- The stare-down (by looking directly at the attacker while she's in action, "you show her you know exactly what she's doing")
- The question "Can you run that by me again?" ("Usually, the little coward won't repeat the insult")
- The mirror (when a friend says "I don't think you like me anymore," respond with "Do you like me?")
Be wary of the person who fills you in on gossip that's circulating about you, supposedly as a favor: "Sometimes informants are snipers in disguise," Brinkman says. He suggests saying to the bearer of bad news, "Does so-and-so know you're telling me this? Let's go talk to her." If you discover that the bullet might have been fired by someone you've trusted, Brinkman advises you to be straightforward: "Did you say this about me?" If she answers your question with "Who told you that?" say, "That's not the question. Did you say it?" If the person denies it, just let it go and sweetly thank her for discussing it with you. You've done what you came to do: put her on notice. Brinkman says creating this kind of discomfort is the goal. If you do it every time the assailant moves in for an attack, she'll have to keep adjusting her stance—and that means she'll likely lower her weapon and begin searching for less problematic prey.
Verbal assaults are so hurtful because they make you feel helpless. They're random. You can't always decode your attacker's hostility. Someone could hit you next Tuesday or next year—you can't know. What you can know is that at the first sign of warfare, you'll be ready with your own bold plan of homeland defense.
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