Learning repartee made easy: How to counterattack correctly

Reading time 7 minutes
Learning repartee made easy: How to counterattack correctly

There's no question about it: insensitive remarks can be hurtful. Especially in professional life, you are not safe from them, be it among colleagues or when dealing with superiors. You've certainly had to deal with one or two "stupid sayings". Were you completely perplexed at that moment and only came up with a suitable answer hours later? Then you weren't quick-witted enough. The good news is that you can learn how to be quick-witted. In the following, we would like to show you how.

What is repartee anyway?

Quick-wittedness is the ability to counter quickly and appropriately in unpleasant situations or in response to inappropriate comments. But be careful not to confuse repartee with impudence or arrogance!

Replying to a hurtful remark with a line below the belt is clearly not meant to be. Rather, it comes down to humor and Charm on. The wind is taken out of the attacker's sails with wit and eloquence.

The biggest problem with quick-witted answers is that they often only occur to us hours later. We have therefore provided a few examples below Inspiration summarized that work in almost any professional situation:

  • If you say so, it will probably be true.
  • You have understood that correctly.
  • Which part of No was incomprehensible to you?
  • That is your subjective perception.
  • You will have to get used to that.
  • Do you feel better now that you've made that known?
  • You can claim a lot when the day is long.
  • Can you do it backwards?
  • I merely adapt to my conversation partner.

Of course, a free, spontaneous counter would be even more effective than a memorized spell. Nevertheless, these "standard counter spells" can be extremely helpful, especially in the early stages. So feel free to memorize a few of them!

The environment matters

Quick-wittedness is an advantage in both private and professional life. However, it is important to differentiate: Your colleagues may have a different tone than your friends. Even repartee with superiors has to be learned! Don't take the risk that your retort will have consequences under labor law.

In a professional context, tact is always required. If you have a distanced atmosphere, you should use the above examples as a guide. These are suitable in many situations and do not cross any personal boundaries.

If things are a little more relaxed at your company, the quick-witted sayings can also be more daring:

  • May I offer you the "bye"?
  • Do you also exist in amusing?
  • If I agree with you, we're both wrong!
  • Now that hits me as hard as Jell-O.
  • As an uninvolved person, what do you say about intellect?
  • Today is the day of empathy / of good manners / of politeness. Too bad you can not celebrate him.
repartee definition

Can you learn repartee?

Some people are simply born with quick-wittedness. They don't have to make a big effort, but can counter spontaneously. In doing so, they appear neither tense nor artificial. The latter is what makes true repartee.

However, do not despair if you are not naturally quick-witted. As mentioned at the beginning, it is a skill that can be trained. So the answer is yes, quick wit can be learned. To become more quick-witted, the following three factors are crucial:

  • Self-confidence
  • Humor
  • Argumentation skills

3 ways to more repartee

Let's take a detailed look at the individual factors:

That Quick-wittedness with a healthy self-confidence is almost self-explanatory. If you always want to please everyone, you can't react glibly.

  1. So the first step to becoming more quick-witted is: Strengthen your self-confidence. We will deal with this separately later.
  2. It's also part of being quick-witted not to take other people's sometimes very vacuous remarks too much to heart. There are statements that are so abstruse that you can only counter them with humor. Doggedness is out of place here: Laugh at yourself sometimes. In this way, you immediately appear more confident.
  3. The last decisive factor is the ability to argue. It is often possible to foresee the situations in which you might get a lot of silly remarks. Think about possible counter-sayings and counter-arguments in advance (see above).

You will find more inspiration for more repartee in the following Video.

6 steps to become quick-witted

It's not a nice feeling to just stare around, perplexed and dumbfounded, after an inappropriate remark. So that this doesn't happen to you so often in the future, we would like to give you six simple steps for more quick-wittedness:

1. strengthen your self-confidence

If you want to be quick-witted, you have to be confident. For this, you need self-confidence. Become aware of your strengths: Who are you? What positive qualities make you special? What successes can you already look back on in your life? If you can't think of enough, ask your family and friends for their opinion.

You certainly have no reason to be put off by stupid sayings. You are not dependent on the favor of people you do not like. That goes for work colleagues, too! You are strong and self-confident. You can counter if someone offends you.

2. be proactive

Stupid remarks don't always come spontaneously, especially in professional life. Often, you already know in advance which colleague or in which situation you can expect a remark. Watch out early on for signs that something is brewing. These can be, for example, certain gestures of your counterpart.

Sometimes you also intuitively sense that your counterpart has an inappropriate remark on the tip of his or her tongue. Some people also like to pick up on mishaps. For example, they tease you when you trip or spill coffee. By seeing the jokes coming in the respective situations, you can react more confidently and quick-wittedly.

3. expand your vocabulary and general knowledge

Your goal should be to counter with a witty, high-level approach that first silences your opponent. You can do this best if you have a large vocabulary and knowledge. A well-developed vocabulary is necessary in order to develop original counter-sayings. The best way to expand your vocabulary is to read a lot. It doesn't have to be highbrow literature, but please don't just pick up magazines.

That Reading expanded vocabularyis scientifically well proven. This is already evident in children!

A well-founded vocabulary is one aspect, but it is only through good general knowledge that your counters really get "substance". The more educated you are, the easier it is for you to counter various topics. You may even be able to expose your opponent if he proves with his quip that he has no idea about the respective subject - but you do.

4. do not put yourself under pressure

Learning repartee is a process. Don't put yourself under pressure if you find yourself "flabbergasted" again after a quip. It is perfectly human that the flight reflex is activated in a stressful situation. The more you now try to be convulsively quick-witted, the less you will succeed. Instead, try to stay relaxed and not think so much.

5. do not respond to provocations

When we are provoked, we either want to express our indignation or go on the counterattack. By doing so, however, you contribute to escalating the situation. In professional life, the latter is generally counterproductive. Therefore: Keep calm.

To be quick-witted, you could, for example, casually ask the provoking person whether he or she has come up with anything better or more original on the topic in question.

6. pay attention to your body language

Stand in front of the mirror and observe your Posture. The belly button pulls inward, the chest sticks out. Tighten your shoulders and lift your chin slightly so that you can look your reflection directly in the eyes. The upright posture makes you self-confident.

The best tactics for more repartee

The best way to learn repartee is to jump in at the proverbial deep end and practice countering again and again. There are several techniques for this:

The reverse tactic

Is someone embarrassing you among your colleagues? Then simply turn the tables. Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill provided a prominent example of the reversal tactic.

Lady Astor said to him, "If I were your wife, I would put poison in your coffee."
Churchill replied, "And if I were your man, I would drink it."

The consultation tactic

Ask an equally inappropriate question in response to an inappropriate remark.

Example: A colleague tells you that you gained a lot of weight during your vacation.
Your answer: "That's possible. Was the food that bad in your hotel?"

The compliment tactic

Put your conversation partner out of action with an ironic compliment.

Example: A colleague judges your presentation as boring.
Your answer: "Thank you for the extremely constructive input! It helps us enormously. May I make a note of your comment?"

The consent tactic

If someone criticizes you, just agree with him! In this way, the provocation comes to nothing.

Example: A colleague calls you too inexperienced for the job.
Your response, "With your years of expertise, if you doubt the HR department's judgment that much, then I must have been unfairly hired out of 100 applicants."

Tip: Practice these tactics with a trusted person in some sort of role-play before applying them on the job.

Conclusion: More repartee for your professional success

Becoming more quick-witted is possible for everyone. In addition to the tips and tactics already mentioned, our free business coach Workbook to effectively support you on your way to more quick-wittedness in your professional life. We will introduce you to ten practical tips from the field of business coaching that you can immediately implement in your everyday professional life.

Shine tomorrow with more quick-wittedness, sovereignty and self-confidence. Just enter your email address and we'll send you your Workbook within a few minutes.


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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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