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Forget the tirade. Rather than huff and holler when overhearing a discriminatory comment, quash it with poise.

Experts share their best strategies for dealing with inappropriate remarks:

1. Take the high road. “My goal is to appeal to the reasonable people in the room and handle myself with class,” says Theragenics CEO Christine Jacobs, who recently dealt with one inappropriate remark by remaining silent at the time, but later reporting the behavior to the company’s chairman. Other people complained as well and the company reprimanded the offender.

2. Hand out microaffirmations. MIT ombudsman Mary Rowe suggests counteracting microinequities with microaffirmations, the daily habit of praising accomplishments both in private and to management.

3. Make ’em laugh. Humor helps women level the playing field. Ellen Ostrow, psychologist and career coach, says a friendly, joking tone makes an offender less defensive.

4. Educate with empathy. When confronted with an inappropriate comment, calmly reply, “How would you feel if someone said that to your daughter?” 

That’s what one former trade magazine editor wishes she had said when her boss jokingly suggested she lay across his lap during a photo shoot. “It shook my confidence,” recalls the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It was also revealing. I could never look at him the same way and believe he was truly championing me.”

Adapted from “The Power of Subtle Retaliation: 10 Ways to Do It,” Joanne Gordon, PINK.

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