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How To Deal With Mean People ? | How to Deal with Difficult People ? 5 Useful Strategies

Updated on May 30, 2014

Mean people are different. When they are mean, they aim to inflict pain. Mean people say things to wound others, and they can be found everywhere. There are mean colleagues, mean bosses, shopkeeper, teachers, doctors, neighbours, and even family members.

If a mean person tries to intimidate you, do something about it. Being passive and submissive only encourage more meaner behaviour.

“Mean people look for pushovers. Be assertive and you can bring their behaviour to a stop.” ~ Rick Kirschner.

Yet, few of us know how to deal successfully with mean people and their meanness behaviour. Here are five strategies to help you to cope.


1) Use humour

When you react to a mean remark with humour, it shows that you are not overwhelmed or flustered by the mean people. However, humour should be used with care and gentleness. Avoid using personal issues, such as religion and politics, or other issues that tend to cause conflict. Sarcasm response will never work too, but invites more fights. When used appropriately, humour can actually knock the meanest person off their venomous trajectory.

Some of the general humorous response you can use :

- “Does your mother know you talk that way?”

- If you are shorter than him, climb on a stool. If you are taller, squat down and say, “Well, at least now we see eye to eye on this !”

2) Talk to him professionally

If the mean behaviour is a pattern, and not an isolated flare-up, have a talk with him as professionally as possible. If he is your valuable customer and you would like to salvage the situation, invite him in to have a “heart-to-heart” talk. Tell him that you appreciate his business but you cannot tolerate tantrum in a nice way. To do it professionally, the key is to combine a compliment with firmness. Reassure the customer of his importance and at the same time, establish clear limits on what the company can tolerate. If he is a reasonable person, this strategy will work.

If it doesn’t, you may want to bring up your complaint to his superior. Everyone has a boss that he looked up to, so if he remains uncooperative and mean, please ask to see his supervisor.

3) Be diplomatic

Direct confrontation is a powerful approach to deal with mean and difficult people. However, sometimes a subtler approach is more appropriate. The key to successful diplomacy is to provide the other party with a graceful way to give in.

For instance, while you are lining up to the cashier at a grocery store, another customer suddenly barges ahead of you. You could ignore it, but you wouldn’t feel about it. You could yell, but the other person may yell back. A better option is to say, “Excuse me, sir, the line starts here.”

The polite disapproval shows you are upset and gives the person an easy exit. If the offender refuses to cooperate, the best policy is usually to let the incident pass. Once beaten, can be twice shy. He may think twice before he repeats the same inappropriate act in future.

4) Walk away or Resign

After many attempts to deal with difficult or mean people do not bring about any fruitful results, you may want to just leave the situation, and end the tormenting life there. However, this should be the last resort.

If your boss often pin points your mistakes, or call you names, don’t let the bully continues. Leave or walk out of the situation if you don’t see the hope that he will improve his behaviour. You deserve to retain your self-respect, and you have a choice to be in a workplace where you are respected for who you are.

5) Be forgiving

In some situations, be patient, endure and forgive is the best course of action to see through or end the conflicting situation.

When you forgive, you get your life back.

When you forgive, you free your mind.

When you forgive, you can continue to put your energies on your priorities, and not pettiness.

~Henrietta Elegunde

As you learn to forgive, you grow to be stronger than before, and the less easy of a target you become.

If the mean person is your own family members or relatives, and you are wondering if you should invite them to your parties. The answer is : Be a good guy and open the door for them. Give them the choice of creating a scene or walking through. Sometimes all they needed was an attention.

Last Note

It is comforting to know that mean or difficult people often get what they deserved. With endurance, wisdom and some good strategies, you can overcome mean or difficult people wherever you encounter them.


The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are owned by Ingenira who hereby asserts her copyright on the material. Permission must be granted by the author in writing prior to copy or republish this article in print or online. However, please feel free to copy the first paragraph with a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Ingenira 2011


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