James Blunt's Twitter comebacks are the stuff of legend; and now that legend has a new chapter, with his brilliant reply to MP Chris Bryant on the subject of privilege in the arts. Most people would never dream of trying this approach with the critics and bullies they encounter in the course of their career. They're far more comfortable staying quiet, letting colleagues get the upper hand, seething for days, and then holding a grudge for the rest of their life.
In their mind the comeback is for the playground, where 'Yeah? So's your face' passes for the height of sophisticated wit. This image isn't helped by the likes of Lord Sugar. Even when he's in the boardroom with his so-called Apprentices, saying the things we've been shouting at the screen for the best part of an hour, listening to his comebacks is still a toe-curling experience. Nobody wants to hear a grown man whine "Don't tell me you're just like me. You're not like me. I'm unique."
Blunt, however, has mastered the three step process of replying to his critics in a way that wins the support of everyone around him - something we could all benefit from at work.
1. He chooses his targets carefully
Nobody is going to appreciate you using a masterful comeback against a senior manager or a vulnerable intern. However, if like Blunt you use it to give as good as you get to the bullies, you'll win the support of all those around you.
Great responses to his bullies recently have included one to a tweet that said "James Blunt is one ugly m*th*er f*cker." He replied with "And how's your modelling career going". And when another wrote: "James Blunt just has an annoying face and a highly irritating voice", he replied, "And no mortgage."
2. He knows his audience
The best put downs start with an understanding of the person who has insulted you or attacked your position. You can then respond in a way that will demonstrate both your understanding of their point of view - and your own.
In James Blunt's case, he's mostly dealing with people who hate him and his music, and he has a couple of approaches. One is by joking that he hates himself more, such as his response to the tweet: "I must be 1 of only 2 who genuinely likes every James Blunt song. The other person being him." To which he replied "Nope, you're on your own." And another is by pretending to humour them, such as replying to "I cannot put into words how much I hate James Blunt" with "Try singing it."
3. He's funny
Humour will help you get away with a great deal, and Blunt is funny. To one Tweet claiming "That James Blunt song is utterly horrific, horrific", he replied. "Yet so many people bought it, bought it." While to one who said "James Blunt is a major B*ll end", he replied "That's Captain B*ll end to you."
Nobody is pretending that a witty comeback will silence critics and bullies for good. However, if you can respond to a bully in a way that leaves everyone laughing, and thinking more highly of you, then they'll think twice about attacking again.
So what do you think? Will this approach work for you? Or will you stick with the stiff upper lip and an hour or so of complaining to your other half when you get home?
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