Larsen’s Words that Work – with a Sniper

No, no. Not the snipers in spy movies. I’m talking about the person that gets you with a “dig” that isn’t really an insult.  In fact, could be the absolute truth, but it has insulting undertones.

As a motivational speaker there was a period in my career when I focused almost exclusively on how to communicate effectively.  And one of the questions I encountered frequently had to do with how to respond to this kind of person. Does any of this sound familiar?

  • “Wow, Linda, those are some interesting shoes.”
  • “Oh, let Carl take on that project. He doesn’t have any social life anyway.”
  • “Whoa! Look at your hair. Now THAT’S a LIVELY color, isn’t it?”

You hear something like that and aren’t sure what to say, right? You feel insulted, but don’t want to make a big deal out of it. Well, here’s the problem: Snipers do this because we let them do it. We don’t actually call them on their behavior. They hide behind an innocent face, zap you with a comment and then hide behind a smile that implies, “Who, me?”  And they will CONTINUE to do this until we let them know we won’t play.

Next time this happens, try these WORDS THAT WORK:

YOU: Relaxed, calm & smiling, “Hey Bob, I could have sworn I heard a dig in what you just said. Did you mean it that way?”

BOB:  “What? No! Can’t you take a joke?”

YOU: “Yup. I’m good with jokes. But I thought I heard a dig in what you said. Did you mean it that way?”

BOB: “You are too sensitive.”

YOU: Still calmly smiling, “No, I don’ think so.  I’m just pretty sure I heard a dig and what I want to know is, did you mean it that way?”

Odds are at this point he’ll walk away mumbling, “No! No!  Geez!”  And here’s the really cool part – you won’t have to do this too many more times before he will get the message that he cannot get away with his behavior.

Ahhhh. You just created a Sniper Free Zone!
Motivational speaker, Linda Larsen







Motivational Speaker Linda Larsen, CSP has been described by meeting planners and audiences as "hysterically funny," and "riveting." Known for her ability to connect on an authentic and emotional level with audiences, her spontaneous sense of humor, and her engaging and powerful stories, Linda is passionate about sharing ideas to help people live their finest, best, and most productive lives. Her riveting and true story of being kidnapped and held hostage at gunpoint by an escaped convict, and the strategies she used to escape, will give people the tools THEY need to rise above any of life's toughest challenges, to communicate more effectively with THEIR difficult person, and to find creative solutions to THEIR problems. To book motivational speaker, Linda Larsen: 941-927-4700

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  1. Very nice, Linda! I’ve been on the receiving end of a sniper and even as a motivational speaker, I don’t know how to respond. Have you found that once confronted like that, the sniper doesn’t lash back in a harsh way? I should have tried it on the person who said to me, “Ooh, I love your hair! I loved the 80’s!” !! And this was only 2 years ago :)

    • Well, MOST of the time they don’t lash back in a harsh way. They might get a little testy with the “What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?” line – but I advise that we just don’t bite. Just keep that curious pleasant little smile on your face and with NO DEFENSIVENESS whatsoever, reply, “Oh I love a good joke. But in this case I thought I heard a dig….etc”. YOU are taking the control of the interaction this way. And if they DO lash back, I guess you could always say something, “Wow, Bob. Seems like I hit a nerve here. If you say you meant nothing by it – then so it is. I’m off to lunch now…” But what you have done is say – in the MOST pleasant way possible, “I know what you are doing. YOU know what you are doing. And I will call you out on it every time you do it.”

  2. This is good stuff Linda! I have often found (though I think that your way is the better way) that nothing makes those snipers angrier than having their snub go unnoticed. So I pretend like I didn’t even hear it. Ignore it. Walk away. After a while they give up and go where their fire is fueled.

  3. This is really great advice Linda. I call these ‘back handed compliments.” For example, ‘I like your haircut, did you do it yourself?” Ouch! Thanks for the tips on how to handle the sniper!

  4. Great advice, Linda for all human beings on the planet and motivational speakers. It’s what I call speaking your truth.

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