17 (More) Realistic Ways to Break Anyone Down

feature image via shutterstock

Last year I wrote an advice piece on realistic ways to break anyone down. I asked readers to come on a new journey with me, one that veered from the traditional path of demoralization and lead us onto ground that wove between embarrassment, vulnerability, and endearment. It was an exercise in nuance. Because it’s not life’s extremes that allow us to properly humanize people, it’s life’s equalizers. Nature. Travel. Air mattresses.

With Angela Bassett in mind as the powerful, beautiful, and intimidating presence I was meant to break down, I crafted 17 stunning examples from which readers could build upon and use at their discretion. Obviously, many people’s lives were changed forever. I want to continue to change lives.

So, with that in mind, and on this one year anniversary, rather than imagining someone naked as a means of taking things to zero, instead, imagine them:

1. Doing that duck and dodge from the path of wasp.

2. Casually easing into a jacuzzi but then underestimating how low the seat is and then sort of buoying up knees first.

3. At the exact moment they realize they’ve gone too far in a split.

4. Overhand throwing something with their non-dominant hand.

5. Doing that tip toe dance-walk down an aisle when a bus lunges forward.

6. Going to check the mail but then seeing the postal worker pull up, and so then just stopping next to and half-face looking out the window until they’re gone.

7. Slowly spinning their rolling desk chair to its lowest possible seat level in a private moment.

8. Sticking their head out the window of a moving car to let the wind hit their face but taking on too much wind and having to quickly bail.

9. Doing a pencil dive.

10. Holding their breath for the entire length of a bridge but not telling anybody.

11. Concentrating on opening their miniature peanuts packet and biscotti on an airplane for snack time.

12. Sitting down for a peaceful moment in the sun with their eyes closed and as soon as they go to take in a big breath having a car blow past them while honking the horn.

13. Shaking out their comforter while making their bed and in doing so launching their phone at the wall.

14. Making a wish at 11:11 while whispering, “Eleven-eleven.”

15. Being made to say the phrase, “Hey guys, I’m here at fashion week” into a camera.

16. Singing along to “Life is a Highway” in its entirety without realizing it.

17. Having a child’s giant backpack hit them the moment they feel moved by a painting.

Like last time, as we proceed in the comments, remember the severity or levity of your hypotheticals might feed the power a person has over you. Tread carefully, and let’s have fun. Until next year, friends.

Autostraddle cannot exist without the generous support of our readers. We're running the fundraiser through March 29th! We're out of immediate danger...but we had to ask...what if we could survive for longer? Will you help?

Go to our Fundraiser!


Los Angeles based writer. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 208 articles for us.


  1. This is my favorite thing in the internet. I’m making a second poster. Number 13 is Life.

    …see someone holding the door open for them but they’re still too far and have to walk/jog to the door

    …putting a coat on and losing their shirt sleeve inside the coat sleeve

  • “It was an exercise in nuance.” They were stunning examples, and lives were changed. Could you just do a series of humble and modest reflections on how moving and powerful your previous posts were? Last year…Last week…whatever

  • Panicking that they can’t find their phone while talking on the phone.

    Being in a hurry while having a piece of tape stuck to their finger and becoming increasingly irate as they try to remove the piece of tape.

    Reclining in a chair that suddenly makes a fart-like noise and then shifting around for several moments trying to recreate the noise so everyone knows it was just the chair and they didn’t actually fart.

    • Most of the ones that come to mind for me (as life examples) are phone-related.

      For instance, when I was a kid and someone would call just as you were about to say prayer, so upon answering the phone you mistakenly say, “Heavenly Father” instead of hello.

      Or when a salesperson tells you to enjoy whatever they just sold to you, and you automatically respond “you too”. (I think AT&T recently had a commercial like that, though, so the bloom may be gone).

      Or when you mostly speak to your family on the phone, so on that rare business phone call you accidentally tell someone you love them as you hang up.

  • Leaving a coworker’s office and walking halfway into the door frame.

    Putting their hair in a ponytail but just as they’re finishing the hair tie snaps and they have to find a new one and start over.

    Eating sushi in public and covering their mouth with their hand to try to conceal how overfull their mouth is.

  • Contribute to the conversation...

    Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!