So, what to do when we are walking down the hallway and one of our acquaintances stops you and says, “Oh did you get your hair done? I thought it looked better going grey.” I call this Getting Down Dirty and Snarky. And it happens all the time, as we go about our lives. Often it happens when we are with acquaintances and someone starts gossiping about a close friend. What to do?
My old response would have been to just walk away. However, now I say, “That’s not true. Why would you say that? That is mean.”
When people are mean to me, I used to walk away, fuming and humiliated, making excuses for their ignorance. And it kept hitting in the face, the nasty gossip, the lack of kindness and the lack of respect. I said to myself, well they cannot help it and I turned it inward.
After suffering from depression as I took all this in, I have decided that I need to speak up and keep my mind honest as well as sharp. I lose myself when I suffer in silence. And now I can set boundaries and say what I mean. And I believe personally that meanness and lies have to be addressed, or they put even more negative energy into the atmosphere. It takes courage to fight back in a non-dramatic but honest way, and women do not have a lot of practice in this.
The important part of this blog post is about strength and love – to ourselves. We need to love ourselves and give ourselves every opportunity to stop those self-demeaning voices in our heads that tell us we do not deserve respect from the people we connect with. This requires an ability to let go of being perfect and to accept our failures with love. When we see cruelty, we need to know that we believe in kindness, and we need to address insults as they come at us, for cruelty is never ok.
Go as far away from them as you can get. Lots of people out there have personality disorders and do not want to change their capacity for meanness and cruelty to everyone they meet. As soon as you can get away from them. And never come back.
Mean family? Mean kids?
There are moves that you can make to set boundaries. If someone says something mean to you, child or family member, you get to tell the truth. “Hey, that’s mean, stop that.” If it continues bring out the big guns: “Stop that. Now.” Write these down on rolodex cards if you need to. Pull them out and read them while in the line at the grocery store, or while you are waiting for coffee. When you need them, they will come out of your mouth automatically. And believe me, you will need them.
Another way is to lean into the insult. Someone says to their mother (you), “You are the reason I’m a mess, you really screwed me up.” To lean in, you merely respond, “yes, I made many mistakes but you are your own person and responsible for your own behavior now.” Lean in, agree to the truth and keep going. Stay balanced. Don’t take it personally. RESULT: peace.
When people reply or attack in a mean manner, they are in their Critical Parent mode of thinking, and trying to make others respond as they did as children, by apologizing when you have done nothing to apologize for. You have to come back at them as a good parent. “You must not have meant that as I know you are not usually a mean person.” “That remark was beneath you; perhaps you can choose to be nice today.”
Although we all love to avoid conflict, sometimes we need the grace and strength to change our lives and make a strong statement of self-love. I know you can do it, because I am the biggest coward in the world, and I have found this new way to honesty to clear myself of negative energy, evil intentions – and mean people.