Cool Comebacks – Introduction

One of the best ways to recover from childhood bullying is to disarm and charm difficult people in your adult life.  I accidentally discovered these skills as a teen.  Years later I became a counselor and led groups for teens.  The favorite topic was everyday insults that were inescapable.  I began to codify a set of strategies to melt meanness and in 1995 published a children’s book:  How to Handle Bullies, Teasers, and Other Meanies (Rainbow Books, Inc.).

As I continued to counsel, I found that adults needed these skills as much as young people in dealing with spouses, in-laws, co-workers, and their very own children. John Wiley & Sons published my second book, Making Hostile Words Harmless, in 2008.  Gradually, I began to realize that it is not enough to know how to deal with the bully on the street because we all have bullies in our very own brains.  John Wiley & Sons published a third book, also in 2008, Empowering Dialogues Within that explains a method for turning inner discord into dialogue.  My approach to counseling is unique because it is “bully based.” I have been in practice in central Florida since 1973.

I’ve given many presentations that fall under the title “Dealing with People Who Are a Pain and the Bullies in Your Brain.”  I think this website and a blog is the perfect venue for sharing our challenges and successes with the verbal arts.  To begin, I offer the DON’Ts and Dos of Cool Comebacks:

Don’t:  Attack back, defend yourself, withdraw (ignore remarks), or use “I-messages.”

The common advice to disregard name calling does not work.  Bullies are determined to provoke a reaction. Ignoring them, just makes them more persistent.  Being assertive is also commonly recommended, but bullies take statements like, “I don’t like it when you talk like that,” or “I want you to stop,” as a dare to do more.  In fact, instead of making I-statements, cool comebacks place the spotlight on the other person with the word, you.

Do: Act as if it’s all good, Ask questions, Actively listen, and make Hidden suggestions.

These responses spell the acronym AAAH, which breathes light and life into cruel moments.

More specifically these responses include:


  • Acting as if it’s all good—admit, agree, compliment, show gratitude (Thank you for…)
  • Asking questions—curious questions, hidden questions (I wonder why…)
  • Active listening—rephrase (Are you saying…), name feelings or behavior (blaming, accusations, threats, etc.), sympathize, validate (It makes sense that you…)
  • Hidden suggestions—truism (You can…), false choice (Do you want to … or …), Underlying assumptions (When will you be able to…), reverse psychology (It’s good for  you to keep… because….), power words (try, dare, but), random responses

You are invited to send in:

  1. Cruel comments that have hurt you or your child. You are promised to receive a Cool Comeback with an explanation of what makes it disarming.  Remember, bullies can be bosses, spouses, in-laws, parents, “friends,” and even your own children.
  2. Disarming responses you have made in the face of cruelty and how suggestions from this blog have worked for you.  You will receive feedback on what you did that worked.
  3. Messages you hear from inner bullies like, I’m disgusting, People don’t like me, People want to hurt me, I’m not as good as…, and so on.  You will be given suggestions on how to dialogue with these “voices.”
  4. Questions about disarming responses.

Be sure to include the ages of participants, a brief description of the setting, and actual remarks that were made.  Cool Comebacks can be some of the most empowering moments in your life.  We’ll start with one of my stories as an example of what you can send.


I remember a car ride when I was in my late 30s with my father and my husband. It had been more than 20 years since I lived in the town where I grew up, but I came home to visit twice a year. My father asked me if I knew the origin of the name of the street on which we were driving—Glebe Road. He was quite the history buff. I said, “I don’t know,” and then looked forward to what I thought would be interesting trivia. Instead I got blasted:

Dad: I can’t believe you lived here all your life and you never learned how this street got its name!
What is wrong with you…How could you be so stupid.

Me: Well Dad, are you disappointed in me or my education?

Dad: (total silence)

Thirty-five years of being yelled at for girlish giggling, coming home 5 minutes late, talking on the phone too long, and other trifling matters were reversed that day. In a ten-word sentence I named what he was feeling (disappointed) and gave him a multiple choice question (me or my education) that poised him to look at himself. My father had never been at a loss for words. I knew there had been a seismic power shift. He later told me that Glebe meant “old church road,” but I had gained far more by not knowing the answer and learning that I could turn my “ignorance” into an advantage. So that’s an example, now your turn. Send your cruel comments to me at and I will put them up with my responses for you and the rest of our community to see and learn from.

For more information, please check out my books listed on this site:  HOW TO HANDLE BULLIES TEASERS AND OTHER MEANIES; MAKING HOSTILE WORDS HARMLESS, and EMPOWERING DIALOGUES WITHIN (for the bullies in your brain).

~ Kate Cohen-Posey, MS LMHC LMFT

Remember to send Your “Cruel Comments” to me at
and I will post them here with my “Cool Comebacks”!

5 thoughts on “Cool Comebacks – Introduction

  1. I am Larry Rankin. I lived in Cuba during my primary school years. I attended a private school. Prior to the direct bullying experience I realized that I looked different than most Cuban children. I was blond blue eyed, with light skin. Cuba has a rich color diverisity, though not racist in the institutionalized way as in the United States, there seemed to be a deisire to be lighter skinned and light haired. I discovered that from the mothers who brought their children to birthday parties. They stroked my hear, without asking me permission. Some of them wanted to kiss me and reached down. I took it, reluctantly as an intrussion to my space.

    However, on the playground it was a diferent story. I was 7 or 8 years old. Some of the boys decided that because of my light skin and hair, I was acting like a girl. They taunted me, and sometimes pushed me. I told my parents, who encouraged me to stand my ground. So did the prinicple. The final confrontation came when i did stand my ground,and punched the lead bully in the nose. We were all brought into the principles office and were given a lecture of fighting. When the other boys left, i was given a smile and pat on the back without a word said, suggesting, that I did stand my ground.

    The taunting was promptly over at the point I punch the bully in the nose.

    I am not suggesting that this is the way to deal with bullying by the victim, yet perhaps this is the only way it would have worked in Cuba. Cuban culture is macho, and in the past mysoginist. The Revolution may have changed much of that. But then, 1957-8, boys were pressured to defend their honor and manhood, even at a young age. They also were encouraged to become sexually active at a young age, at 12-13. Often their fathers would take them to their favoriate mistress who would teach them the “ways with women.” Boys were pressured to talk about sex and conwquests (even when they didn’t have any) all the time, and if there was any slacking from this behavior they were taunted as “fairies” or “homos.” Homophobia and mysogeny were prevalent.

  2. Hi Larry,
    Thanks so much for your comment to my introductory post. To see my response, go to the homepage and press the COOL COMEBACKS link at the top of the page. Apparently, if you post to my gmail ( I can get the proper sequence to the posts.

  3. Hi Kate,
    When I was young, a can think of two people who said “God, you’re so ugly!” It had nothing to do with my personality; it was their bullying of my appearance. What would be a cool comeback? I said, “Look in the mirror” and “You’re so rude”. Nothing else happened, but as an adult, I would not be able to say these things. As silly as it sounds, I live in emotional fear of someone saying this again. What is the cool comeback in case it happens?

  4. Hi Lia, Good to hear from you and not surprising that you have a fear that the incident good be repeated since you would no longer want to perpetuate the attack-attack pattern. There are several possible responses to “God you’re so ugly!”
    Admire: Thank goodness you’re not (ugly).
    Ask a question: “Are you trying to upset me?” or, “I wonder why you would want
    to upset me.”
    Active listening (name a feeling): :You seem mighty disgusted and you didn’t
    even see me before I brushed my hair.”
    Hint: When you feel good about yourself, you won’t need to pass out
    random insults.

    All these responses are a part of the AAAH formula that breathe calm into cruel moments.

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