It is a situation that most of us have encountered in our social or professional life.

When a friend or co-worker cracks a joke at our expense or hurls an insult in the form of a joke, we often don’t know how to respond.

If we pretend not to be offended, it may encourage more such comments. But if we react, there is a good chance of finding ourselves in an uncomfortable situation or in conflict with our interlocutor.

According to Sara Jane Ho, a Harvard-educated behavioral expert, anyone in such a situation can respond with politeness and superiority by simply asking a single question.

“If a friend says something mean to me, I usually look at it and say, ‘Are you okay?’,” Ho says. This question, she says, shows that she didn’t take the comment personally, but that ‘she certainly didn’t like it.

However, according to the expert, it is important to consider the tone in addition to the words. Do not be abrupt or dry, but friendly. “I don’t mean to be offensive either. I say it with interest and it usually puts the other person in their place,” she explains.

Regardless of who makes the negative comment, remember not to let this event control your mood. “The greatest power is showing the other person that they don’t have power over you,” Ho says.