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Why Are Some People So Mean?

Updated on January 18, 2018
revmjm profile image

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She researches and shares remedies for using certain products for illnesses.


According to most dictionaries, meanness is a personal quality characterized by bullying, aggression, cruelty, and ruthlessness. Noah Webster defines the word as the act of being cruel with the goal of receiving excellence, power, and rank by criticizing others.

Two Kinds

Unintentional meanness refers to behavior done by a person that was perceived by the recipient to be hurtful, but it was never intended to be that way.

There is no doubt that malicious meanness is deliberately carried out to hurt someone. Some acts are a mixture of both unintentional and malicious behavior.

Mean-Spirited People

Mean-spirited describes someone who is unkind, cruel, malicious or deliberately hurtful. That type of person is someone who loves to see others fail.

Mean-spirited people treat others in a spiteful way by being unkind. Their acts include teasing, calling negative names or deliberately not permitting them to do something. They often put others down in public by making fun of them. It is a long list of things these people do to make themselves feel more important than their subject. Bullies fall into this category.

Mean-spirited people behave badly but believe they are doing nothing wrong. In fact, they accuse their victims of being sensitive and thin-skinned. They often say their victims deserve it.

Possible Reasons

Some people can be mean occasionally, but others are that way all the time. They thrive on being offensive and hurtful toward others. They pick the people they want to hurt because they know they can get away with it.

  1. Some people hurt others just to get attention and become noticed themselves.
  2. Some people try to protect their own low self-esteem feel better by becoming superior to someone else.
  3. People control and hurt them because they are jealous of those they criticize.
  4. To feel more powerful, some people believe they must put others down to do so.

How to Call Out a Mean Person

A mean person might claim he is not that way. In that case, you need to call out the mean person.

  1. Confront the person and be brave and confident about it.
  2. Point out the hurtful behavior.
  3. Let the person know how his behavior affects you.

Unless it is a family member or a co-worker you have to deal with all the time, it might not be worth the effort in trying to rationalize with the person who mistreats you occasionally. Just stay away from him or her because it is very hard to stop that type of person from acting that way toward you, especially if he has been doing it for a long time.

Most people are mean because of some flaw in their own character or distortion in their own thinking. It is usually not about you unless you have done something hurtful to them.

How Not to Be Mistreated

Almost everyone has had to deal with hurtful people at some time in their lives. There are ways you can try which may or may not stop them from mistreating you.

  • You may not be able to control the person’s behavior, but you can control how you respond to it.
  • Control the times you interact with the person. Refrain from socializing with that type of person.
  • Stand up for yourself. Be straightforward and let people know that you will not allow yourself to be walked over.
  • Instead of avoiding the person, go out of your way to be nice. However, many who have tried this method say it just doesn't work.

How to Shelter Yourself

There are ways to shelter yourself from a person who usually hurts you.

  1. Avoid the person, whenever it is possible. If you know someone is going to mistreat you, keep your distance from that person. Do not make it easy for the person to hurt you.
  2. Keep encounters short in those cases when you must be in the person's presence.
  3. Communicate via email if you know the person is going to snap at you for no reason if you talk in person.
  4. When encountering an undesirable person face-to-face, do not engage in long conversations. Say what you have to say and move on.

Good Advice

Don't feel bad about yourself when someone mistreats you. Don't get involved in any pettiness. Pity them and focus on living your own life.

Positive Words to Victims

Sometimes people mistreat others just to get a reaction. You can control whether or not they will get a reaction from you.

Most people who are mean have some flaws in their lives. Know that unless you have done something significant against that person, it is not about you.

You should know that you are not at fault for the way someone treats you. You are not wearing a sign that says, "Mistreat Me." Recognize that you don't deserve to be treated that way.

The way you are treated might not be about you at all. It is often because of a disturbance in the person's own life. There may be a deeper issue that the person is using negative behavior to project onto someone else. Sometimes, the biggest bully is the one who has been bullied himself.

Final Words

The person is often rewarded when the attack is successful and the recipient is made to feel bad about himself. However, the recipient's participation is needed.

Things to do or not to do:

  1. Do not participate in order for mistreatment to be successful.
  2. Don't feel bad about yourself when someone mistreats you for no apparent reason.
  3. Recognize that unless you have done something that clearly hurts someone else, you are not the cause of the bad behavior projected onto you.
  4. Don't base your self-worth on the way someone treats or mistreats you.
  5. Pity people, and don't take their problem upon yourself.
  6. Do not give mean people ruin your life.



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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      17 months ago from Richmond, VA

      I am so blessed to have people who comment in positive ways so that others learn from the comments as well as from the articles. Thank you!

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      17 months ago from U.S.A.

      I like Dashing Scopio's comment as well. It always comes down to whether we will fight or take flight when confronting mean people. It's the choice between peace or war on small or grander scales. It's the option of whether I will be controlled by my animal physical nature or rise above it with my spiritual nature.

      Personally, I feel it is the choice Jesus Christ confronted daily. I choose to allow my spiritual nature to guide because stooping to a mean person's level hurts me. It also hurts the mean person - they don't learn. (They may not be interested in or care about learning. That's their choice.)

      However, I prefer to follow Dr. King's teachings. I prefer to follow Gandi's teachings. I will survive long after the mean person because humans who prefer their animal nature can't beat the "wages of sin" they brought upon themselves.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      17 months ago from Richmond, VA

      WOW! dashingscorpio, thanks a lot for your detailed comments. I enjoyed reading the truthful things you wrote.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      17 months ago

      Each of us chooses our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

      Each of gets to choose who we spend our time with.

      Probably the best thing one can do is choose not have anything to do with a-holes and jerks.

      Confronting the "wrong person" sometimes leads to violence or death. One has to consider possible consequences before taking action. Sometimes violence is the only they respect.

      Anger is the Mask that Hurt wears

      From a psychological point of view most "mean people" have been hurt many times and have adopted a philosophy of:

      "Do unto other before they do unto you."

      Being mad, angry, or mean is a defense mechanism for them. A woman might say to a man:

      "I don't NEED a man!"

      The guy is sitting there wondering: Where did that come from? It's a need to set people "straight" before anything happens.

      For a lot of people being mean means they will get (respect) from others or cause others to give them what they want.

      Mean people are generally insecure and cowardly at heart. They're too afraid of being rejected by asking for what they want so they implore intimidation & threats to get their way.

      The best way to hurt a mean person is to get them to expose their behavior in front of the world for all to see. Their biggest fear is being "embarrassed" or looking foolish.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      17 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Tim, thanks for reading and commenting. You usually make a comment that I wish I had included in my article. However, some people read the comments and get to be enlightened by your wisdom as well. Happy New Year!

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      17 months ago from U.S.A.

      Excellent words of wisdom. One of my favorite quotations comes from another religion: "Kindness is the lodestone of the hearts of men." Although we may encounter mean people, being kind will win allies against such treatment. I've experienced such.

      One particular person was constantly rude, hateful, and outright cruel when he encountered me. However, his mother had noticed I was always kind. She quickly corrected his behavior. I was in school at the time, so it wasn't easy to escape this high school bully. But our God intervenes.

      Thank you for your wonderful and encouraging article. These are practical and common sense tactics to use when addressing the mean people of the world.


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