When an insult flies our way, we have a few seconds to decide how to respond. Will we give in to our feelings and fire back or step away? The latest trend on TikTok suggests a third option for dealing with difficult people: asking questions.
Called the “Tom Cruise Method” by therapist @ask_kimberly on TikTok, the technique gets its name from a red carpet incident between Tom Cruise and a man posing as a reporter. During the 2005 interview, the prankster sprays water in Cruise’s face via a fake microphone, hoping to humiliate the actor. Instead of launching into an angry outburst, Cruise asks the man questions, like, “Why would you do that?”; “What’s so funny about that?”; and “Do you like doing mean things?” When watching Cruise trade his rage for genuine curiosity, we were as stunned as the phony reporter.
The stunt made us wonder: Is the Tom Cruise Method productive when we’re up against toxic behavior? Or is it best to leave the line of questioning to mental health pros? Below, we asked three therapists to weigh in on the approach, from when we should use it to which questions to ask.