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Snappy Responses to Snarky Put-downs

Do you know how to react when sideswiped with a snarky put-down?

  • Do you feel you have to justify yourself?
  • Or explain in detail why you said what you said?
  • Or do you become furious, and in so doing, lose your cool?
  • Or do you clam up, seethe inside and nurse your wounds?

If any of these scenarios are true for you, it’s time to take some lessons from Hillary Clinton. Why? Because her comebacks, during the debate, were teachable moments. Whenever Trump made a snarky remark, Clinton held her head up high, maintained her integrity and communicated what she believed was important.

Here are four examples:

  1. After Trump insulted her, Clinton stood strong, refusing to be wounded, weak or defensive. Instead, she went on the offense by stating what she believed to be important.”
    • “I don’t respond to Donald Trump and his string of insults against me. What I am concerned about is how he goes after everybody else. He goes after women. He goes after Muslims. He goes after immigrants. He goes after people with disabilities. He is undermining the values that we stand for.”
  2. After Trump criticized her for lacking the stamina to continue to campaign days before the debate, Clinton agreed with his statement but disagreed with the negative value judgment….effectively turning a criticism into a compliment.
    • “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes I did. You know what else I did? I prepared to be president.”
  3. Clinton turned Trump’s bragging comment around, using humor to accentuate her point.
    • “A few days ago, he said “I’m going to do for the country what I did for my business. So let’s take a look at what he has done. He’s written a lot of books about business—they all seem to end at Chapter 11.”
  4. When directly criticized, Clinton kept her cool, responding with a smile.
    • “Donald, I know you live in your own reality….Unlike some people, I do try to learn what’s at the core of any question before I offer an opinion because it’s not enough to say what’s wrong; I think you’ve got a responsibility to say how you’ll fix it.”

Hopefully, you can use some of Clinton’s strategies to help you keep your cool if someone tries to get under your skin. Now, here are four more strategies to help you strengthen your repertoire of responses.

  1. Ignore the content of the remark (what was said).
    • Respond, instead, to the process (what’s going on here).
      “You must be really uptight today. What’s going on for you?
  2. Call the person on their put-down rather than defending yourself.
    • “Perhaps you’re unaware of how critical you are and how hurtful your comment was.”
  3. Disagree with what was said…then say it as you see it.
    • “Clearly, you view what I did as wrong; let me tell you why I see it as perfectly acceptable…”
  4. Correct with a simple statement but no attack.
    “I see myself as “angry,” not “bitchy.”

Since you’re not running for high office, I hope you don’t have to constantly respond to snarky remarks. Still, on occasion, there will be some people who will revel in putting you down. Learning how to respond well to damaging digs is a skill that everybody needs to develop.


“Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to the U.S.
The immigration guys kick the star out of my stardom.”
— Shah Rukh Khan


  1. I hope you have recovered from your shock of the smartest person in the world, as well as the most qualified candidate to ever “seek” the office, losing in November of 2016. Cheer up, Linda. There is always 2020, 20 24, 2028 and 2032, and I am sure with all the bionics, and super meds that are coming down the pike, she’ll be a strong second in those elections, and for many many more to come.

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