From rude coworkers to short-tempered bosses to impatient drivers, mean people do make an appearance now and then. As we all know from experience, being the recipient of someone else’s antagonistic behavior can really bring us down, even on an otherwise great day. Research shows that a negative interaction has a five times greater impact on us than a positive one. In other words, it takes five good things to offset just one bad thing. So how do you keep a mean person from ruining your day? Instead of attacking back, kill that meanie with kindness. And treat yourself with kindness too. Sometimes we don’t want to admit that someone has gotten under our skin. Instead of denying your hurt feelings, acknowledge them.
As for the other person, try to see past their actions. “Mean-spirited people are unhappy, to say the least. Inside they are hurting, living out of fear, insecurity and anger. They don’t feel good about themselves or their lives, so they lash out at others,” says Jane Pernotto Ehrman, MEd, mind-body coach and behavioral health specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute’s Center for Lifestyle Medicine. “Mostly, it isn’t about you, it’s about them. Recognizing that there are underlying issues can make it easier for you to respond with compassion and understanding. Take the high road and respond with kindness.” After all, while you can’t change another person’s behavior, you can change your reaction to him or her. Being kind to someone who has hurt you may inspire that person to see the good in themselves as well.