8 Defenses Against Nasty People

Being the flawed persons we all are, you will not like everybody you come across, and not everybody will like you. No matter how hard you try, there will occasions when people are nasty to you when you did nothing to provoke them.

Every now and then, someone will give you unsolicited criticism, send you a rude email, verbally spit in your face, or basically push your button in some way or another. How do you respond when this happens?

1. Disengage

Although the initial temptation to retaliate will be strong, you need to give the anger time to subside. This can be difficult when the confrontation is public and you have your ego to deal with, or when the words cut deeply because they hit a vulnerable spot, or when you feel wronged. You probably know as well as I do, from experience, that a calm and considered response works better than a knee-jerk reaction.

2. Distract yourself

Find something else to do that will take your mind off the unpleasant event. If you cannot stop thinking about it, write down your feelings in your journal. Deal with the issue later when when your rational mind kicks back in, after your emotions have dissipated a little.

3. Understand it is not personal

Of course, it is personal in the sense that the nastiness was directed at you and something about you must have been irksome to the other person. Yet is not personal because the venom does not reside in you, but in her. She obviously has a problem which is bothering her enough to translate into action, but you don’t have to make it your problem by allowing yourself to get drawn into the ring. Let her work it out herself.

4. Look for the lesson

We usually hate most in others what we dislike in ourselves. She is probably giving you a hard time because something about you reminds her of something she cannot accept about herself. If you can honestly ask yourself what trait she is reacting to, then you may learn something about both of you. It does not mean that you are wrong to possess that trait. The lesson is self-knowledge, not self-judgment.

5. Forgive the person

All of us are trying our best. No one is intentionally nasty. Every person has her reasons for acting in a certain way, regardless of whether you are aware of these reasons or approve of them. You have probably been nasty to someone else yourself, and can easily justify to yourself why that person deserved your anger. Well, this time you are the other person. Put it down to karma, and forgive the other person now because someday you too will need forgiveness.

6. Find a way to co-exist

If this person is a family member, friend or colleague, you may have to spend time together again whether you like it or not. Decide how you will deal with the times you are with her. You could agree to ignore each other, just say hello, or talk only about what is necessary. If this person is not a key relationship in your life, it may make sense to just stay out of each other’s way as far as possible.

7. Give a neutral reply if necessary

A reply is not always needed. Sometimes the best strategy is to do nothing. Still, if you did not manage to disengage earlier and got involved somehow, then healing or at least closure may be necessary. A simple “I’m sorry this happened” is both truthful and non-committal. If the person is close to you, more may be required for the rift to mend. If an email requires a professional response, a short “Thank you for your feedback, it has been noted” will probably suffice.

8. Get on with life

There is no need to fret over your soundness of character, your popularity or your future. A one-off criticism is not a verdict on your entire life or you as a whole person. Learn to be less fragile. Life is too short to worry about what one person thinks. There is too much work to be done, too many good deeds to perform, people to love, experiences to savour… The unpleasantness has claimed enough of your life as it is. Time to right the imbalance by getting out there and setting up some wonderful experiences for yourself!

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