From time to time, people can be very rude. Rudeness, it seems, comes out from the worst of people. It comes from the jerks, the bullies and even your so-called “friends”.

One of the major forms of being rude is the twistation of one’s words. In other words – no pun intended – we are talking about the insults used by people. Sometimes, using words in a rude way be just as bad as punching someone. Insults can vary from place to place, culture to culture and even in context.

How do insults come about?

Are others more at risk than others for receiving them or delivering them?

There are times when insults are carefully gift-wrapped and takes you days or even months to figure out. There are other times that it comes from a surprising place like a loved one who was just having a bad day.

A perfect example that comes to mind is school. Most of you reading this are either a student, professor or other member of an institution. Some of you have graduated from universities, colleges, highschools and many more.

Imagine you have graduated from your school with the highest record of accomplishment. Even if you didn’t, just imagine you did: you ranked top of your class. However, some mean person decided to make fun of you because the school wasn’t “prestigious enough”.

So much for being my friend….

I mean, you did the best you could. You worked your behind off to get to where you are today. You have a nice job, a nice car (maybe), a house (maybe) and this jerk thinks that they can demean all your success because the school wasn’t “good enough”. What baloney – not everyone graduates from school, and not every has the opportunities that you’ve received. Not everyone has a job even.

It seems that insults are a complex matter. The simplest kinds of insults are the least confusing because of the issue of clarity – small, concise and to the point it delivers a point that makes your jaw drop. But it’s the complicated ones – the ones dressed up like a compliment but are secretly demeaning you – that are the ones that are really hard to address.

A complicated one can refer to some guy looking at you walking down the street. He sees your shoes, points at them and says, “Nice shoes.” I mean, on one hand, it could be a literal compliment. On the other hand, could it be a sarcastic response?

The research shows that narcissistic individuals have a tendency to insult people. They do it to make themselves feel better. However, it can also come from people who just don’t like you. From time to time, people clash. Personalities clash. Weird vibes run rampant. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

Researchers Bendixen and Gabriel in Norway believed that insults fell into 7 categories.

[For the purposes of keeping this article PG, I will not post the actual slurs so take a look at the link if you can. If you cannot access it, send me a comment and I’ll send you an alternative link.]

  1. Promiscuous insults
    • Words intended to demean sexual and mating preferences.
  2. Body objectification insults
    • The sexual organs/genitalia/body parts of the individual.
  3. “Homosexual” insults
    • Trigger words that hurt people of the LGBTQIA+ community or words that are mean to ostracize individuals for their appearance.
  4. Unethical insults
    • Words intended to suggest that the person is committing unethical deeds or is born from unethical means.
  5. Stupid insults
    • Calling someone variations of the word “dumb”.
  6. Cowardly insults
    • Insisting that someone is afraid of something.
  7. Unattractive insults
    • Words intended to demean facial and body appearances.

Based on Bendixen and Gabriel’s research, women had a lower threshold for insults than men did. Furthermore, they indicated that the insults delivered by woman were seen as more harsh than men (even though they both said the same thing)!

The ramifications of why women are perceived differently from men is a slight mystery. It can only be assumed that sociocultural tangents such as intonation of speech, accent, and internalized views of gender inequality may be to blame slightly. Basically, we’re talking about implicit stereotyping and bias possibly.

  So what can you do if someone insults you?

Recognize that someone is fundamentally attacking you. Sure, an insult about your shirt is subpar to something like your sexuality, your body or sense of education so makes sure to let them know that it was rude to make a joke out of your identity.

If they are unable to respond to such comments, ask them to clarify. Let me repeat: ask them to clarify. It will be hard but asking for clarification will cause the person to awkwardly stand there as they scratch their head realizing that there is no witty response to be had.

This method has been tried and true by experts.


Bobby: “Ha! You’re such a stupid b*tch!”

Kathy: “Excuse me, what do you mean by that? Can you clarify?” / “Excuse me? What was that?” / “I don’t think I understand. Can you explain what you said to me?”

Bobby: “Um…it was a joke….?”

Kathy: “Yes, but can you clarify? I’d like to be in on the joke.”

Bobby: “Um…um…well…I don’t know. I thought it was funny but I don’t know how to explain it. / “UM I DON’T KNOW…LEAVE ME ALONE!”

So much for Bobby having the upper-hand….



Overall, I’d suggest that communication is key when dealing with rude types.

Avoid them if you can. If you cannot, talk. Let them know that they are being rude. Ask them to clarify what it is they said or why they said it. Hopefully enlightenment will come to them. If not, leave them behind in the dust. The world is a giant place and there are plenty of more people behind it. Be sure to cling onto the nicest people you can find and never let them go!


One thought on “The Psychology of Insults

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