8 Defenses Against Nasty People

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:

1. Disengage

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. ┬áLearn 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.

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28 replies on “8 Defenses Against Nasty People”

It’s tough sometimes, to turn the other cheek. But it’s usually the better thing to do. Choose love over hate, Light over Darkness, and truth Over Lies. Be kind to our fellow man. And above all we seek forgiveness, and are supposed to forgive our fellow man as well.

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Daphne found what you was saying very helpful.i have a friend who is hard-work everything is just there way in conversation if i dont agree. they would argue.wants total control so gets nasty on purpose /this is a sign of the persons insecurity. some things not going well in there life so are nasty.some people are nasty to have dominance over others. its there weakness not kind peoples weakness.

I agree with number15 by Marion. I have not been able to keep a job for a few years because of nasty women &bullies in the work place. I am 6 years from retirement and find the way some people treat others at work unacceptable. I seem to attract these mean nasty types. I am always pleasant to everyone, when the nastiness starts I end up taking days off work to avoid them, then can’t stand going to work being with them anymore, so ultimately leave. I agree, I notice people in the work place have changed and I agree it is because everyone is competing for jobs, job security. Employers turn a blind eye to this, if you complain you are the one who is the problem.
These people have no right to take away a persons livelihood, which is what they are doing when they are responsible for forcing people out of a job with their bullying.

have neighbor who are elderly couple last 20 years have slandered my mother and made ill will toward us. The wife thinks she is a prima donna and they went to an attorney to complain about my mother’s trees when they cut the tree last fall and killed it for no apples grew on the tree at all and they still had the balls to go complain. Also have tenants in their house that harass us as well. What to do at this point, comments?

im being bullied by this horrible 60 something woman she is terrible! she keeps bad mouthing me to everyone that will listen and refuses to take the same bus as me to prove a point. on top of that she is scorpio which are vengeful hateful and bear a grudge until the end of time : (((

My experience dealing with nasty people has given me a new way to deal with the, I recently worked for a company,which hired a woman on after me. I had been there almost 2 years when she was hired. She had issues right from the start.I never said anything to her about her behaviour and just smiled everyday coming into work.But when it did finally involve me in her issues,I took things into my own hands. She made a nasty comments about me thinking I didn’t hear her,but, I did hear her. She did this daily under her breath saying inappropriate things to me.One day. I complained to boss and said to him this has to stop once and for all. I put in a harrasment complaint about her and documented it so it would be resolved, which it was. She was called in for interviews with HR and my boss and was put on notice. She became afraid of losing her job so she attended Anger managment classes and it never happened again. She was an out of control person who needed to be put in her place.Please be nice to your co-workers,if for some reason you dislike them,please keep this to yourself,the person didn;t ask you to dislike them.If theis worked does something that bothers you,please discuss it with your boss and come to a agreement on how is the best way to handle this. Being nasty is not the way it doesn’t work and the only thing that comes from it is hate.

hi great posts. there are a lots truth in your posts.

however, there is one point i do not fully agree with.

“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.”

actually, my understanding of human nature is that because like you have said, none of us are perfect, hence deep down inside, all of us want to get our ways if we get away with them, even at other people expenses.

so no, to one degree or another, none of us are trying our best, and neither do we want to.

that said, the degree in which we do it does matter.

just like murder is so much worse then stealing, and you cant go ” both of them are wrong, so what?”

now to my point. i personally never have problem forgiving those who are truly repentant about their behaviors and is willing to make a change.

i do, however, have a lot of problems with people who does evil things to others and expect everyone to just act like their doormat.

in another word, if a person is unrepentant then they do not deserve forgiveness. period!

and btw, karma are actually reserved for those people who refuse to take any resp for their evil deeds too.

hence i think there is no need to shift resp from those who done wrong to those who are victims

it is like saying the person who assaulted you is not wrong, after all, we all try to be a good human being and we all make mistakes right?

so how dare you get angry for being on the receiving end of being vicious assaulted?

even if the person assaulted you refused to take any resp for their behaviours and apologise. worse still, they didnt think they did any thing wrong either and refuse to change.

Hi Darren,

You make great points in your comment, and I learn so much from the readers of my blog. Thanks for taking the time to write down your thoughts so clearly.

I agree with what you say. In fact, after another reader made similar comments about the need for repentance before forgiveness can be offered, I wrote a post “What is Forgiveness” that perhaps addresses some of the concerns you raise.

If you have time do read that and let me know what you think.

Thanks again for being here and taking part in the discussion!

Nice list – some useful reminders.

But I profoundly disagree with #5 where you say that ‘No one is intentionally nasty’ and urge forgiveness.

Two things:
Most importantly, Yes! Some people ARE intentionally nasty.

We nice guys REALLY need to get this. Some people LIKE being nasty to others.

Second is that essentially forgiveness comes out of a Judeo-Christian worldview, right?

Well, even if you’re not Jewish or Christian, one would do well to actually read all the forgiveness stuff in the Bible. A sine qua non of forgiveness according to all teaching is that the offender must ASK for forgiveness in some way or other first.

Forgiveness just doesn’t work without that initiator. It’s the reason why so many people wander around after they’ve done all their mantras and ‘forgiveness work’ still feeling unhealed and incomplete.

That’s not to say that you can’t work on healing yourself from the offender’s harm or deciding to move on or whatever makes you feel better.

But forgiveness is a specific and quite prescribed process. It’s one that’s been much abused over generations. And now by the therapeutic community, the love n light brigade , pop psychology etc etc.

I find it not hard to portray a businessman. Being bland, rather cruel and incompetent comes naturally to me.
Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s power to lead others as what he does every day to guide himself.

Yes, I agree with the last post. Some of us are targets. It’s true about the “nice” people being victims of others at work. And, it’s getting worse…the way the work force has been going, the insecurity, and corporations treating people like “resources” instead of human beings. Working with others today is like being in a family where there is never ending sibling rivalry, with very nasty siblings. It wasn’t like that back in the 70’s, things have gotten worse. Like DeMello said in “Awareness” people are getting crazier. If they don’t wake up spiritually now, they are getting strange.

I found the solution, I work for myself and love it!

I practice Buddhism, am very spiritual and am at uni studying counselling/psychology. I’ve been through a lot of hurt and pain in my life, losing people to death who I loved so much, abuse, homelessness and all the other day to day stresses we all have. I like to think of myself as very good caring person who treats others ( wether I know them or not) with compassion, respect and as equal as me. I’ve forgiven people, I’ve pulled away from others who are nasty and negative, but somehow, no matter HOW much I try with others, there’s always someone waiting and ready to treat you like absolute s##t! When you really have done nothing wrong, and even though the sain level headed part of me KNOWS that it’s more to do with how they feel in themselves then how I am, it still bloody hurts at times when this happens! You get left feeling HORRIBLE. And no matter how hard you try to let it go, sometimes it just feels impossible! I think alot of what you’ve said is true, but depending on the severity of how nasty a persons been. Real victims like myself can get made to feel like ‘we’re not strong enough if it’s still getting to us’ or ‘ we should be more forgiving’. I just wanted to express to those of you who have been the victim of someone else’s pain when you did absolutely nothing wrong, you’re not alone, and it doesnt mean you’re weak if it’s still effecting you. Things can just be too much sometimes, and unfortunately there’s no quick fix to feeling good again after someone’s hurt you. Just give yourself time, be around those you love and who love you, read positive quotes, ( or things other victims have written, this can really help), and pity these bully’s ( cos that’s what they are, no good person would make you feel this way), and feel good in the fact that your life must be filled with so much more love and joy then theirs is, cos if theirs was, theres no way they would treat you like they have. Keep shining, keep smiling. X

Hi Teri,

Thanks for this very thoughtful comment. Yes this post perhaps puts too much of the onus on ourselves to make things right. I do agree with you, especially after a recent incident, that sometimes we can do all that is in our power, and the situation doesn’t improve. Walking away and protecting ourselves from further harm is certainly prudent and possibly good for the other person too, who will learn that certain behaviours are just not acceptable.

Thank you for pointing out that life is not always simple, especially when dealing with real people and real feelings. I wish you all the best, Teri.

our self-awareness and acceptance lead us to become less prone to bullying in all places. our emotional intelligence is very important for us to be able to handle your selves better in front of nasty, psychopath individuals roaming around in our midst. handle our difficulty first and we will be able to handle difficult people effectively.

Nasty people need to realise that most others move away from them and it inhibits there own ability to function in society as there reputation goes ahead of them.

I blame so called reality TV, where the drama is people being nasty to each other. Some brainwashed people who have watched these awful programmes, start to put it into their lives. They don’t even realise that it’s not reality at all

Like the other responders I disagree that nobody intends to nasty. This is a dangerous message. Abusers are intentionally nasty and dangerous. They know exactly what, where, and how to be incredibly nasty. Domestic abuse syndrome is part of forgiving and believing that people are not intentionally nasty. Do not be fooled!

Yes, like WesternSea I’ve come across people who seem to take delight in being nasty.
It’s like a hobby for them.
You also get those who think that being bitchy is somehow a good thing.
It’s also unpleasant when you see a friend pair off with someone who’s well known for being a nasty piece of work. As a Christian I’m learning about loving your enemies but sometimes it’s hard to shake off the negativity that comes with these situations.

wow, I needed to hear this today.Thank you for making a bad day so much better and for putting nastiness into perspective.
@ Western sea- yes the nasty ones do tend to gather together and pick on the nice ones….I liked your description of energy vampires, very apt!


Great post. Thanks for this. Helped me let go of nagging thoughts about things that have happened, some long past. I’ll definitely remember this for the future too.



Glad to know that the post helped you. Moving on and leaving the past behind can be so liberating!


Hi WesternSea,

Thanks for pointing this out. Yes in some cases when the line crosses over into bullying or abuse, it is necessary to stand up to the bully. In fact, it may even mean getting involved when you’re not the one being bullied but someone else is, who is not able to stand up for themselves.

You sound like you speak from experience and if so, I hope you have found a way to resolve the situation. All the best to you!


These very humane and sane answers are great, but they don’t always work. Sometimes you need to stand up to a nasty person, particularly if that person is a co-worker who you have to see and deal with every single day. I’m talking about when nastiness crosses the line into abuse and harassment. Some nasty people are pathologically nasty; they are energy vampires who feed off the fear and humiliation of others, and they look for pliable targets. Their favorites: nice people who try to get along with others. (Nasty people tend to congregate together, because they recognize each other and realize there would be no fun in attacking another of their ilk.) In such cases, it is essential to take measures to end the abuse, and sometimes that requires getting right in their face, in the presence of a superior, or through a lawyer, or through letters to HR, or whatever. Trying to forgive them and detaching emotionally may reduce your suffering somewhat, but are not always enough.

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