It’s a well known fact. People can be mean. Like really mean. I’m not talking about the woman who rolled her eyes at you in line at the store or the thumbs down on your YouTube video…I’m talking about the intentionally-trying-to-get-under-your-skin-and-make-you-feel-less-than kind of mean.
When I was a kid, I remember thinking that when I got older people would be nice. You know, because maturity. I had never seen adults be mean to one another. Yes, I had seen adults fight and be angry at one another, but I had never seen the intentional hurting of another person in my adult surroundings as a child. In my mind anger was never connected to meanness…a concept I believe adults today still find hard to grasp. You can be angry with someone without lashing out and being vindictive. Go figure.
I have learned in my adulthood that there are some people who simply aren’t nice and who as a result will not treat you nicely. These people in their intentional spitefulness can get into your head and cause you to question your own responsibility in your mistreatment. It’s a reality I’m still struggling to accept as I age because even though the teen years were aggressive, I believe the pettiness of adulthood is unmatched.
When someone intentionally directs malice towards you, how are you as an adult supposed to handle these things? Now, I am not one for confrontation (Enneagram 8’s & INFJ’s represent) So, I’m never going to be the person who storms into a space and demands wrongs be righted. I am more so a deeply sensitive person of controlled expression and internal reflection…so how does someone like me (you naturally confrontational people are on your own) handle situations like this? How do we handle our very strong and internalized emotions? I am not an expert, but I have had more than a few moments after having a rough encounter where I have separated myself into a quiet space and processed my feelings, all of them; rage, despair, panic, more despair and more rage, all at once with no idea what to do with them. So maybe that qualifies me enough to answer.
Before I do that though, I want to acknowledge something
Some of us have bought into the mindset that our emotions are bad. That feeling anger is wrong and being sad is weakness. Maybe you grew up hearing “stop being so sensitive” or “get a thicker skin”. Although those saying such things in those moments were probably trying to help us survive in a world that they knew would be cruel. That thought process that would over time internalize, in effect traps us into a space where we suppress our emotions and therefore never learn to deal with them. At least that’s part of my story. I’ve learned however that this is incorrect. Feeling is very important and as a matter of fact we are designed to do so.
So now, I do. I’m still working on it, but I’m becoming more okay each day with teaching myself to be okay with how much I feel. I’ve actually come to realize that the more I allow myself to feel, the more compassionate and empathetic I become and I love that side of me. (note: acknowledging what you’re feeling and allowing your feelings to control you are Cmb two very different things. I’m an advocate for feeling all of the things. I am not advocating being controlled by your emotions)
So how do we handle mean people?
- Acknowledge the Facts– Difficult people are difficult people. A person’s difficult nature or meanness is not your fault. Whether these people are family members, co workers, team mates or even teachers, it’s important to know that you are not deserving of someone else’s hostile behavior towards you. It’s in my nature to try hard to figure out how I am responsible for someone’s mistreatment of me and it still takes time to level myself and remind myself that no, I am not responsible for anyone else’s behavior but my own.
- Get Surrounded– Even though I know that mean people are mean independent of me, I still get extra hurt after an encounter. I may question myself, or just sit and allow the situation to take more of a hold on me than it should. This is when I need my people. I don’t have a lot of people, but I have people. I need my people to be aware of what I encountered and help me not lay it all on myself. Because I will. My people offer support, distractions, accountability, venting, and usually food. Food is good.
- Resist the Temptation to Lose Yourself– I mean this in two ways. First way is to resist the temptation to give it back to them. Once I come to my senses I usually get a little ticked (putting it lightly) at the fact that someone thought it was okay to be so nasty towards me. Because I am a human, I debate for a split second giving it back to them 10 fold. I never do. Because it’s a terrible idea one and two because that’s not me. I’m not a mean person. I’m actually the person who tends to be very quick to forgive and that’s who I want to remain to be. The second way is don’t hide yourself in an attempt to evade another encounter. I’m guilty of this one. I have a tendency to completely remove my personality when interacting with someone who has treated me poorly consistently. I basically shut down so that the next time I encounter this person there will literally be nothing about me for them to latch onto and attack because there will be nothing there. It’s a self preserving method that comes out of discomfort or fear of being emotionally pummeled… it’s definitely not healthy but I am working on it.
- Set Some Boundaries– The B word. Do not let people who have consistently hurt you have full access to you. Period. Boundaries are healthy and you CAN forgive someone without allowing them an all access pass to your emotions and sanity contrary to popular belief. Some examples of boundaries may be; not discussing certain topics, limiting the time you spend with certain individuals and limiting the amount of communication you have with certain individuals. These boundary lines may be hard to draw depending on who you have to draw them for…but they’re necessary.
- Reward Yourself– You’re strong. Celebrate that. I’ve made a point in the recent years to reward myself when I have an encounter that shakes me to my core and I respond well to it. Why? Because I deserve it and I’m proud of myself. It’s that simple.
Conclusion: People are going to be mean
It’s a part of life. People may say that these steps are just fluff for a millennial generation who can’t handle the realties of life…but honestly I don’t care. I’ve done the man-up and muscle through it thing…it brought me to the point where I needed a therapist because I was muscling through too much all at once and driving full speed into a disaster. So they can save it.
I prefer to treat myself with gentleness and grace. Understanding that no, I don’t have to muscle through it. I can sit for a moment, acknowledge that certain things are painful and find soft ways for me to navigate through them. That’s what this is. A soft way to navigate through hard moments. I hope you found these useful and I hope that if you’re anything like me you find healthy ways to navigate through life while encountering difficult people. Life can be hard, let’s face it together.
Thanks for reading & until next time