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When People Are Mean, It's Not About You.

At my last job, everyone thought our maintenance guy was horrible. He was consistently the gruffest, crankiest person I’ve ever met. He was also one of my favorite people. I know a secret a lot of people don’t know about grouches; they can be the kindest, most loyal people around. I also understand that their meanness isn’t about me.

Most people aren’t cranky as a personal choice. We assume that they don’t care how their behavior affects someone, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are very few people who wake up in the morning thinking to themselves “Today I’m going to be a jerk.”

There could be a multitude of reasons why someone is ill-tempered. They might be having trouble sleeping, or some other physical ailment, or a spouse who verbally abuses them. Maybe they verbally abuse themselves. They could also be using a crotchety attitude as a coping mechanism to keep painful experiences away. We don’t know their life, so we can’t judge the reasons for their behavior. In all honesty, it’s none of our business anyway.

The maintenance guy was cranky, but my old boss was downright abusive. He would scream at people, and even resorted to name calling. He treated everyone but me horribly. I would approach him during one of his infamous rants and he would immediately stop, turn to me, and sweetly ask me what I needed.

No one could figure out why he was so nice to me. Some people even went to the dark side and assumed that we were sleeping together (we weren’t.) The reason was pretty simply; I chose to look past the surface bluster and see his “real” self. Even though we never talked about it, he could feel it, I think.

I know what it feels like to suffer and want to lash out at people. It’s not my natural state of being and I rarely succumb to the feeling, but I’ve certainly been there. When it was beyond my control and it just came out, I was still “me,” filled with love and wanting to be loved, but this other person would take over.

Even when I would justify my behavior by telling myself that it was someone else’s fault, I knew deep down that it wasn’t about them. It had everything to do with my feelings, my choices, and my negative thought patterns. I was also suffering on a physical level, and at the time, I didn’t know how to see that from a positive perspective. As Louise Hay likes to say, “I was throwing myself a pity party.”

The next time you come across a mean person, remember that there is a loving, kind person in there somewhere. Even if you never get to meet him or her, notice that aspect of them and greet them with kindness. Focus on that when you deal with them, and you might find that their behavior changes around you.

Barbara Buck is a Foundational Reconnective Healing Practitioner, writer, and teacher. For more information about her, please visit her website at Check her out on the Happy Empaths Twitter feed @the_empath.


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