3 Simple Steps for When Something that Someone Says Gets Under Your Skin

Today I’d like to explore a common issue readers email me about. An issue that have been quite painful for me too in the past.

This article is about how to handle criticism or verbal attacks.

Or more specifically, what to do when something someone says really gets under your skin and hurts you.

And how to replace destructive thought habits with more positive habits and through that make this a much smaller issue.

Step 1: Let it out.

The first thing I often do after I notice that something did actually get under my skin is to talk it over with someone close to me.

By just letting it out and venting you can release a lot of inner tension and the two of you can find a more helpful and healthier perspective on what has gotten under your skin.

Step 2: Ask yourself: is the person having a bad day or year?

When my self-esteem was lower than it is today then I used to think that pretty much all the negative things people said to me was in some way my fault.

However, that is often not the case. People can verbally attack you or nag or criticize harshly because they may have had an awful day or week. Or simply because they do not like their lives very much at all.

So don’t think this is all about you. There are two of you in this situation.

Step 3: Ask yourself: could there be something here that could help me?

This question is not always fun to ask yourself. And it doesn’t always lead anywhere at all. But after you have calmed down by using the steps above it can be helpful.

Especially if this is the fifth or tenth time you have heard the same thing from people. Then there might be something here you would like to work on.

So at least take a minute or two to think about it.

Bonus-step: Learn how to improve and keep your self-esteem steady.

I have improved my own self-esteem a lot and teaching people to do that for themselves is something that is very close to my heart.

Because I know how it is to have low self-esteem and how limited and unhappy life can become. And I know the difference that having a mental self-esteem toolbox and healthier thought habits makes.

Less stuff gets under your skin for example. It bounces off of you. It does not drag you down and ruin your day or week.

Improving your self-esteem takes time and energy but making the effort is one of the smartest and most happinessboosting things you can do.

Two simple things you can do to start improving your self-esteem this week are:

  • When you stumble, be your own best friend. Instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself: How would my friend/parent support me and help me in this situation? Then do things and talk to yourself like he or she would.
  • Be kind towards the people in your life. Help out. Listen. Give a genuine compliment. Encourage and motivate. The way you treat other people is how they will most often treat you too in the long run. And when you are kinder towards others then you tend to treat and think of yourself in a kinder way too.


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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Marilyn

    Well said! It really hurts sometimes,especially if you are feeling a little down or maybe just having a bad day yourself. Your advice really hits the spot. I also learnedfrom Raquels’ cmment, very wise. Thank you for sharing yourself with so many!

  • nancy

    Hi Henrik,i really appreciate you writings and i found them very interesting ann helpful.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Henrik,i really appreciate your writings and i found them very interesting and helpful.

  • You know man, I like it when people try and get under my skin.


    They see me as a threat. They are intimidated by me. They think I’m better than them. I take people talking shit as a compliment.

    Of course, if they keep doing this, I knock them out.

  • Fani Bhusan Das

    Thank you for the valuable advice given in your above article.

  • Susan

    I always look forward to your post, you have such practical advise for everyday problems. So many times I find myself reacting to something someone has said to me and not waiting to really understand it, it helps so much to know some practical steps to help sort it out. Recently I had a person say something to me, that at first just hurt my feelings, and after a few days passed I was able to finally put it in perspective. Your post helped me do that.


  • I actually seen this many times. People tend to accuse us of things they would do if they were wearing our shoes. I learned to question this anytime I really didn’t understand why I was accused of somethig bad I wouldn’t even though about, and the outburst used to leave me absolutely speachless.

  • Dejene

    Hi Henrik.
    A very useful idea,I exercises during my leadership time.
    Thank you.

  • I used to let people get to me, but very few do now. I think the people closest to us are the ones we let get under our skin the most. Why is that?

  • James

    Thank you for the great advice! I always take time to read your emails and posts because I always seem to learn something new from them – and I appreciate your sincerity and honesty.

    when my self esteem was lower [it’s improving ;)] I felt “fearful” most of the time – about my job, upcoming challenges in life, etc, etc. When someone said something that “hurt” me, it was usually because I was in a fearful, defensive state of mind. I was able to fix this by saying a simple phrase to myself – “I can’t help you until you stop being afraid.”

    It might sound like a strange phrase, but to me it means a couple things. First, I can’t help myself & deal with this situation rationally until I stop feeling vulnerable (afraid), because emotions can overpower good judgment. Second, it reminded me that to move my life in towards what I wanted (big picture), I had to eliminate my fear-based thinking.

    Everyone will find what works best for them and reading posts like yours eventually led me to find what has been working for me – and perhaps my “strange” phrase may resonate with someone else so I wanted to post it here for your readers.

    Anyway, thanks again for the great advice- and I’ll looking forward to your next post!


  • Gorishankar

    am new to this site but found it so helpful, got myself subscribed immediately. just wanted to understand how to overcome your deep rooted problems – like your education level. if someone has not done proper studies and his educational bas is very weak. how to cope with this problem, no matter what motivational quotes he is reading but at the end of the day if base is not strong nothing works :(
    is there any way i can overcome this problem

    • Hi Gorishankar,

      In my opinion, lack of Education is not a problem. The question is what do you want to achieve in life? Do you have any passion that you have always ignored considering the education is the only vehicle for success. Do ponder over this and you’ll find the answer.

  • Hi Henrik,

    Reading the post first time and must say that it is quite thought provoking and the tips are very helpful. Positive attitude always kills the negativity and makes life more meaningful.

  • Hi Gorishankar,

    I have a Masters degree and many with me and we also recognize these things, so don’t worry about your educational level,


  • Mike

    Thanks Henrick! Glad I found your blog.