You never know what lurks behind those Bambi eyes and friendly grin. For your own good, learn these 14 ways to recognize and deal with mean people.
I’ve had my fair share of experiences with mean people, but there’s one girl whom I’ll never forget. Let’s call her Ava. She is particularly spiteful and extremely manipulative. Ava is well known for being positive and happy-go-lucky, but because I’ve known her for over a decade, I know that it’s all a facade. Behind closed doors, she is the devil incarnate. She bitches about everything, badmouths everyone, and even puts down little kids. Seriously, who compares their art to a 7-year-old’s?
Let’s not even get started on her social media accounts. Her pictures and posts go on forever and somehow, they’re always filled with I’m-so-awesome content. To an outsider, everything’s rainbows and peaches, but to the rare few in the know, Ava is bullshitting the world. Why? One can only assume that it has to do with self esteem issues—but hey, I’m no psychologist, just a friend who’s sick and tired of dealing with the brunt of her attitude.
Why you gotta be so mean?
Despite the number of years that we’ve known each other, I’ve let go of the friendship and am a far happier person now. I’ve learned that, when picking friends and lovers, never judge a book by it’s cover and always remember that it is far safer to take a closer look. Everyone’s got an Ava in their lives. It just comes down to whether you want to admit it.
Here are 10 ways to recognize a person’s mean streak, and 4 tips on how to deal with them.
#1 They only hang out with you for a reason. Unlike real friends, mean people only want to be around you for something other than the pleasure of your company. It could be that you just got a convertible and they need a ride to school. It could be that they’re dry on herb and want you to smoke them up. No matter what, if you take away the reasons for them wanting to be around you, there’s a chance you’ll never hear from them again. [Confession: Why you should never make someone an option when you’re only a priority to them]
#2 Lies and exaggerations. Mean people dabble in lies and, somehow, are masters at exaggerating. They always try to elevate themselves far above everyone else. They love I’m-better-than-you topics, and when they share stories, it always involves them doing something amazing, even if you know that it wasn’t the case.
For example, Ava regaled our group of friends with tales of how she traveled around Laos alone. Yes, she was in Laos, but she certainly wasn’t alone. Her parents were with her. How do I know? Because they told me so. Guess she didn’t realize I knew that little fact when she decided to exaggerate her travel stories.
#3 Never follow through on promises. Mean people are renowned for never following through on their promises. For example, Ava told me, “There’s a position at my company that you would be perfect for. Send me your resume and I’ll personally speak to the director tomorrow.” Of course, I sent her my resume and followed up every chance I got. She either brushed me off or promised to get back in touch.
I finally contacted the HR department to apply for the job myself and found out that there was never an opening to begin with. Perhaps she simply wanted to show off. After all, being chummy with the director is no joke. Perhaps, she was simply trying to make conversation. In any case, that was when I realized Ava couldn’t be trusted.
#4 Hurtful words. Mean people have a gift for churning out what can only be described as complimentary insults. For example, instead of complimenting, “This quiche is amazing. I would love the recipe!” a mean person would say, “This quiche is amazing. Who made it? I know it wasn’t you!” They somehow know how to string words together so that they can inflict the maximum amount of hurt and pain, even if they’re saying something “nice.” [Read: Toxic friends – 10 types of people you HAVE to avoid]
#5 Spiteful gossip mongers. Meanies take delight in pulling people down. All they want to do is talk about other people and nothing out of their mouths is good. Instead of focusing on Priscilla’s promotion, the mean person will probably hint that she got it because she slept with her boss.
#6 Play the blame game. When it comes to mean people, the blame always falls on everyone but themselves. They could be speeding through a red light in a school zone, run over an old lady in a wheelchair, and still place the blame on granny.
#7 Taint happy moments. Meanies always find a way to ruin happy events. Just a while ago, the internet was on fire because a Singaporean blogger brutally live blogged and tweeted her friend’s wedding. The blow-by-blow account scathingly insulted everything from the bride’s dress, to the decorations. Talk about having the worst wedding guest in the history of humankind.
#8 Manipulative mind games. Somehow, mean people are masters at mind games. They know just what to say and do to have you questioning yourself. Whether it’s tearing down your belief system or indirectly mocking your weight, there’s always something for them to attack.
#9 Pit people against each other. The term drama queen was coined specially for mean people. They love conflict, and enjoy pitting people against each other. Whether it’s starting a rumor, bad mouthing someone in front of them, or blaming someone for something they didn’t do, mean people delight in seeing other people in distress. [Read: 16 attention whore signs to watch out for in a friend]
#10 Their reputation precedes them. Another way to identify a mean person is to pay attention to the whispers that make their way through the grapevine. Sure, it’s never nice to indulge in hearsay, but then again, if you hear the same thing from 100 different people, especially if they have been hurt by this person before, there must be some truth to it.
4 firm steps to deal with mean people without losing your mind
Now that you know how to identify mean people, what do you do next? Do you just sit around and wait for them to inflict as much suffering as they can on you? No way, Jose. Here are 4 easy ways to deal with the meanies.
#1 Fight fire with fire. Mean people know that they’re being mean, but they hate being called out on it. You should grow a pair and stand up for yourself. The next time you’re faced with a bully, respond in kind. For example, you should say, “Do you expect me to drive you there again?” instead of, “Is it okay if you find your own way there?” Also, instead of saying, “Yes, I’ll take care of it,” you should say, “You wanted to come to this store but were you seriously expecting me to pay for these?” [Read: How to stop being manipulated in your relationship with others]
#2 Keep your distance. What do you do when you’ve been binge eating and drinking? You go on a detox, of course. Nothing gets rid of toxins better than a detox, and the same philosophy can be applied to the mean people in your life. Minimize or cut off communication in your bid to stop them from walking all over you. You’ll sleep so much better at night. Trust me.
#3 Don’t let them get to you. Never let the meanies cast their spell over you, because before you know it, you’ll be second guessing yourself. The last thing you need is to feel bad about your life choices. They are experts at manipulation, and you need to realize that when you doubt yourself, they win. [Read: 17 friends you need to unfriend from your life]
#4 Confront them. If you care for this mean person, then go ahead and try to salvage the relationship. The only way to do so is to be honest, in a gentle way. Stage an intervention, of sorts, and speak to them calmly. If you don’t do well in face-to-face situations, pen an email. It was how I confronted Ava. There’s a chance they’ll be in denial and blame you for their misery, so also be prepared to lose them as a friend.
Whether you are related to a meanie, are in a relationship with one, are friends with one, or simply know of one, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you need to make a change for your own well being. You can choose to do one or all of the four steps listed above, but at the end of the day, remember to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.