Understanding and Dealing with Mean People: A Guide

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Understanding Mean People

Have you ever come across a person who left you feeling drained, hurt, or angry? Someone who seems to enjoy causing chaos and emotional pain wherever they go?

We’ve all met at least one mean person in our lives. They can be difficult to navigate, especially if you don’t understand why they behave the way they do.

In this article, we’ll shed some light on the reasons, signs, and best ways to deal with mean people.

Reasons for Meanness

The first step in understanding a mean person is to recognize the underlying reasons behind their behavior. Although every individual’s circumstances are unique, there are some common factors that contribute to meanness.

Low self-esteem

Mean people often have low self-esteem and lack confidence in themselves. They use cruel words and actions to compensate for their insecurity, to feel powerful and in control.

Antisocial behavior

Some people are naturally inclined towards bad behavior. They don’t care about social norms, rules, or the consequences of their actions.

They may engage in illegal activities, break promises, or bully others without remorse.

Desire for power

Others may crave power and control over others, using meanness as a way to assert their dominance.


Mean people may feel envious of others’ success, happiness, or attention. Instead of working on their own goals, they may resort to tearing down others to feel better about themselves.

Bad parenting

Some mean behaviors may stem from growing up in a dysfunctional family or experiencing abuse. Abuse victims may lash out at others or lack empathy for others’ feelings because they don’t know how to behave differently.


Some people may view themselves as superior to others, making them look down on others, belittle them and criticize them all the time.

Low emotional intelligence

Poor emotional intelligence results in distorted perceptions of people’s behavior.

An individual with low emotional intelligence may misinterpret actions or comments and lash out or react negatively.

Lack of empathy

A lack of empathy, result from having a natural impairment in this area, is characterized by not understanding or acknowledging other people’s feelings.

Recognizing a Mean Person

Now that we know why people may be mean let’s take a look at how to recognize them. Here are some tell-tale signs to look out for:

  • Only hanging out for a reason: Mean people may only hang around with others for personal gain or social status.
  • They may be opportunists looking for favors or people to manipulate.
  • Lying and exaggerating: If someone lies or exaggerates frequently, they may be trying to manipulate others or make themselves look better.
  • Not following through on promises: A mean person may RSVP to an event but never show up or make plans but bail at the last minute. They don’t care about how their actions affect others.
  • Hurtful words: Mean people often say hurtful or sarcastic things to others’ utterances.
  • Spreading spiteful gossip: Mean people may spread rumors, secrets, or lies to damage someone’s reputation or cause chaos.
  • Playing the blame game: If someone refuses to take responsibility for their actions or shifts blame to others, they may be trying to avoid consequences or manipulate circumstances.
  • Tainting happy moments: Mean people may spoil someone’s good time or achievements by criticizing or minimizing them.
  • Manipulating others: Mean people may try to manipulate others to get what they want, using guilt trips or other means of coercion.
  • Pitting people against each other: Mean people might fuel existing conflicts or create new ones, simply for the sake of creating drama.

Dealing with Mean People

When it comes to dealing with mean people, it’s important to remember that how we react to their behavior matters. Here are some ways to handle mean people:

Fighting back

Fighting back can sometimes escalate the situation and make things worse.

Match mean words with kindness, refuse to engage in tit-for-tat battles, and don’t stoop to their level.

Keeping distance

In some cases, it may be best to limit contact or cut ties altogether, especially if the person brings nothing positive into your life.

Don’t let them get to you

Mean people thrive on attention, so don’t give them what they want. Don’t let their words or actions affect you, and don’t let them make you feel inferior or less important.

Confronting them

If you must interact with a mean person, do it with confidence and assertiveness. Address their behavior directly, but calmly and without name-calling or insults.

Make it clear that you won’t tolerate their negativity.

Personal Experience with a Mean Person

I once had a friend named Ava who would badmouth people behind their backs and make fun of them in public. She had a happy-go-lucky facade, but under that veneer was a spiteful and manipulative person.

She would compare herself to a seven-year-old when talking about her self-esteem issues, but she never applied the same kindness and empathy to others. At first, I thought it was harmless venting, as we all need to let off some steam from time to time.

But then I realized that Ava never had anything positive to say about anyone and her snide comments were hurting others’ feelings. I also saw the negative effects of her behavior on others’ mental health.

Eventually, I had enough and ended my friendship with her. Looking back, I can see now that Ava’s behavior comes from poor self-esteem.

She didn’t feel good about herself, so she lashed out at others to make herself look or feel better. Her actions made me realize that it’s essential to judge character, not appearances.

While Ava seemed fun and outgoing on the surface, she was miserable on the inside and had to make others unhappy too. Cutting her off made me realize I was happier without mean people in my life.


Dealing with mean people can be difficult, but understanding their behavior helps us to respond and protect our mental well-being. Recognizing the signs of meanness, learning the reasons behind it, and knowing how to handle these individuals in daily life can help you steer clear of them and not let their negative energy take up space in your life.

Remember, you have the power to control your reactions to mean people and protect yourself from their harm.

Reasons Behind Meanness

Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s meanness and wondered what could motivate that kind of negative behavior? Mean people have found ways to inflict their pain on others, but there are underlying reasons why they behave this way.

Low Self-Esteem

The most common reason for meanness is low self-esteem. People with negative emotions may direct their thoughts and feelings towards others to avoid dealing with their own issues.

By putting someone else down, they can momentarily feel superior. However, this may be very temporary, and they may feel worse about themselves in the long run.

Antisocial Behavior

Some people genuinely have difficulty liking others and being around them, and they become easily irritable in social situations. These individuals may resort to mean behavior to maintain distance from others and avoid engaging with them.

Desire for Power

The desire for power is another common reason behind meanness. People who feel powerless may try to assert control over others to feel important.

They may use tactics such as name-calling, threats, or violence to make others feel inferior and unable to defend themselves.


Jealousy is another reason why people may behave meanly. If someone feels insecure about their own life or accomplishments, they may try to knock someone else down.

Envy can be a powerful motivator for meanness, especially when it stems from a perception that someone else is better or more successful than you.

Bad Parenting

Bad parenting can have long-lasting consequences on someone’s behavior. Children who grow up with parents who normalize meanness or are themselves mean may learn to mimic those patterns when they grow up.

Modeling mean behavior also reinforces the notion that it’s okay to treat others poorly.

Sense of Superiority

The sense of superiority is yet another reason why people may act meanly. If someone wants to feel superior, they may view others as inferior and thus behave in ways that put others down.

This can make them feel powerful and important but only temporarily.

Low Emotional Intelligence

Low emotional intelligence often results in people having a distorted perception of events. People who have low emotional intelligence may not understand their emotions and have poor control over their anger.

This lack of control over their emotions may lead to lashing out and hurting those around them.

Lack of Empathy

Empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling and to acknowledge their pain. People who lack empathy may be insensitive to other people’s feelings and ignore their pain.

This lack of empathy may cause them to hurt others without understanding the implications of their actions.

Recognizing a Mean Person

Now that we know why people may act meanly, it’s important to know how to recognize them. Here are some signs of a mean person:

  1. Putting others down: Mean people often put others down, using insults, name-calling, and criticism.
  2. Ignoring boundaries: They may not respect others’ boundaries and continue to engage in behavior that hurts them.
  3. Self-centeredness: Mean people may be self-centered, focusing only on their own needs.
  4. Spreading rumors: They may gossip, spread rumors or secrets to hurt others.
  5. Manipulative behavior: They may manipulate situations to get what they want, using guilt trips or other means of coercion.
  6. Disregarding others’ feelings: Mean people may ignore others’ feelings and prioritize their own needs.

Dealing with a Mean Person

If you find yourself dealing with a mean person, here are some ways to handle it:

  1. Avoid engaging: Meanness thrives on attention, so avoiding engagement with the person can help protect your energy and emotional well-being.
  2. Setting boundaries: Setting boundaries can reinforce your need for respect and remind the mean person that their behavior is unacceptable.
  3. Being assertive: If you must communicate with a mean person, being assertive can help convey your message in a controlled but firm manner.
  4. Finding support: Surrounding yourself with supportive people can be beneficial when dealing with the aftermath of mean people’s behavior.


Understanding the reasons behind meanness and how to recognize and handle mean people can help protect your emotional well-being. Choosing to focus on building and maintaining positive relationships can help reduce the influence that mean people have on our life.

Remember to prioritize self-care and seek professional help if needed.

Dealing with a Mean Person

Encountering a mean person can be challenging, especially when it involves navigating relationships and dealing with difficult people. Everyone has a unique approach to handling mean people, but some approaches are more effective than others.

Here are some ways to handle mean people when they come into your life.

Fighting Back

One way of dealing with a mean person is by fighting back. It means standing up for oneself and responding in kind to the mean person’s behavior.

However, one should not confuse standing up for oneself with aggression or hostility. The goal is not to add to the negativity but to assert boundaries and remind the mean person that their behavior is unacceptable.

One can use phrases like “I don’t appreciate being spoken to that way” or “Please treat me with respect.”

While fighting back can be a satisfying way of dealing with a mean person, it is not always the most effective one. Mean people often thrive on drama and attention, and fighting back can fuel their negative behavior.

It may lead to a vicious cycle of retaliation and counter-retaliation, leaving everyone feeling frustrated and exhausted.

Keeping Distance

One way of dealing with a mean person is by keeping distance. It means minimizing communication or cutting them off altogether.

This approach is ideal for those who don’t have to engage with the mean person in their lives every day. People may find this approach especially helpful when dealing with acquaintances or coworkers who exhibit mean behavior.

Cutting a mean person out of one’s life can be difficult. But it can also be liberating.

It can give one the space needed to heal from any negative effects of the mean person’s behavior and prioritize one’s mental health and well-being.

Not Letting Them Get to You

Another way of dealing with a mean person is by not letting them get to you. It means not doubting oneself and not falling for the mean person’s manipulation.

It is important to remember that the mean person’s behavior says more about them than it does about you. It is also essential to resist the mean person’s attempts to make you feel inferior or worthless.

One can do this by establishing one’s own self-worth and reminding oneself of one’s strengths. Practicing self-care, seeking support from friends and loved ones, and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment can also help combat the impact of the mean person’s behavior.

Confronting Them

Finally, one way to deal with a mean person is by confronting them. It means salvaging the relationship, being honest, staging an intervention, or being prepared to lose them.

Before confronting a mean person, it is important to assess the situation realistically. The goal should not be to provoke or attack the person but to give them an opportunity to recognize their behavior and address it.

One should be clear and specific about how their behavior is impacting you and others. If necessary, one should consider staging an intervention with friends or family members who are also affected by the mean person’s behavior.

However, it is important to note that confronting a mean person may not always work. Some mean people may be unwilling to change, defensive, or aggressive towards those who challenge their behavior.

In these situations, it may be necessary to accept that the relationship cannot be salvaged and to cut ties.


Encountering a mean person can be challenging. Every situation involving a mean person is different and requires careful evaluation before deciding on the best course of action.

One should remember to prioritize their overall well-being and not engage in behavior that adds more negativity to the situation. Ultimately, choosing to prioritize positive relationships and healthy behavior is the most effective way to combat the impact of mean people in our lives.

In conclusion, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with mean people. It’s important to recognize the underlying reasons for their behavior, such as low self-esteem, antisocial behavior, jealousy, and a sense of superiority, among others.

Recognizing the signs of meanness is also helpful, such as putting others down, spreading rumors, and manipulating others. Once you’ve identified a mean person, you can choose to fight back, keep your distance, not let them get to you, or confront them.

Ultimately, prioritizing your well-being and surrounding yourself with positive relationships and healthy behavior is critical to combating the negative impact of mean people in your life.

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