Episode #3 - What to do when others are mocking the way you speak?

If you are an immigrant others have most likely mocked your accent. 

For most of us it’s a very upsetting experience.

 We can’t just shrug it off. We try to but we often end up:

– thinking that there is something wrong with us 

– beating ourselves up for not being able to stand up for ourselves

– feeling really upset with whomever mocked us but not expressing it to them, ever.

– becoming even more shy around others. 

– feeling like we don’t belong and others don’t understand our struggle. 

In this podcast you will learn:

– Why are we so bothered by others mocking our accents?

– Why others might be mocking you?

– How to address it in a calm way. 


Listen up and after download your free guide. 

If you found this helpful but would like to gain even more clarity, schedule a free consultation with me.  

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

 

Hi there, this is Ewelina, Life Coach for Immigrants and today we are going to talk about something super important. If you are an immigrant you can most likely speak at least 2 languages. Communicating fluently in English is a gradual process, we all know this, a process that takes a lot of practice and a lot of time to hone, right? Now, it’s bound to happen that some people find your way of speaking funny. They might laugh at you, they might mock you. For so many of us this really  hurts. We take it personally. Today I want to invite you to explore this with me. 

I will tell you a bit about me and my accent and how people’s responses to it influenced me. What I thought, what I felt as a result of my thinking and what I did from that feeling. I will give you an example of a possible response. So when someone is mocking you, you have a very specific way of handling it. I will literally tell you step by step what to say and how to say it and how to behave, so that you have a possible, you know guideline here to follow. But obviously you will take it and run with it, you will do whatever you wanna do with that response but at least you will have something and I know that for me when I was first in the States here that would have been priceless so I really hope that this will help some of you out there. But today we will also talk about why is it bothers us so much when someone is mocking our accent? What do we make it mean about ourselves?  And what does all of that mean about people who are mocking you.  

So first of all let’s talk just for a moment about my experience with this, because you know, if people didn’t mock me I probably would not be recording on this topic. So, yes people have mocked me they still do. And I have to be honest with you. For a very very long time this was really tough and I didn’t know how to handle this, how to stand up for myself in those kinds of situations. Basically I would just act like a coward. I would pretend like it’s not bothering me but it really was. It was very frustrating on so many fronts. First of all I felt like I was betraying myself because  I was pretending that it doesn’t bother me, you know. And then I would get really angry at myself and at people mocking me, yet I was doing nothing to stop it, because I didn’t know how to handle it. And here is the caveat to it all, this is the funny thing. Some people would actually ask me: “Does it bother you?” because they would probably feel that it does, and I would still lie to them and I would say: “No that’s okay.” Why? Probably because I did not want  to hurt their feelings, but maybe also because I didn’t take my time to really explore it within myself and to see why is this really bothering me so I was pretending that it doesn’t because I was pretending that I have it handled even though I don’t, you know it’s one of those things, where it’s like you are pretending to be tough even though you don’t feel tough, because you feel like if you are not handling this situation from this place like: “I’m in control” than that means something really bad about you. Like you are always supposed to be in control right? Some of us have this and I definitely do too. 

So, there are some of you out there that will say: “If someone is mocking your accent, just don’t care! It doesn’t matter what they think! Just shrug it off!” For some of you out there this advice will work. Why? Because you have a very solid sense of who you are and the opinions of other people will not change that. But then there is also some of you who like me back then… feel insecure and afraid to stand up for yourself. This is normal, especially if you are an immigrant. It’s normal if that happens to you because you are a human being, I mean we can feel insecure it is okay, perfectly fine. Now, if you are an immigrant you have additional reasons, right? 

First of all you are in a country you were not born in. Of course you do not feel as secure as if you were where you’ve come from. Second of all, if you were to stand up for yourself, you would have to do it in a second language, and come up with a quick witty answer in a second language – we who speak a second language all know that this is in itself is not as easy as it sounds. You have to have a certain level of fluency, you have to feel comfortable within the language. In a very beginning standing up for yourself and saying something witty really quick it’s almost like an impossible thing to do, because you are translating in your head what other people are saying. You are thinking in your own language before you speak, right? So all of that takes time and being witty and quick it’s like impossible.

Now another reason why we might not be standing up for ourselves in this kind of a situation when someone is mocking us is that we simply feel insecure it’s because we do not have  beliefs that are supporting a strong position in that situation. Like we don’t believe, I belong here, with my accent and everything else.

We don’t think: My accent does not mean anything bad. My accent is great. I love speaking with my accent. It’s a sign of my intelligence. My accent proves that I come from a wonderful country, and I’m proud of that. Most of you out there who feel insecure don’t have these thoughts, right? Because these thoughts would not create insecurity. These thoughts would create acceptance, they would create a feeling of empowerment.  When you are thinking to yourself: I’m not from here. I don’t really belong here. I’m speaking funny.  I’m afraid to speak back because I don’t know what to say and I feel stupid. And what’s the point of speaking back. I don’t even know what to say back. I probably wouldn’t say anything right and they would make me feel even more stupid. Whatever it is that I would say back to them wouldn’t be as smart as what they have said or they would say something even more witty back at me and I would feel even more stupid, so what’s the point of even responding, so we step back right? We hide instead. 

That kind of thinking will cause us to feel insecure. It will cause us to feel afraid. This is why we want to hide and pretend like it does not bother us that someone is laughing at how we speak.  

We just want to pretend like this is not a problem that they are mocking us. It’s like: “Let’s change the subject basically is what we are trying to do” and like: “Let’s pretend that this is not an issue.” When if fact it actually really is, to us later on right?

So, let’s say that you are hanging out with several friends and one of them jokingly responds pretending to be you. With me it would mean that they are rolling the RRRs or trying to and just shifting the accent slightly so they sound like they are from Eastern Europe. Hehe, see I’m laughing at myself because my accent makes me laugh. It’s a good thing. 

But here is the truth, when someone… when one of my friends would be joking like this with me and would be pretending to speak like me, in the beginning when they did that it would just hurt. Like a lot. And  I really  didn’t know what to do. What I would end up doing is:

I would laugh. I would pretend like: “Oh it’s no big deal”  because everybody is laughing and I would do exactly the same thing. I would just pretend it doesn’t bother me, I really did.  So why did it bother me so much? Because I would think to myself: They are laughing at me. They are mocking how I speak. I would then feel insecure, I would feel hurt, disappointed in them, angry sometimes.  Depending on my mood, depending on who is mocking me, overall situation. And because I was feeling insecure and didn’t know what to do I wouldn’t say anything. I would not stand up for myself. I would just hide, right? I would just pretend that I was okay. But I really wasn’t. And you know what? That is probably the worst thing about it all. Is that in those kind of situations, if it’s friends and a friend that truly loves you and cares for you, they can feel that there is something off in this situation that you are actually bothered by it and they will ask you: “Does this bother you?” and you say: “No, no it’s fine.” it’s like you are slapping yourself in a face. So first it feels like someone is attacking you and slapping you in one cheek and then you slap yourself with your own hand in the other cheek, when you are pretending that this is no big deal: “Oh yeah let’s just pretend that everything is fine.” And by the way, that betrayal of your own feelings that feels worse actually in a long run, than other people mocking you. That feels way worst. This is why it is so important that we figure out how we can support ourselves my dear friends. But here is a truth. Where it comes to all of this, mocking me by friends or some strangers… as I gained some self confidence, you know what I would do? I would speak back to them in Polish Language.  And this was often enough to make someone reconsider their behavior. They would be dumbfounded, really confused, saying back to me… I don’t understand what you are saying. In like, with this kind of like anger, like it’s my fault that they don’t understand, but then I would say back:  “Yeah, I know. Exactly.” and then I would change the subject. And this was my passive aggressive way of saying: “You are mocking me, but look. I speak another language. I’m smarter than you.” So in this situation my ego was tickled I got to admit this to you. You kind of feel like you are better than this other person, right? But deep inside you actually feel yucky and why? Because the person I spoke to felt bad, and I could sense that. It’s not in our nature to attack other people. We human beings are born with a spark of unconditional love within every cell of our body. Producing disharmony does not feel good to our souls. Now egos, our egos might be tickled a little bit but our souls feel discomfort and disconnect. And, you know what?  I know all too well what it feels like to be on the other side of that conversation. I really know what it feels like when someone is pointing out to me my shortcomings. It hurts, right? So today I see this  responding by speaking in my native tongue as the last resort. I think there is a better way and I’m gonna share it with you right now my dear. 

What might be better to do when someone is mocking the way you speak? 

How do you respond? Now, notice I didn’t say react. I said respond. This is important. 

Reaction would be determined by the energy of the person mocking you. Response is decided ahead of time. Response comes when you know why you reply in a specific way. Response comes from a place of deep inner security. We respond when we know where we stand and why. And knowing it allows us to be calm and not be influenced by the energy the other person brings to the conversation, okay? 

So now I’m going to share with you a response  that I came up with. And this is just an example, if you have a better one, please send it over to me. I wanna start a conversation about this. Because I know that there is many, many people struggling with this. Many of my clients that I’ve worked with have had this issue, and we have been figuring it out, working around it so I know that immigrant communities struggle with this. This is nothing, nothing new under the sun. I’m not that special. So if you have a good response I want to hear it. Please send it to me . Send it to coach@lifecoachforimmigrants.com. It’s an email address: coach@lifecoachforimmigrants.com I will make sure to include my email address in the description of this show so if you have a good response please send it over but now I’m gonna tell you the one I think is good to say when someone is mocking your accent. 

So first of all and this is very very important. When they are mocking you, when they are saying something you know like, when they are pretending to be speaking like you, pretending to be speaking with your accent…

You ask them and you ask them, this is very important. You ask them from a place of curiosity, not from a place of attack. Okay? You’ve got to be curious in it. That’s got to be the energy underneath it. Did you just mock me? Why? That’s what you say. I will say it again.

Did you just mock me? Why? Did you just mock me? Why? Did you just mock me? Why?

And they might say: Yeah I guess I did. Did that bother you? I’m sorry!
And you can say back: Yeah it actually did. Can you please not do that? 

And they most likely will say: Of course. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. 

Now this is definitely going to happen if the conversation is between you and another person who has good level of self awareness, they care about you, they really don’t mean to be attacking you in this situation, it’s more like this friend like situation, right? This joking way, where they really don’t have bad intentions. But that doesn’t always happen sometimes it’s a very different situation where someone is intentionally trying to hurt you. And we are going to explore that situation as well. But it starts exactly the same way. So if someone is laughing at the way you speak your response starts with: Did you just mock me? Why?

RIght? You throw the tennis ball right at them. You are like: “OK, you are mocking me, why are you mocking me?” We are not pretending that this is not happening we go right into it, and we ask them straight up: “Why are you mocking me?” Now, it could be and this happened with me, that someone will say back to you: “Because you speak funny.”

RIght? Like, yeah of course I’m mocking you because you speak funny, that’s a stupid question! Why else would I be mocking you! Right? That’s underneath that answer. 

So they are mocking you, you say to them: Are you mocking me? Why? And they might respond: Because you speak funny! And to this you could say: Yeah I guess I do… he? Well, let me explain something, real quick. For every word you know in English, I know another one in my native language.  So the reason why I speak with an accent is because I know how to say everything you are saying but in Polish. So for example: Coś ci wyjaśnię, Kazde slowo ktore ty wymawiasz po angielsku ja znam w moim języku. Mam akcent bo potrafie powiedziec wszystko to co ty teraz powiedziałeś ale po polsku. Rozumiesz? Did you understand?

And then  99% of them will say: NO! I don’t know what you are saying. And then you can say: Yeah. I just said exactly the same thing but in Polish. This is why I have an accent.

And again if they are really into it, like they are really are doing this to hurt you and maybe to show off at front of their friends, and they are really  aggressive, right? You could keep on diffusing the whole situation. Because really what’s happening is they are coming from this place of attack and you are diffusing. You are like: I’m not interested in fighting here. I don’t wanna fight. This is not worth it. So if they continue on attacking you this is what you could say: 

You know what? I can’t tell you what to do. You can laugh all you want. I love my accent. My accent to me means connection to a culture that I really love. And speaking a second language, even if not perfectly, is basically proof of my intelligence. So you can mock it all day long, I don’t care. Now, 99% of the time it will never get to that place, right? Because the person you are speaking with will realize what they are doing, especially if you start speaking in your native tongue.Like they will recognize that there is something really off here, like they don’t have much of a ground to stand on.  But on top of it, if later on they continue on and you tell them that they can in fact keep on mocking you and it doesn’t really bother you at all, they can keep on doing it. That  disempowers them again,  because if they continue  on mocking you  they are doing that for sure to hurt you. But when you are telling them keep on going, right.. You are basically telling them that their attempts are failing. And this is a level of conversation that you would have like with a child or with a teenager, like that is the level of conversation. If you have this kind of conversation with an adult human being, eh, it can happen but you know… it’s you know… yeah… yeah… not really good. But sometimes it can happen. I do realize that there is all different kinds of people out there, with all different kinds of levels of understanding of the world and development and it could be that you can have this kind of conversation even with an adult. 

So I gave you a very specific way of responding and i strongly suggest that you either come up with a way of responding for yourself so that you have something you say back or if you would like to have the one that I have just given you, go to the description of the show. I will give you a link to my website, where I have a page dedicated to this specific podcast and right on that page you can download a guide that I made for you that goes along with this whole episode. Because I love you my friends, I love you and I want for you not to struggle like I struggled with this. 

I really wish I had a way of standing up for myself and understanding what it was all about, you know… from the very beginning. I wish that I understood how to handle this seventeen years ago when I came. I didn’t know this will be a problem. I had no idea. I’ve never been an immigrant before and figuring all of this out is definitely a process right? It takes time right? But how many of you out there, never took the time to figure it out. Like I didn’t? For some many years. And I believe that, you know, it is important that we get that straight, so I also have for you in that guide, many good questions to ask yourself so that you get that story very clear in your mind. What does your accent really mean to you? What do you wanna think about it? You know, what is it that you are thinning about it now? And what do you want to think about it on purpose. So make sure to go to my website and make sure to download, and sit down, take the time to answer these questions, this is very, very, very important… it will be helpful. 

Now if you like the response that I have just given you, then I suggest that you practice that response. You can maybe re-write it and make it sound like your own words, but when you do have that figured out practice it. Practice it. Be ready for this conversation if it ever, ever happens to you, be ready. And I believe that when you are ready to handle this kind of situation, then you can really show up from curiosity, right? Because here is the thing. Why are the people doing what they are doing? Why is it that they are mocking you, right?

So when you ask them: Are you mocking me? Why? 

Why are they mocking? There is a lot of different reasons, Why of the reasons could be that they are truly confused by the fact that you have an accent. They are completely not used to being around people from other cultures. They have not travelled much, and your accent, your way of speaking, your way of being is bringing a lot of discomfort to their brain, because you are almost like from outside of their reality and outside of their comfort zone, okay? So now be aware that when this happens is that their lower brain, which is there to protect you. They alos have the lower brain to protect them, right? The people that are mocking you.. And their lower brain is basically really active in this kind of a situation, because there is something from outside of their comfort zone, right at front of them… alive human being and that alive human being could be a potential threat. So that’s it! That’s all it is. Thoughts you know, might be coming up that are literally coming from that lowest level of just wanting to survive and nothing really has gone wrong its just that these people are trying to protect themselves, basically. And on this very very basic level it’s all about survival. And if they are mocking you it could be that they feel very uncomfortable around you and it could be also that they feel confused and they feel inferior around you, so they want to confirm their superiority by pointing out your shortcomings, right? That could be it. That could be happening. But sometimes another thing happens, and I think that is when we are surrounded by the people who like us and who are friends with us and they will mock us, cause it can happen. So here what I think is going on is that these people feel so comfortable around you that they allow themselves to express the energy that’s kind of roaming in their brain as they are interacting with you. Because if you speak to someone who has an accent, you brain has to take extra time to process that energy, coming in, right? Because it’s not used to hearing that accent most likely. If it’s not used to hearing the accent you really have to listen more carefully, really have to pay more attention to what the person is saying. 

And your brain really has to be processing it. And sometimes, well, people just feel so comfortable they express, almost like energetically what is happening in their mind. 

And so they will be processing it and in the same time they will be like expressing it.

And i think that’s a lot of what was happening with my friends, because it really wasn’t… and i know this.. They loved me. These are not the people who had you know double agendas, no I truly know that I was loved by some of my friends who were kind of having fun with the way I speak and trying to speak with a Russian accent and rolling their r’s. They didn’t have bad intentions.  And yet they were mocking me, and they would always ask, does this bother you?

And I would lie to them and I would lie to myself, and I would be like: “Oh no you can keep on going. You can keep like poking a finger into an open wound. You can just keep on poking that finger there.” But I wouldn’t say it, right? You see and here is another thing, right? 

Is it all black and white? Are we not supposed to ever laugh at accents? Is it supposed to be very like: No, if you are speaking one language then you are just supposed to be speaking one language, never laughing at accents. That’s not the way I see it. So many of comedians laugh at accents. Accents are funny. My Polish accent with the R is funny. The Eastern European accent is hilarious to me, that’s why sometimes I roll my R… Do you know that in our household we don’t say the word fruit any other way than frrrruit? We always roll our r’s because it makes us laugh. It’s frrrruit. It’s always been frrruit. It’s not always been frrrrruit but ever since we’ve seen it in a movie and it just make us laugh so hard we say it that way. Now if it was in a presence of a person who says the word frrruit, like that… and if I had that person over at my house, I would never allow myself to do it at front of them, because it could be hurting them, right? Because with that behavior there is a possibility of it happening. But that’s not the case. We just do it my husband and I to ourselves. And yes we laugh at accents, so that’s not a big deal. 

I’m talking about a situation where you are possibly being mocked by another human being for being an immigrant and having an accent. 

One more thing I wanna talk to you about. Why is it that so many of us immigrants hurt when someone is mocking our accent? What happens within us as a consequence of it?

It’s because we feel like outsiders. We actually literally feel like outsiders and we kind of are… we are outsiders.  deep inside we feel insecure about it though. Life we feel like we don’t belong, like we are not enough, and here is someone in front of us pointing out to us the most obvious way that we differ, right? And we feel less than. We also might feel deeply frustrated, right? And especially when we have thoughts like:

“These people have no clue who I’m and how smart I’m.” Or “why do I have to put up with this?”
Or, “I would never had anyone speak to me like this where I’m from.”

Hmm? These kinds of thoughts will cause you to argue with reality. I mean there is a lot of frustration underneath it and the reason why I am so familiar with it is because these are some of mine! Hey, isn’t that fun? But when we feel frustrated because someone is mocking us, 

we tend to do what I did. We don’t stand up for ourselves, because we don’t know how to because we don’t have strength, because we feel like what’s the point anyway… like: I won’t win this  so why even try. And we walk away feeling ashamed. We feel ashamed that we didn’t stand up for ourselves and in a way we feel defeated. 

And then we tend to stop hanging out with the people who mocked us. Even if they have been supportive in many other ways. Even if these are your friends. We have  a tendency to step back, and step back and step back.. And we do this because our lower brain is trying to protect us from feeling hurt again. One of the ways you can recognize that thoughts are coming from your lower brain is when everything in the reality becomes very black and white all of the sudden. It’s like: “They are mocking me so they don’t respect me so I don’t want to be around them.” It’s all or nothing. But you see, when you are not standing up for yourself my friend, you are the one not respecting yourself. The fact that we don’t take time to explore a better way of responding to it, is what really shows us that we don’t care about ourselves. When I was for a very long time not figuring out, how to handle this situation better I was showing disrespect to myself, okay? It is true. It’s just the way it is. And frankly it’s not like our society is teaching us how to think about different situations from a perspective of self love, self support, like: How can I support myself in this better, right? That’s not the conditioning that we are born into. So nothing has gone wrong but just know, that if you are saying: “They don’t respect me.” You are most likely not respecting yourself.  And this is why I’m sharing with you, you know…  one of the ways to address it. Because this is important. I feel this is very, very important. 

So listen, bottom line is this. You have got to figure out what does your accent mean to you?

What are you making it mean about you when someone is mocking you?

What do you think about having your accent?

You might be thinking: I can’t speak English. I’m not from here. I’m not worthy as other people…

All of these thoughts might be coming from the, you know, the less conscious part of your brain, where you are not even really aware that your are doing this. This is why it is so nice to have a life coach who helps you figure out what your thoughts are, by the way. That’s what I do for my clients, but if you have these kinds of thoughts. If you think to yourself: “I can’t speak English really well.” “I’m not from here.” “I’m not as worthy as other people.”

You will be taking it personally and it will be bothering you, when people are mocking you.  

But the good news is: these are just thoughts. We can change the way we think. 

So since thoughts can be changed you could be thinking about your accent:

“My accent is delightful”, “People love hearing my accent.”, “People pay more attention to what I’m saying and It’s easier for me to stand out in a crowd.”, “This is my second language, I make mistakes sometimes and that’s okay. I will keep on trying until I get it right.“

See different thoughts, different feeling, right? Instead of feeling insecure, with these thoughts you feel acceptance, you feel empowerment and you feel good, you feel good about being you. 

And having an accent, and expressing yourself the way you express yourself. No big deal! 

So this is available to you my dear and you know what? I’m going to include these different thoughts in that guide that I made for you as well. So if you want the guide go to lifecoachforimmigrants.com episode #3 and download the guide. That’s what you gotta do it’s pretty simple my friendskis. Alright this is it. Today is November 11th and I’ve got to tell you something… it’s a big secret, but not really. Today is my birthday. I’m 41 years old. Can you believe it? I’m 41 years old. I was born in 1980. I’m out there celebrating with my family and just enjoying life and I’m really really grateful that I was able to release this episode specifically on my birthday. I’m gonna tell you why because speaking… does not matter if you are speaking your second language or your first language, but overall, the act of speaking is an act of expressing your soul. And one of the lessons that I came to learn here in this lifetime is working through challenges that have to do with expression of your soul, with expression of my voice. So the fact that I’m speaking on a podcast on my 41st birthday about this specific issue. That I’m analyzing the way others might be mocking me for expressing myself it feels like I just circled around. I feels good, it feels really, really good. I hope that this was helpful to you. I hope that you enjoyed it. And please give yourself time to go and download that guide and do the work because this is an important thing. We immigrants have so much wisdom. We have so much resilience, we have so much strength within our souls. What we have gone through, to be where we are at… the challenges that we face are not the same challenges that many, I mean some of them are the same but a lot of them are not the same challenges that people who were born in the country you are living in face, so I believe that your wisdom needs to be heard and how is it supposed to be heard if you are believing that having an accent is a problem. You are not gonna feel free to express it. And if you are not gonna feel free to express it then we will not have a chance to learn your wisdom. We will not have a chance to learn your story and I think your story is importante, okay? That’s why I wanna empower you to speak it. So my loves I will speak to you next time on November 22nd. I have a very special, very wise guest speaking with me on that day and you and I are gonna have fun listening so make sure to tune in, subscribe so you get notified when the episode is released and have a… have a wonderful day. Love to you all my friends. Take care! Bye.