Handling Mean People

by Reid on December 18, 2015

African American couple hugging with eyes closedIt’s easy to be rattled when someone is mean to us. Want to learn cool ways to reframe this and “turn the tables”?

Join Cathy Vartuli from TheIntimacyDojo.com as she talks to sex and relationship expert Reid Mihalko from ReidAboutSex.com about creating more intimacy in your life.

Cathy:  Hey, everyone. This is Cathy Vartuli from TheIntimacyDojo.com, and Reid Mihalko from ReidAboutSex.com.

Reid, what do you do if someone’s mean to you? A lot of us are so afraid that someone’s going to be mean. We’re go around kind of creeping, trying to make sure we avoid people that are mean, and not drawing their ire.

Reid:  Mmm hmm.

Cathy:  What do you do when someone’s mean to you?

Reid:  Well, I have the added advantage of having lived in Manhattan and New York City for sixteen years, so I can tell them to go F themselves in several different languages.

Cathy:  That’s impressive.

Reid:  Umm, it is impressive, and I use it well, but with great power comes great responsibility. What I usually try to do, rather than just swear at somebody – you know, often on a good day… I can’t always pull this off, but often on a good day, when somebody’s being mean to me, I will be more present with them and caring.

Cathy:  (laughing)

Reid:  But kind of in this weird… This is this New Yorker kind of like F U. Like, “Obviously, your mental stability and emotional stability has been compromised.”

Cathy:  (laughing)

Reid:  And I’m a bigger person. And I will hold space for you, O-poor-soul-who-is-not-as-cool-as-I-am. Because I am compassionate. (laughing) That actually works well for me because I’m a competitive person and I am stubborn. So, as long as I think that I am better than you, I’m fine! I’m happy! Which, I know, is not the most enlightened approach, but it works!

So what I do is, I ask the person, “Wow, you must be having a horrible day for you to treat me like that! Are you okay?” And really… And this is “I love people” too.

Cathy:  Yes.

Reid:  So it actually works, like I actually do kind of care. But it’s a great strategy. Because in being present and not reacting to them, I’m like, “Oh wow, you seem really upset. Are you okay? Like, is your dog dying or something? What’s going on that you’re taking this out on people? No, like really. What’s up?”

Cathy:  (laughing) It would really, like you have nothing to attack, and you kind of look like an ass in front of your friends.

Reid:  Yeah, it works great when somebody’s being a dick to you in public because you can call them out and be like, “Wow, you seem like you’re being really aggressive right now. Are you feeling insecure about something? What’s up? (laughing) Is everything okay?” And again, I’m being really transparent. When people try to out-Alpha me…

Cathy:  Mmm hmm…

Reid:  I would usually pull them aside if I can, and say, “So listen, if you’re trying to bully me or out-Alpha me, and you truly are somebody who’s an Alpha, you would not need to do that.

Cathy:  Yeah.

Reid:  And so, “Alpha to Alpha, what’s up? Like, are you okay? What’s going on? Like, how can I support you?” And that freaks them out. Right? Because I’m basically saying, “I won,” but in a really polite way (laughing), and I’m inviting them, “As Alphas, let’s help each other.”

Cathy:  You’re saying what people don’t ever say.

Reid:  Yeah, and that’s on a good day. You know, for really shy people, if you’re caught unexpected, or if I’m just having a small day, like I don’t remember to do that. The other thing that can be really useful is, understanding that mean people and people who are yelling are often yelling or being mean because no one’s hearing them.

Cathy:  Yes.

Reid:  This is really true with people who are yelling. And so, what I will try to do is say, “Hey, my sense of it is that no one is listening to you.”

Cathy:  Yeah.

Reid:  And somebody will have to say that two or three times, and then they’ll be like… They’ll get that you’re listening, and they’ll quiet down immediately. And they’ll be like, “What?” and you’re like, “It sounds like you have to yell to be heard because no one gives a hoot and is not listening to you. And I’m listening to you. What’s going on?”

Cathy:  Mmm hmm.

Reid:  I’ve used that before, and that has quieted people down immediately. And it works with mean people, too. It’s like, “Hey, you know, I sense that you’re being mean because probably the people in your life suck! And no one understands that you actually have important things to say.”

Cathy:  Yes.

Reid:  Then they’ll be like… I had one person start crying.

Cathy:  Oh, yeah. Well, people usually are aggressive, mean, blaming, when they feel disempowered. They feel like they’re not… And that helps me to remember. If someone’s being very blaming, it’s usually that they feel like they don’t have power around something, and it’s very important to them.

Reid:  Yeah.

Cathy:  So acknowledging that, and just saying “Hey, you’re kind of coming across mean.” I love just calling it, because most people don’t. They’re like “Oh, I’ve got to try to earn their…”

Reid:  And calling it out and giving… For me, calling it out and giving it a reason. Not that you have to be right, but like “Wow, it seems like you’re kind of being mean. Are people being dicks to you today? Like, what’s going on? You know, I can tell that you’re upset.”

Cathy:  Yeah.

Reid:  And that kind of caring and naming something that’s basically not their fault… Because you don’t want to blame.

Cathy: Yes. Blaming just makes it…

Reid:  So calling them out on it, compassionately, and then not blaming them, can often get people to interrupt their patterns.

Cathy:  Mmm hmm.

Reid:  The one thing I will drop in here is, there’s a difference between somebody being mean or angry and somebody who verbally and emotionally is abusing you.

Cathy:  Yes.

Reid:  So, I’m not saying if you’re in a bad relationship, or you have a boss who’s a complete “A-hole,” to be like, “Gee boss, (laughing) um, I see that you’re really upset, and man, your life must be really hard.” No! I’m not saying that! In those instances, you need to be like, “Listen, that is unacceptable and we’re not going to do that anymore.”

Cathy:  Yeah.

Reid:  But if it’s the barista at the coffee shop that’s yelling at you, you can be like “Wow, like what’s going on? I mean, your life has to really suck today for you to take it out on a customer.” And they’ll usually be like, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I apologize,” and you can just interrupt their pattern that way.

Cathy:  Yeah. That’s great! That’s very powerful. Thank you.

Reid:  You’re welcome. Good luck! Your mileage may vary!

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