What to Do When Taylor Swift (or a Friend) Throws Shade

An etiquette expert gives us the low-down on how to deal when a friend, or Taylor Swift, publicly disses you

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If a Taylor Swift-type throws shade, “keep calm, keep silent, and move on,” says Julie Blais-Comeau, an etiquette expert based in Ottawa. Don’t feed the drama by tweeting, Facebooking or Tumblr-sharing your side of the story. Calling out a former friend, acquaintance, or colleague publicly looks vindictive and petty when you’re over age 18 and if you choose to respond in kind then you wind up looking vindictive and petty, too, says Blais-Comeau. “And vindictive isn’t a good look on anybody.”

In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Swift let a juicy bit of gossip fall, telling reporter Josh Eells that her new song “Bad Blood” is inspired by a former acquaintance/colleague whom she characterizes as the ultimate mean-girl underminer. “For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not,” she says about the unnamed female pop singer. “She would come up to me at awards shows and say something and walk away, and I would think, ‘Are we friends, or did she just give me the harshest insult of my life?’”

Swift figured out it was the latter when the singer “did something so horrible. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re just straight-up enemies.’” Swift claims the singer tried to sabotage an arena tour by poaching some of her employees. Though she declined to name the female pop star, Internet gossips quickly coughed up two possibilities: Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. That shortlist got whittled down to one when Perry tweeted the following cryptic message on Sept. 9: “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…,” slyly suggesting Swift may have more in common with the saccharine-sweet meanie played by Rachel McAdams in the film Mean Girl than she likes to portray to her fans.

Though Blais-Comeau thinks Perry wisely kept her tone light, she doesn’t advise people follow suit when put in a similar situation. “The best response is no response,” she offers. With one exception: If you feel someone has misrepresented you or has said something untruthful that may affect your livelihood, reputation or personal relationships, it’s perfectly acceptable to speak to them privately. “The appropriate thing to do is to pick up the phone and meet with the person.” It’s during this in-person meeting that you can make your feelings clear about the accusations, state your perspective, and once done, move on with your life.

Though it may be difficult to remain quiet when someone takes a shot at you publicly, Blais-Comeau says it’s ultimately the wiser, more dignified move. You prove yourself the better woman in times of stress, not ease. Moreover, by keeping silent you show an admirable level of respect for the concept of friendship—even if relations have soured to the point of no return. “The rules of friendship” are important, says Blais-Comeau. “They’re not elastic. They don’t stretch and become smaller as friendships come and go.”

That being said, private upset is entirely natural. Take heart from some advice courtesy of Blais-Comeau’s maternal grandmother who never lamented the loss of a petty pal: “Too bad for them. Now you have more time for the others that really care about you.”