Mean people suck! No one wants mean people in their life, and yet, they’re always there being hateful, malicious, and cruel. We encounter mean people just going about our daily lives—we have mean family members, co-workers, random strangers, and don’t forget the mean commenter aka trolls.
It’s hard to know what’s going on when someone is deliberately nasty—are they hurting in some way? Is being mean the only way they know how to be, or is their repellent personality just a way to protect themselves from people getting too close to them? But when someone is so outwardly nasty, it’s hard to see them with any empathy.Sometimes when someone is mean to us, our reaction is to be mean to them right back.
Mean people are negative, bullies, haters, and oftentimes are consumed by jealousy. Mean people are so prevalent there are many songs written about them including “Mean” by Taylor Swift in which she says, “All you are is mean, and a liar, and pathetic. And alone in life and mean, and mean, and mean, and mean.”
So, if there are so many mean people out there, what’s the key for how to deal with mean people in a way that doesn’t make things worse? You don’t want the mean person to think that their behavior and attitude is okay, but you also don’t want to piss them off to the extent that they get even meaner, which trust me, is easier than you might think.
It’s not difficult for a mean person to amp up their meanness but it is for them to lose their negative attitude and treat people with kindness and respect. Here’s how to deal with mean people without worsening the situation.
How to Deal With Mean People
Take a deep breath:
Taking a moment to breathe and collect yourself is a great tip for how to deal with mean people. The calmer and more rational that you feel, the better able you’ll be to make a decision on how you’re going to react. “My biggest piece of advice when interacting with someone who is mean or rude is first take pause,” Says Ciara Hautau. “I think as humans our first instinct is to react and give back the type of demeanor that’s been given, but try not to.”
Acknowledge your emotions:
Are you hurt, angry, or just stunned that someone is directing their hate and meanness towards you? All your feelings are valid and by being honest with yourself about them, you can learn how to deal with mean people and move on.
It can be shocking when someone is mean and rather than get any more of that person’s vitriol, you may decide to carry on as if they were not being complete jerks. “Mean people earn that title by vocalizing their unsavory opinions,” says Helena Plater-Zyberk. “Realize you’re unlikely to change their mind or make them understand how their behavior impacts others, but most of all, take special care not to internalize their words.” You can’t let the haters of the world affect your feelings of self-worth.
Don’t take it personally:
This is a tricky one but it’s important when learning how to deal with mean people. It’s really hard not to take meanness personally, but the truth is, you have no idea what they may be dealing with. They might be going through a tough time and have no support or outlet to process it. “Someone who is mean or rude really is just acting out against issues that they haven’t dealt with inside their lives,” says speaker, author, coach Nate Bailey. “It’s really not personal to the people they are taking it out on.”
Understand you have a choice:
It’s up to you if you’re going to allow the negativity of someone else affect you, even if you’re forced to engage with them. You can choose how they affect you. Hautau says, “You don’t have to embrace these types of people or this negative energy, but you never know what someone is going through. This person may have had a rough upbringing or may be going through something that may be causing them to act this way.”
Come up with a plan:
If you’ve had regular run-ins with this mean person, you may come to a point where it’s healthier to have limited contact or avoid them altogether. If they’re consistently unpleasant, you need to view them as toxic and cut them out of your life. However, if total removal from your life isn’t possible, then you need to develop a strategy on how to deal with mean people.
Don’t take on their meanness as your own:
Sometimes when someone is being mean to us, we give that meanness right back to them. Matching negativity with negativity is now how to deal with mean people. It won’t dissipate all the negative energy, it will only triple it and make things even worse. “The best way to respond to mean people is to remember where there is meanness, there is pain,” says author Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley. “Meeting pain with pain only creates more pain.”
Be honest with them:
No matter how scary it might seem to express how the mean person made you feel, it will be worth it just to get those negative feelings off your chest. “Being treated meanly does not feel good,” says Dr. Catherine Jackson, licensed clinical psychologist and board certified neurotherapist. “Sharing how you feel may make the person aware of how their behavior impacts others, They may then make adjustments to their meanness.”
When someone is harsh, it can feel as if they’re stronger and more powerful than you are, and your reaction might be to dim your light and fade into the background. But actions such as retreating and disappearing aren’t not how to deal with mean people. By standing up for yourself, you’ll feel more grounded and will come from a place of power. “Be upfront and direct with the mean person. Especially when mean behavior persists; don’t simply take it or react by being mean back,” Dr. Jackson advises. “Assertiveness allows you to stand up for yourself and let your voice be heard without returning the person’s meanness with meanness.”
Talk to them:
If you can, try to find out why they’re expressing themselves in such a negative way. Give them space to open up and let them know that you won’t judge them, that you’re just trying to get to a place of understanding and communication. “Checking in with the mean person is something others may never do and he or she might appreciate someone asking about them. Dr. Jackson suggests, “This may, in turn, soften the mean behavior over time.”
Don’t let them upset you anymore:
If the mean person is showing no signs of letting up, then don’t engage with them further. Walk away—even if it’s in mid-sentence. In this case, it’s much more important for you to take care of yourself than to be polite. You don’t want to lose control and have things escalate into a huge confrontation.
Revenge isn’t the answer:
It can be fun and therapeutic to plot a revenge scenario in our heads, but acting on it isn’t healthy. Revenge is never the best way to handle a situation and in the long run, will only make things much worse. Negative energy feeds off itself and grows and destroys everything in its path. Go watch a revenge movie or sweat it off in the gym.
Recognize that you can’t make them change:
It’s pointless to try to make someone change their behavior—especially if they have no desire to do so. You also can’t teach them a lesson they don’t want to learn. You don’t need the frustration of trying to assist them in changing when they don’t think that their attitude/behavior is a problem. “Accept the person won’t or can’t change,” says Jeremy Rose. “They want you to lose control by attacking and insulting and lowering yourself to their level.”
Respond with compassion:
So, someone has just hated on you big time, probably the last thing you’re feeling is any kind of compassion. However, it’s one of the best ways to learn how to deal with mean people. The more you can empathize with them, the more understanding you’ll be able to have which will result in a less tension-filled conversation. “Research has shown that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the ‘bonding hormone’ oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which results in our wanting to approach and care for other people,” Jackson-Buckley says.
Show them kindness:
By treating them kindly—even though you may not feel they deserve your kindness—you’ll be taking the first step in healing. Changing your negative feelings into something more positive will help you to feel better. “Continue to be kind and courteous despite their mean ways,” says Dr. Jackson. “You can do this by being cordial, being generous, and smiling despite whatever comes your way from the mean person.’
When you are being bullied or hated on, talking to a friend or a therapist can help a lot. Sometimes just being able to vent is extremely beneficial; and the person you talk to can offer you helpful ways to handle the mean person. Just knowing that someone has your back can give you the necessary confidence in dealing with the mean person.
I wish I could promise you that you’ll never have to encounter another mean person again, but I can’t. As long as there are humans on the earth, there are going to be mean people. However, the more you learn about how to handle these mean people in healthy, compassionate ways, the less likely they are to upset you or cause you pain.