How To Humiliate Someone

Humiliation is when someone’s social identity or status has been lowered or removed. The key to humiliation is setting up situations where the person is unable to demonstrate that they have a characteristic they value. This typically happens through intimidation, mistreatment, trickery, or embarrassment. Humiliation has 4 ingredients that control how intense the humiliation is.

Ingredient 1 is the status claim. The person directly or indirectly claims to have a certain status. For example they might claim to be a caring teacher or a hard worker.

Ingredient 2 is a failure to claim that status publicly. This usually involves an event where they could prove their status or worth to the group but they come up short. For example a hard worker might not be able to finish a task in front of a group of people. A caring teacher might be seen scolding or yelling at students.

Ingredient 3 is that the person who does or facilitates the degrading must have status. Just like an appeal to authority is legitimate or illegitimate based on the person’s relevant skills and experience, the ability to degrade and humiliate is dependent on the person’s status characteristics. For example, a quack could be insulted by a regular person and a doctor. The doctor’s insult would carry more weight since they have more status and experience in the medical field. A family member humiliating someone might be more painful than a random person because the family member knows the individual better.

Ingredient 4 is the method of rejection. How the rejection to the status claim happens also contributes to how humiliating a situation is. Take for example a college rejecting an applicant. If the rejection letter says “we received hundreds of application, many from qualified applicants such as yourself,” it is a ‘softer’ humiliation. In contrast a rejection letter that says “we receive many highly qualified applications and are unsure why you thought you would ever have a chance of getting in,” would be more harsh and humiliating.

Techniques

  • Public punishments of the past like tarring and feathering were used to mark shame. Visual symbols are used to separate or mark the person in a negative way.
  • Insulting comments, names, or brands.
  • Telling embarrassing stories or bringing up topics where a person regrets their actions.
  • Threats or creating fear through intimidating actions.
  • Misrepresenting their statements to look bad socially. See character assassination techniques.
  • Catching someone in the act of doing something embarrassing.
  • Mockery through tone, facial expressions, exaggerating the person’s behavior, or

How To Respond When Someone Tries To Humiliate You

One way to respond to a humiliation attempt is to brush it off like nothing happened. Since humiliation in part relies on you getting embarrassed, if you can play off the station like it isn’t a big deal, the humiliation will have less effect. Simply go about your day as if nothing happened. If you have a hard time doing this, try meditating and exercising as both can positively effect how your brain reacts to stress and fear.

Another way to respond to humiliation is to make a joke of it. Similar to the ignore it response, making a joke of it reduces the effectiveness of humiliation by showing that it doesn’t bother you and that you don’t take yourself too seriously. This is an extremely effective strategy if you already have social power since it can keep you seeming down to earth.

Next you could use the humiliation to get people on your side. Depending on your strategy, being humiliated might help you win in the long run. We don’t recommend this approach, but there could be some infrequent situations where people pitying you might actually help your cause if it fits into a larger strategic plan for power.

Finally you can fight back. Fighting back probably should be used when the humiliation happens frequently. You can fight back through insults or domination attempts. See our articles on both topics for more.

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