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How to defend : people insulting your skills in a particular area.

Recently had a situations where another person commented that I am bad at my skills at my job and sometimes even some hobbies.


How would you defend against such remarks if it comes from a person who has a higher skill and /or someone who is in the same level of skill?

I just normally say that "I guess I make X-skill look easy that even others think they might do better"




"The level of X-skill considered bad for me is considered good for you"


But I personally feel like these replies seem like I am defending my ego.

So how would you handle these situations? I am happy to know your thoughts.


Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

Yeah, you said it, it feels like you're defending your ego.

Just because of that, I would never recommend those if there is anyone around or in earshot.

On 1:1 you might go for it, just as if to say "fuck you" and to meet one-upping with one-upping.

To advise well though one should know the situation and how it was said.

Also, I'd ask myself if and how much truth in that statement there might be, as it even nasty feedback can be useful feedback.
In the short term, he might want to hurt you and bring you down.
But if you use that as fuel for self-development, you will become a much better person -and a much stronger competitor for him-.

Finally, here is an answer for you to consider:

Him: you're terrible at your job
You: that's rude man

Whatever he says, stand your ground and then you follow up with:

You: please don't use that tone with me again

And then:

You: Either talk to me politely, or if you're unable to engage in a civilized manner, don't talk to me at all

However, cutting people off, and especially people who might be above you in terms or skills or rank, comes at a cost.
But sometimes it can be a cost worth paying. Especially if you weren't going to learn anything from them.

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Matthew WhitewoodBel
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I think for a boss, one could use the "focus on results" frame and the surfacing technique.
This was in Power University on the module for handling people who correct you.

Boss: You're terrible at your job.

You: Tell me how I can do better.
(Or less strongly -> What do you think I can do better?)

Boss: (elaborates)

You: Thanks, let me think about the feedback.

In my opinion, this achieves 2 things:

  • You show that you are not taking this personally and are focused on results.
  • If the boss is being a dickhead and doesn't have "concrete feedback", he may stumble on the answer.
    But the skilled dickheads would have no problem making up one on the spot.
    At least, you move from the frame of "being bad at the job" to "what you can potentially do better?" from the subordinate position in the hierarchy.

If the person is not a direct authority but higher on the hierarchy, I may say something like

Boss: You're terrible at your job.

You: This could be a communication issue since we don't work with each other that often.
We can talk more one-to-one.

In public, this would set the context that he's not in a position to judge my work.
So people don't misinterpret that I'm producing subpar work.

A few years ago, my ex-boss used a covert "terrible at your career" power move in public before:

Boss: (talks about an industry)

You: Some of my friends are working in this industry.

Boss: Then, what happened to you? (condescending tone)

You: I came to work on your project.

I said this so he would be incentivised to make me look good.
Otherwise, people may think "if I was bad, why did he pick me on his team?".

Lucio Buffalmano, Andrew.Hanson and Bel have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoAndrew.HansonBel

Great post, Matthew.

And that last one, genius power move!

Value-adding, shames him for playing the game, shames him for trying to one-up his own team-member.

Assertiveness not

We don't have all the details, but this might be a case where assertiveness is not the best strategy.

If it's a boss and you start telling him "when you say X, I feel angry and saddened, please do more Y, and I'll get better and do better work", you likely piss him off and he thinks:

This guy is a softie, and he even dares to challenge my authority. I'm gonna get rid of him ASAP

And if it's an asshole, when you go with the "when you X, I feel", then he'll think, or even say:

Like I give a fuck how you feel, you're shit, and if you feel bad about it, you're a shit developer who can't even face reality

Matthew Whitewood and Bel have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodBel
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