When Someone Is Mean To You

I recently remembered the mean treatment I got was from a former colleague. She always fought for the lighter duties but would claim to have contributed the most at every success. She would use every opportunity to speak ill of my work, looks, and anything else. I don’t know if she knew it but she always attracted quarrels and almost made me resign. The challenge with mean people is, unless you understand why they treat you the way they do, you might not get a lasting solution or know how to defend yourself. In this article, I will explain why some people are mean and teach you how to respond to a mean person, and how to deal with mean friends.

When someone is mean to you, quit looking for shortcomings within you. Do not believe there’s something wrong with you. You are perfect! Mean people speak and act from their weaknesses. You have two options, either be kind, handle it positively, or be aggressive and repel their meanness.

Have you ever wondered why some people are overly nice and others are extremely mean? Well, let’s find out together why some people find being mean okay.

Why Are People Mean To You?

All mean people have some sort of excuse. They may blame their upbringing, their environment, on-going hardships, or you. A person can be mean yet they don’t know. Here are some of the possible reasons.

8 Reasons Why People Are Mean To You

1.     They don’t know better

There is a caliber of people who think showing kindness is a weakness. Probably they grew up in a torturous environment and being mean comes naturally to them.

2.     It’s their character

Character is built from repetitive habits and not everyone has a good heart. It may sound weird and stupid but some people find being mean classy.

3.     Perception

They see you as a threat. You may not be aware but it’s possible that you intimidate them. When people see you as a competitor, they may try to bring you down by making you feel inferior hence being mean. This happens everywhere, among kids at home and in offices as well.

4.     Jealousy

They envy you, they admire your achievements and possessions, you have everything they have always wanted yet they can’t have it. They feel as if you don’t deserve it but because they have no way of getting to you, they become mean.

5.     Life stresses

Frustrations and pressures of life sometimes push good people to do bad, resentful, and mean things.

6.     They don’t know you

It’s interesting how mean people can be to strangers. We are sometimes unkind just because we don’t know someone.

7.     Revenge

You are mean to them so they are just returning the favor.

8.     They like you

How is it possible that someone who claims to like you shows it by being mean? Well, they can, especially if they have made advances and have realized you won’t like them back.

How to Respond To a Mean Person

You could be the sweetest person in the office but mean people won’t spare you. True, you don’t deserve it but you make perfect prey for them. When a mean person targets you, there are several ways you can respond. Here are 5 proven responses that discourage mean treatment.

5 Effective Ways to Respond To Mean People

1.     Ignore

Act as if you don’t notice, give a deaf ear to their words, and shut your eyes from their mean actions. This won’t be easy but mean people are motivated by reactions, if you show none, they will look for someone else to prey on.

2.     Stare

Turn around slowly and give him/her a fixated blank – emotionless stare. Do not smile or flown, simply look at them eye to eye for about 5 seconds then walk away. Avoid showing emotions no matter how hurt you are. This leaves the person in a dilemma because they can’t figure out what you have in mind.

3.     Smile

You are showing this person that whatever mean thing they are doing or saying is not affecting. You see, when a person treats you in a mean way, they expect a reaction that spurs the mean behavior to continue. When you smile, you disarm them and that leaves them lost for action.

4.     Show Kindness

Just like smiling at a mean person’s actions, responding with kindness is disarming, in fact, it does much more. Firstly, a mean person sees himself or herself as undeserving. When you’re kind to them, it sends a clear distinction between you and her/him. It makes them wonder what kind of person you are.

5.     Rebuke Firmly

Stand up against them and tell them to stop treating you the way they do. Be calm but assertive and speak slowly, refer to specific words or actions. For example “I have had enough of your insults, quit calling me fat.”

How to Deal With Mean People

We both know it takes consistency to correct a habit. This means, if you are to use the responses that we have suggested, they need to be accompanied by actions. They also need to be practiced repetitively as long as it takes for the mean person to change or stop targeting you. Here are suggestions for how to deal with them.

7 Pleasant Ways to Deal with Mean People

1.     Walk away

It may look like cowardice but it’s better than exposing yourself to potential hurt. If he/she wants you to lay low and just be a doormat. Love yourself enough to strengthen your feeble feet and walk away, you deserve better.

2.     Be-friend the person

As earlier mentioned, people always act out of the content of their heart and character. Some of these people have grown up in extremely harsh environments. They could also be going through a rough season. They use their meanness as a defense mechanism. When you become a friend to this person, you get to understand their inner being and you will know how to respond to their words and actions.

3.     Find an opportunity to model positive behavior

Everyone has their bad days where all that could go wrong goes wrong. Take advantage of such a situation to model positivity. Even if it means being the only person on the ‘positive camp’, choose to remain positive.

4.     Repay evil with good

Some people may not understand this principle but doing the right thing pays – all the time. Even in the midst of pain and frustration. Always choose to do right. You see, when you do right, your conscious is clear so you are at peace. At the same time, it teaches that mean person a lesson.

5.     Request to have a chance to discuss the issue

Instead of suffering in silence and covering up your feelings, ask the person if they can hear you out. Have a chat about their actions and how they affect others. Maybe they are not even aware that they hurt you.

I would recommend you hold this discussion in the presence of a third party. Someone who can bring sobriety in case the discussion turns sour.

6.     Call the vice out

Instead of suffering silently, you can point out the meanness and stop it. Face your adversary and warn them, here is an example of words to use. “I am tired of you talking behind my back. If you have something to say, stop gossiping, and talk to me.” It will be a bit frightening at first but this is one of the most effective tactics.

7.     Escalate the issue

This is after trying multiple solutions, if there are no improvements, alert the management, HR, teacher, or any other senior and have them act.

The most effective way of handling this is by using evidence. This means you will need to record several incidences to help you state your case.

2 Aggressive but Effective Ways to Deal with Mean People

Although these actions may yield the results you are looking for, I wouldn’t recommend them. However, we know there are people who don’t buy into the ‘being nice’ way of life. Here are non-positive ways of dealing with your ‘foe’.

1.     Cold treatment

This is where you act immune to their actions or behavior until they change their behavior. They say hi, you remain mute, they insult you, and again, you remain mute. You are blind, deaf, and dumb when it comes to them.

Like we mentioned earlier, cold treatment is nasty but it works.

2.     Attack back

DON’T DO THIS unless you are pushed to the edge and there is no other option. I shouldn’t be telling you this but there comes a time when you’ve had enough. Only then does the lion in you roar and wake up the whole village.

Attacking back may mean using unkind words and hurting actions. See, nothing to be proud of. But again, it works.

Final Note

Do you ever wonder if it is possible to try all these tactics and fail? Unfortunately, yes. I wish I could promise you (especially those who are facing this difficulty currently) that this is all you need to do and then, boom! Magic happens.

The fact of life is that you cannot change a mean friend, neither can they change you, unless, you accept that change. You only have control over your actions and reactions. So, when someone is mean to you, take charge over your reaction because that determines – to a large extent the end results.

How to Deal With Unreasonable People

How To Deal With Ungrateful People

How to Tell Someone How You Feel About Them


Am a graduate sociologist and a regular contributor to national publications such as the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Journal of Applied Social Science and the Annual Review of Sociology.

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