As always, I’m working on my positivity and “happy levels”. This looks like practicing gratitude, mindfulness, looking at the bright side of things, and obviously avoiding unnecessary conflict. As a result, Most of my interactions are neutral if not positive. But what do I do when someone purposely sabotages that? It’s not like getting cut off in traffic, which may or may not be taken personally. How do I deal with a direct insult, or personal attack?
Despite positive outlooks, I cannot filter every person and every interaction. There are going to be “unpleasantries”. And since I can’t do my default and put a positive spin on something like being bullied, what do I do?
This blog post is the result of my research (GOOGLE). I’ve linked my favorite readings at the bottom of the list.
Why are some people mean? This is the first question I wanted to answer. It can be summed up:
“Hurt people hurt people.”
And I think we already knew this. It’s them, not you! People act mean from a place of feeling small, insecure, vulnerable, etc.
They are projecting that feeling onto you because
- It makes them feel good by contrast. They are hiding their insecurity behind “someone else’s flaw” or
- They’re obsessed with their insecurity and thus more likely to see (and attack) it in others.
Okay confession: I’ve been mean to people too. I think my primary reason would be that I think the person is annoying and my meanness is an attempt to shut them up. But when I take the time to address why I’m really doing this… They’ve shown me that I’m not as patient as I think, being kind is not effortless, and dammit I am not in control of the people around me.
Okay, cool. But how do I deal with these people? What do I do when someone is intentionally rude to me?
Well, the first point is understanding WHY people are mean. Even if it’s a personal attack, try not to take it personally. Remember, it’s them not you.
Also, meanness is not normal. It may be normal for that person or a common aspect of communication, but it is not a NORMAL part of human interaction. Just because it happens a lot doesn’t mean it’s okay. (There is a difference between normal and common/average)
This is simple in theory, but try to put some space between you. It’s not your position to be punching bag for their personal issues. Even if you can’t physically escape them (family member, coworker/boss), do what you can to at least minimize the interaction.
And you don’t have to necessarily ignore them (I think that’s kinda immature actually), but some insults are not worth your acknowledgement and attention. Like, “I hear you but I’m not going to listen or take that seriously.” (However, I do think that fleeting insults on social media ought to be totally ignored.)
I understand that mantras should NOT be slapped on top of an unresolved personal issues, but you do not have an issue here. They do. So here give yourself a mantra to help yourself get through it. Example: “Loving, patient, kind. I practice compassion every day.” Or even, have a mantra about them. Don’t verbalize this aloud, it’s actually also for you. Example: “May you be happy, health, at peace, and surrounded by love.” Isn’t that what people really want in life? And isn’t their being mean just an attempt to cover up their feelings of inadequacy?
Do not fight back. When you do that, you validate the behavior. You’d probably feed that behavior, especially if you respond similarly (shouting back, bringing up the past, etc.). If a person is mature enough to begin a positive life-change after being insulted back, they’re probably mature enough to not have bullied in the first place. Right?
Yes I remember the scene where Anne Hathaway’s character shuts up her bully in The Princess Diaries. (She smears ice cream on the cheerleader’s shirt and says “You will never stop being a jerk.”) I love that part of the movie, but I think that is a terrible example of what to do in real life. We can just live through that vicariously I guess.
As for fighting insults with compliments….I do not believe that will work. Mean people project their insecurities onto you and then insult THAT. If they identify with their insecurity (which they probably do unawares), a compliment is literally a direct threat to the ego. And when threatened, the first option is to resist and fight back two-fold. Find another way to “heap burning coals upon his head”. (Proverbs 25:21-22)
Also, if an insult directly provokes you to fire back a similar insult, reflect on why. When you fight back, it shows that YOUR ego was threatened and went into offensive defense mode. You may identify with the same insecurity they do. Introspection is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
Finally, you know that you cannot change people. You can only create a space for that change to happen. Be compassionate, because you know they need it.
I apologize for the syntax “we” nice people and “they” mean people. We are all subject to being both bullies and punching bags at different times. We are all subject to ego, insecurities, and our own meanness.
But with awareness, I hope we find ourselves moving towards better ways of dealing with our personal issues instead of projecting them on other people.
Thank you so much for reading this! It’s just the result of me trying to figure out this issue for myself. I also have a limited perspective, so Please comment any ideas you might have for understanding and dealing with bullies/mean people! 😊
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