Are you teaching others to be mean to you?

There’s an article via Psychology Today that highlights something I have thought for years — there is such a thing as being too nice sometimes.

The events that follow an action will weaken or strengthen the likelihood it will occur again.

In behavioral psychology, this is called the “Law of Effect” and states that behavior varies as a function of its consequences. 

Hence, if Sally is nice to Hank when he treats her badly, she is teaching him to continue being abusive. By putting up with Hank’s abusive behavior, Sally gives him the message that it’s okay to treat her that way.

The article talks about domestic situations, but I am thinking more along the career lines, specifically when colleagues or people you may have never met before (clients for example), cross the line.

If you feel other people at work are rude or dismissive to you, more often than not it is a bunch of factors at play here and I’m going to list out a few:

  • Perhaps it was a bad day for them and they’re taking it out on you
  • They have their own opinions/biases
  • They may not know that they’re coming off as being gruff and aggressive
  • They really are douchebags

Whatever the reason is, you shouldn’t have to take it, because once they sense what they perceive to be as a weakness (but you may think is ‘taking the high road’ or ‘turning the other cheek’), you may never have a moment’s peace again.

The real thing to determine is if it is specifically directed towards you and if it happens a LOT.

Think of Harry Potter and how unfair Professor Severus Snape seems to be to him.

(OMG yes, can you tell I’ve been reading a lot of Harry Potter lately? 🙂 )

But how do you bring up that they’re being mean to you without sounding like a crybaby or a snitch?

I don’t have a specific solution, but here’s what I’ve got:

  • Pull them aside, alone (not publicly) and tell them in a calm voice that you feel like they are being rude to you
  • Observe their behaviour over a couple of times and determine if it was really just a bad day they were having before making a decision
  • Ask yourself if you’re taking it too personally because it was your suggestion that they shot down, no matter how nicely they went about it
  • Don’t let your first reaction/emotion run away with you — stay calm and come up with a plan
  • Sometimes you DO need to say something if no one seems to be paying attention to what’s happening
  • Reply back to their jabs in a calm, detached manner explaining your actions rather than letting them say what they want without a response
  • Lastly, if they’re douchebags, then ignore them or become a douchebag when you deal with them*

*I suggest being rude/mean only in the very last resort of all.

Some people don’t like confrontation and I am one of them, but I am not someone who will back down if it becomes too much to bear and it starts to affect my work.

Sometimes, people are just mean, and the only way for you to deal with it is to ignore them and their cheap shots, or to be mean right back.

BF is much better with being mean back to people because he has an amazing skill to compartmentalize his feelings from home to work and to be professionally cool in all areas of his life.

He has logic on his side and can separate himself into different personalities if he needs to, depending on the person and situation and I cannot.

I’m more emotional in the sense that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I have to practice and put myself into that mindset of being rude, because I just don’t think of being mean, I just feel hurt and angry and it’s all I can think about.

So what works for me?

Staying calm and not reacting to my first emotion.

I’ve only let it run away with me ONCE in my professional career and I’ve seriously regretted it.

Now, when I get really angry, I take a deep breath and imagine I am being doused with ice cold water. Then if possible, I talk a walk to the bathroom and try to calm down.

Okay so maybe what you really need is a drink, so imagine that instead 😛

You may not realize it, but people are watching you. Not like in a creepy way, but at the office, the way you deal with douchebags and angels alike, reflects upon you greatly.

You shouldn’t be an aggressive person all the time, confronting and arguing with everyone in sight, but you also shouldn’t be a passive doormat that everyone uses, abuses and walks all over.

The balance is difficult to find and it’s different for everyone and the hardest thing for me to do is to think before I react.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.