How to Deal with Terrible People

Sometimes you meet people who just aren’t good at being good humans. Just dealing with them is challenging because murder is a pretty serious criminal offense and you’d probably feel bad about it afterward. Also, killing someone is probably actually harder than it looks.

Here are some alternative solutions:

Figure out exactly what they’re doing that’s so terrible

Journaling, talking to a trusted friend, or having an angry shower is a good way to figure this out. It could seem counterproductive to waste energy on people who bother us, but taking a deliberate deep dive can A) validate our feelings; B) help us figure out more about ourselves; and C) help us figure out the best solution.

A lot of the time when I’m upset about something someone did (or just have a bad feeling), it can feel like it’s not a big deal. I’ll tell myself that what they did wasn’t really that bad at all and my instincts are petty or just wrong. I’ll minimize my feelings and end up feeling guilty for feeling bad on top of feeling bad. But when I sit down to talk or think about it outside the heat of the moment, more often than not, my first instincts are correct: “little” slights really indicate a broader disregard.

I’ve always found some sense of comfort after I can put into words why I’m bothered. Recognizing the real problem is an inoculation in its own way. Knowing what they’re doing that’s bothering you and why it bothers you can both set up a good conversation to resolve it (if that’s what you’re looking for) or at least take away some of the sting. When you know what string they’re pulling, it makes it easier not to bite.

Leave (in your own way)

Although it would be nice to have the power to walk away from every terrible person ever, we’re usually tied them in some way, whether it’s through work, family, or a very sweet friend with very terrible taste.

But if you’re stuck with the terrible person (at least temporarily, while you plot your full escape), you don’t owe them the benefit of your full, sparkling personality. Frankly, they don’t deserve it. Save your smiles, your good jokes, and your eagerness to please for the people who really deserve it. Feel free to check out and/or offer them a shallower version of yourself: the same sunny, vacant personality that you used at your retail job.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Look for neutral ground.

And I don’t mean common ground so that you can really connect with them. Sure, empathy is great and I ordinarily advocate for it, but this post isn’t about empathy. Find neutral ground for your own peace of mind, so you have one default topic you can always turn to when they’re starting to grate on your last nerve. It doesn’t have to be particularly interesting to them (maybe it’s better if it isn’t). It just has to be a safe topic. An easy topic. Mine usually involves food.

Find something to laugh about

When dealing with terrible people for an extended period of time, my main strategy is to find amusement in it rather than anger. Sometimes it’s just a matter of deliberately trying to find them/their behavior to be funny rather than infuriating.

Other times it involves pushing their buttons, deliberately but gently. This is “petty” but it can also be necessary for your own sanity. It usually involves figuring out what might mildly annoy them and then doing it with all the wide-eyed sincerity I can muster: asking a lot of questions, gently arguing with them, forgetting the name of their dog, pronouncing words wrong, etc. Mind you, this game only works if they continue to think you’re doing it all innocently, so it does involve saying something nice once in a while to compensate.

Have a mental “I don’t give a fuck” playlist

When all else fails, reminding yourself that you genuinely don’t care is always helpful (if easier said than done). I have gotten through many a circumstance by playing (literally or mentally) the following songs:

Grow anyway

I’m not sure if this is a cliche, but it’s good advice regardless. Honestly, the best way to deal with terrible people is to be successful despite them.

What’s on your don’t give a fuck playlist? Let me know in the comments, because clearly mine could use a few new additions.

xoxo, Kim

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image courtesy of sylvie

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