Sometimes people will be nasty to you when you did nothing to provoke them. They might give you unsolicited criticism, be outright rude to you, or worse. These defenses against nasty people can help you to deal with those situations.
Defenses against nasty people:
Disengage instead of retaliating in anger. We react because our egos are bruised, and we don’t want to let the other person ‘win’. But if you react, you both lose. Be the bigger person. Look calmly at them for a few seconds, then walk away or continue whatever you were doing. Show them that their barbs are not worth a reply.
2. Change the subject
When a child throws a tantrum, you shouldn’t indulge the tantrum. Instead, distract the child so that he will forget the tantrum. This works for adults too. Don’t pay any attention to the nastiness. Change the topic to something that is more important to you. Like the above defense, it shows that their behaviour is not worth engaging with.
3. Know it is not personal
Of course, it’s personal in that the nastiness was directed at you. Yet is not about you because the venom does not reside in you, but in the other person. They obviously have a problem which is bothering them. But you don’t have to make it your problem by allowing yourself to get drawn in. Look at them with compassion in your eyes, because of the pain they have inside them.
4. Realise you are a mirror
We hate most in others what we dislike in ourselves. She is probably giving you a hard time because something about you reminds her of herself. For example, bossy people can’t stand other bossy people. If she makes a snide remark about how bossy you are, she may unknowingly dislike her own bossiness. Realise that you are just a mirror. She is not attacking you per se, but her own reflection.
5. Forgive the person
Understan that all of us are trying our best. No one is intentionally nasty. Every person has their reasons for acting in a certain way. You have probably at times been nasty to someone else too. 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 behave at those times. You could ignore each other, just say hello and nothing else, 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
If you have to reply for any reason, keep your reply neutral. Don’t use any angry words or try to justify your behaviour. A simple “I’m sorry you think that way” is both truthful and non-committal. If an email requires a professional response, a short “Thank you for your feedback, it has been noted” will suffice.
8. Get over it
A one-off criticism is not a verdict on your entire life or character. Learn to be less fragile. Life is too short to worry about what someone else 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. Get over it.
Which defenses against nasty people works for you?
Which of the 8 defenses above can you see yourself using? Pick one that most suits your temperament, and remember to use it!
If you need more defenses, you can find them in the book Nasty People: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them without Stooping to Their Level.