How to Deal with the mean people in your life? Mean people are a dime a dozen. The world has a lot of toxic people who are hellbent on spreading negativity and bring out the worst in us. They have no qualms about hating you, insulting you, do bad things to you, or at least wish ill for you.
“Mean people are no fun.” – Thom Filicia
Personally, I have encountered more mean people in my life than I would like to remember and most of the time they tick me off. I respond either by acting mean with them or I simply move away. But it’s not always as simple as that.
These toxic individuals can be very persistent, cruel, malicious and hateful and they can very well ruin our daily life. They can be our coworkers, family members, neighbors, random strangers or simply an online troll.
The negative attitude of difficult people can be very contagious and it can easily affect our mental and emotional well being without us even realizing it. Trying to reason with them is a futile attempt as they deliberately act mean which can be very maddening, frustrating and even terrifying at times. The fact is you can never reason or talk rationally with an unreasonably toxic person.
Why are people mean?
“You do not wake up one morning a bad person. It happens by a thousand tiny surrenders of self-respect to self-interest.” – Robert Brault
Mean people are haters, bullies and highly negative. But why are they like this? Why do they deliberately impact our mindset more than they need to with their meanness? Most difficult and mean people are excessively consumed by jealousy, hatred, and bitterness and it often leaks out in their interactions with others. They often feel happy when something bad happens to others and will usually find faults when you manage to achieve something they haven’t.
So why are they like this? Well, some people are just born like that. But there is another more understandable reason. Although it may sound strange, most people act mean because they are hurt. They have experienced excessive emotional pain and mental trauma at some point in their lives which crushed their spirit.
It could be their parents, or lover, or people they trusted who hurt them when their guard was down. Now they are scared that they will never stop feeling this numbing pain inside or that it may happen again if they allow someone into their lives or act nice with others.
And all that pain has given birth to a lot of anger that cannot be contained inside any longer. So toxic people mainly react out of their impulse of anger which makes them aggressive and means.
Everyone can be “mean”
But haven’t we all been hurt? Aren’t we all emotionally wounded? Then why aren’t we mean? Well, you probably are mean and you might not even realize it. The Milgram Obedience Experiment, conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram during the 1960s, found that most people can be insensitive and mean under the right circumstances.
“The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.” – Stanley Milgram
According to the “obedience” study, subjects were asked to play the role of a teacher and deliver electric shocks to participants playing the role of a student every time they gave an incorrect answer.
The “teacher” was instructed by the researcher to increase the level of the shock delivered from mild to dangerous with each wrong answer. The subjects playing teacher could hear the “student” participants screaming out of agony from the other room and yet most of them chose to continue after the researcher told them to do so.
However, the subjects delivering the shocks did not know that the electric device was not actually attached to the “students” and they were not delivering real shocks. The participants playing students were confederates pretending to be shocked.
The research found that a whopping 65% of the “teachers” willingly obeyed the researcher and increased the electric shock level to dangerous. It was also found that 84% of the subjects playing teachers were glad of their involvement in the research whereas only 1% of them regretted having participated. Various other similar studies were conducted and the same outcome was found with different variations.
So why did so many people perform such a sadistic act?
“Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.” – Stanley Milgram
As I said earlier, anyone can act mean given the right circumstances, however, most of us choose to behave decently and ethically as long as we are not provoked or instructed by an authoritative figure. Mean and toxic people are constantly in the “right circumstances” zone as they are unable to experience sound mental and emotional health which motivates them to be mean to others.
What makes people act mean
“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.” – Wayne Dyer
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why most people tend to be mean and may appear toxic:
1. Lack of awareness
Most of the times what we think to be a mean behavior may happen due to a lack of awareness, lack of knowledge or a lack of skills. And they might not have any intention to be rude, mean or hurtful.
Misunderstanding can make some people appear to mean when in reality it is simply an issue of miscommunication. When information is not conveyed properly during communication it can lead to misinterpretations which may come off as meanness.
Some people may be perceived as being hurtful when their real intention is to help you. For instance, an overprotective parent or husband may appear to mean to the daughter or wife. On the other hand, some people believe that this kind of behavior is necessary to get certain work done. Their real intention is not to hurt you but only to achieve the outcome.
4. Attention seeking
“Negative people need drama like oxygen. Stay positive, it will take their breath away.” – unknown
Some people act mean as they consider this will help them gain attention. It doesn’t matter to them if the attention is positive or negative as long as they get noticed.
5. Low self-esteem
“People who project negativity typically have low self-esteem. They feel badly about themselves, and their negativity is simply a reflection of those feelings.” – Hendrie Weisinger
People who are suffering from low self-esteem often tend to act mean in order to feel superior to others and feel better. This is merely a way for them to protect their weak self-esteem.
Some people can seem to be hurting you intentionally when they are only trying to desperately protect themselves in an effective manner. This can happen when they are unable to take responsibility for their actions and problems.
Some people tend to be very controlling in order to protect themselves and this makes them cause a lot of discomfort for the people around them.
8. Emotional reaction
Most people act mean as a result of the emotional reaction and may be unaware of the impact of their behavior. Although they don’t intend to be harmful, their behavior can be rather intense and hurtful.
9. Frustration & stress
Unmanaged stress and frustration may make someone react in an unpleasant manner just to release their pent-up feelings and tension. Actions and reactions to reduce such mental discomfort can lead to mean behavior.
When someone feels they are superior to others, whether by birth or achievement, can make some individuals to be hurtful and mean deliberately. They tend to be demanding and rude but it is only to feed their ego and even low self-esteem.
11. Mental problems and psychopathy
Some people tend to be deliberately malicious due to mental disturbances like psychopathy. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone suffering from mental illness will be mean or hurtful.
Now that you know why mean people behave the way they do, you need to know how you can deal with them and protect your inner peace so that you don’t get personally affected by their toxicity.
Here’s how you can deal with mean people
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – Matthew 5:44
If you have to face mean people on a regular basis and if they are starting to make your life difficult, then it’s necessary that you learn how to deal with these toxic people. Here are a few effective strategies and techniques that you can use on mean people whether it’s your boss, a coworker, a neighbor, a client, a family member, or just a stranger. Remember, the better you know this person, the better you will be able to deal with their toxicity.
“Don’t let people pull you into their storms. Pull them into your peace.” – unknown
Take a deep breathe and calm yourself down. The worst thing you can do is lose your cool and go down to their level. The more collected, calm and logical you are, the more easily you will be able to prevail over them. When you can control your reactions, you can control the situation. So take a pause and reflect.
2. Hear them out
Listening to the person being mean will help you understand them and will give you the tools to deal with them. When you allow them to feel heard and acknowledged and to vent, they will eventually calm down and will be in a position to listen to your logic and reasoning. This will help you understand what to say next and own the conversation.
3. Show kindness
“Be kind to unkind people; they need it the most.” – Buddhism
Ever heard of the phrase ‘kill them with kindness’? Although toxic people do not deserve any kindness, it can actually help you heal. When you change any feelings of negativity and focus more on being positive, you win despite what the situation is. Kindness allows you to feel better and even heal the other person.
4. Be empathetic
In case you are not that well acquainted with the mean individual, you don’t know if the person is disturbed or just as an asshole or a complete sociopath. Being empathetic will allow you to understand what makes them mean. Once you know what is making them triggered, you can understand, connect, reach out and even offer them some much-needed help.
5. Know how you feel
When facing negativity, we are bound to feel some intense and strong emotions, So it’s crucial you acknowledge your own emotions. Understand how you are feeling at the moment. Are you angry? Are you shocked? Or are you hurt? Be honest with your feelings and know that it’s okay to feel the way you do. This will help you rise above the hate.
6. Never take it personally
This may be hard for most of us but it is very important that you do not take all the meanness on a personal level. As you are not aware of their situation and what is making them so much negative, you need to realize it’s not about you. It’s about them. They are simply overwhelmed and acting out against their problems. They probably did not intend to target you.
7. Be compassionate
“Being nice to those who treat you badly isn’t being fake. Your spiritual maturity has risen above the desire for vengeance.” – Michael Binot
It’s hard to feel any kind of compassion when someone is constantly bad mouthing you and hating you. But this is an excellent way for you to deal with them. Studies have revealed that compassion allows our heart rate to slow down and enables the secretion of oxytocin or the bonding hormone. Moreover, it also stimulates areas in the brain associated with empathy and joy which helps us care for others when they most need it. The better you understand them, the better you will be able to control the conversation.
8. Know that you have a choice
“The less you respond to rude, critical, argumentative people, the more peaceful your life will become.” – Mandy Hale
The biggest damage a toxic person can do is affect our emotional and mental state. But it is on you if you will allow their negativity to affect you. Even if you have to engage, you can control how much they affect you. You don’t need to accept their negativity just because they have a lot of it.
9. Be assertive
Negativity can often seem to be more powerful and stronger than your calm and composed demeanour. You might feel like fading away in front of their mean and aggressive behavior. But you need to take a stand and feel the power of composure within you. So make sure you are direct and upfront with someone who is being mean. However, it doesn’t mean you need to be mean to them as well. You simply need to stand your ground.
10. Be mindful
Toxic and mean people can easily trigger our fight or flight response which makes us want to be mean with them as well. But this can escalate the situation and make it worse. Mindfulness enables you to bring your attention to the present moment and be aware of your thoughts and emotions. This will help you to stop panicking and take control simply by focusing on your breath.
11. Walk away
“Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out.” – Robert Tew
Sometimes you can’t understand or reach out to the other person as they are too far gone and despite your best efforts they will keep attacking you. So it’s best to maintain your distance in such cases. You don’t need to apologize or be nice unnecessarily. You simply need to walk away. You can always control yourself.
Here are some other things you need to keep in mind when dealing with a negative and mean person:
12. Remain calm at all times
13. Show respect towards the other person
14. Refrain from judging the mean person
15. Understand what they are asking for
16. Don’t be defensive
17. Do not demand conformity or compliance
18. Apologize only if you need to
19. Look around for help
20. It’s best not to try to convince the mean person
21. Avoid smiling or laughing at their face
22. Follow your gut instincts
23. Do not resort to anger
24. Learn to let it go and not feel stressed
25. Keep physical distance from them
26. Be flexible in your approach
27. Set clear boundaries and limits
28. Appreciate yourself for going through this uncomfortable experience
Winning over a mean person
“Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you, and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.” – Will Smith
Now that you have some idea about what may drive a mean person to be negative and toxic, hopefully, you realize that it’s not about you. In most of the cases, it’s never your fault and their meanness is mostly a reflection of their own corrupted thinking or flaw unless you have done something significant to trigger them. Mean people will always find some reason, no matter how minor, to react and release their pain, anger, and negativity.
So it is crucial that you don’t take it personally. Understand that you do not deserve such treatment or behavior and it’s not your fault. This will help you to protect your emotional and mental well being and give you the strength to deal with the toxic person.
The best thing you can do to deal with them is not engaged or get involved. You can always choose to walk away and not react to their negativity. They are already suffering internally and they will face further consequences for their behavior sooner or later. You don’t need to take revenge or fight fire with fire.
You simply need to protect yourself and take this experience as an opportunity to grow into a better person.