, and now I am much better able to respond when I’m ticked off. Often I use humor, or a generic reply like “You’re not in a very good mood today, are you?” and sometimes that hits the nail on the head.

Many times I’ve thought obsessively about things I could have said when someone makes me mad or hurts my feelings. But when I do that, it probably means I’m holding on to anger, or becoming resentful. Since I hate arguments, and I’m not good with come-backs, I now try to cool down, quit obsessing, and then return to the person and say something like: “You know, you hurt my feelings when you said…” or “I understand what you saying, but I can’t agree with it…” or “I’m sorry you don’t like such-n-such, but it’s important to me.” It’s often true that the other person may not realize they’ve upset you. They may view their comment as simply truthful, or direct — while you interpret it as being mean or critical or uncaring. It’s best to address it so the other person realizes why you’re upset.

Zingers show that someone is clever and quick-witted, but they may not promote effective communication. If someone yells at you in traffic, or lets a door slam in your face, a zinger might be appropriate, but not in a conversation with your spouse or child. I think zingers imply putting someone down.

I’ll restate an old verse: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but it’s really your words that hurt me.”

 

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