No matter if it is meant as playful teasing among friends or an attack from strangers, being called Karen can be hurtful and degrading. Being called Karen can make one feel isolated and ashamed, yet you have the ability to respond in such a way that diffuses tension while showing your understanding and compassion for them.
Stay Calm: Losing control can only aggravate an already difficult situation. Take a deep breath, and gently ask them why they're calling you that. Listening actively while responding with empathy will defuse the situation quickly and show your care.
Use Humor: Lighthearted humor can help defuse tension and show that you do not take an insult seriously, while shifting the conversation in a positive direction.
Ask Questions: If the person calling you "Karen" is unaware of their privilege, it can be useful to discuss it directly. A simple "Why do you think it is acceptable to call me Karen?" will allow them to understand the effects of their words and actions on others.
Never put aside your mental health when dealing with anyone who seems toxic or dangerous. Sometimes it's best to just let their remarks pass without responding - this allows you to preserve your dignity and set clear boundaries around how you want to be treated. If you do decide to respond, keep the context and body language of the situation in mind before responding; an exasperated tone could just be a joke, while an aggressive posture or crossed arms may indicate they mean business.