Have you ever had this nightmare where you’re in Sweden and you’re up on a stage wearing a white minidress and this guy in the audience yells to lift your shirt?
Me too! I have that nightmare all the time!
Or maybe you’ve been publicly humiliated in real life. Is there a way to keep from just melting to the floor or running away crying? Why, yes there is. Through the power of rhetoric, you can come out looking stronger than ever, while making everybody love you.
Here’s the secret: Manage your anger. I don’t mean just stay calm and think of kittens. I mean manage your anger.
Amy Schumer is clearly angry. But she channels that anger in a powerful direction, setting up a dialogue with the jerk. But is she trying to persuade the guy not to be a jerk? No. She’s persuading the audience that she’s the better person. Instead of losing her cool, she gets all ironical. "I already miss him!" she says as he's escorted out of the venue.
God, I love Amy Schumer. But not all of us can be Amy Schumer. I for one can’t come up with a great line under pressure.So let’s look at another master at dealing with a heckler. Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden recently lost his own son. He talks directly to the guy in the audience. And then he invites a private conversation. Who is he trying to persuade at that moment? Not the guy. The audience. Biden appears as the most reasonable person in the room.
So what can you learn from these two masters of rhetoric?
1. Control your anger.
When you’re being bullied in front of other people, control your anger. Don’t let it control you.
2. Be the better person.
Don’t try to talk the bully out of being a bully. And definitely don’t try to fight him. Instead, work on convincing the onlookers that you’re the grownup in the room. If you’re as funny as Amy Schumer, well, you’re a better comedian than I am.
3. Remove the threat.
Donald Trump does this. Pretty crudely. Amy Schumer does it more democratically. She invited the audience to vote on whether to kick the heckler out. Joe Biden does it best of all. Say you’re willing to talk in private. If the bully refuses, say, “Well, I guess you need an audience more than I do.”
And then walk away.
Here's the video I did on this topic. Be warned: It contains some language some people may not find suitable for children.