Sometimes you meet people – and feel bad for their dog. We all know hurtful, harsh, even hateful people. Sad to say, but he may even be a family member or a co-worker. She may be your next-door neighbor. And while we know that being cold-hearted is simply the way they protect themselves from hurt, it is nearly impossible to empathize with them.

“Look, I found your knife. It was stuck in my back, but I got it out. I’m sure you’ll need it again real soon.” Uh-oh. We speculate. Is she bullying me because she is consumed with jealousy? Does he amp up his callousness at work because he feels threatened?

Sigh. She ruined your day before it even started? The sad truth is that if you care what he thinks, you will always be his prisoner. There are seven billion people in the world. Don’t let her ruin your day. If it makes you feel any better, karma has no deadline. Don’t return his unpleasantness with your own version of rudeness, please. Being kind to someone you have issues with does not make you insincere or fake. It means someone taught you how to be polite.

So, she is severely lacking in the compassion department? You can rise above her pettiness. You never look good trying to make someone else look bad. Do not allow negative people to turn you into one of them.

If they try to “take it out on you,” please do not take it personally. Sure, you can limit your contact with some folks. But what if disconnecting completely is not an option? You need a plan, Stan. “I was going to give you a nasty look; but I see you already have one.” No, no. Do not match their hostility with a dose of your own. Remind yourself that when there is unkindness, there is underlying pain.

It’s all right to stand up for yourself, as well. If it feels safe, share how his behavior makes you feel. If she does not soften over time, by all means try not to engage with her. Go to the gym and work that tension out. You know when you walk through the metal detectors at the airport and your abs of steel set them off? Yeah. And no, squatting down to look in the fridge does not qualify as a workout. But seriously, good things come to those who sweat.

Know this, sweet friends: You cannot teach someone truths they do not want to learn. By losing your self-control, you simply stoop to the level of the mean spiritedness. Fighting with a fool proves there are two.

So, what to do when he’s all grouchy and grumpy? Was she just passive-aggressive or flat-out aggressive? The first rule of the passive-aggressive club is…You know what? Never mind. Is it too passive-aggressive of me to complain vaguely about another’s passive aggressive behavior?

Maybe you’re having a really bad day, and now she wants to walk all over you. Simple things can help you manage your dealings with those inconsiderate, unkind people.  Are you well rested? Have you worked out at all lately? Oh, and if you want to know the correct way to perform an exercise, the answer is: whatever hurts most. But truly, if you take care of your emotional well-being, no one will be able to throw off your game that easily.

By the way, are you always on your best behavior? When was the last time you gave a sarcastic response or rolled your eyes? You think Facebook could use an “eye-roll” button, too? Could it be that sometimes you’re the mean-spirited one without even realizing it? Just keep reminding yourself that you’re an adult and will be charged as one. Heh. Perhaps you need to pause for a bit of self-reflection. “You should do some soul-searching. Maybe you’ll find one.” Uh-oh.

Out of all the flavors, you choose to be salty? Always try to de-escalate if someone is being snarky or scornful with you. Don’t add fuel to the fire. Carry yourself with calmness and composure, please. It’s all right to use avoidance as your strategy to sidestep being hurt by that unpleasant, unfriendly person.

Keep your body and soul together despite the hurt or disappointment. If you are so inclined, you can pray or send kind thoughts to the one who hurt you, knowing that they are, in all honesty, wounded themselves.

When someone feels insecure or threatened, they may engage in misguided self-protective behavior by lashing out at others. What do you remember more? The dude who cut you off on the road or the one who actually slowed down to let you merge? Admit it, chances are that you tend to pay attention and even brood about things that insulted or offended you. Focus on the beautiful things in your life, sweet friends.

Notice what the media focuses on incessantly. Anything uplifting? For every action, there’s an equal and opposite media overreaction. TV? It’s called “programming” for a reason. No need to break down doors to install mind-control devices in our homes. We buy them on our own. Please do not let them tell you what to wear or what to fear.

Some people say I’m self-centered, but enough about them. Certain types of humor or teasing can be easily misunderstood. Bullies are masters of shifting blame. Don’t fight fire with fire, unless you want an inferno. Just increase your empathy meter.

Energy flows where your attention goes. Where is yours right now? The truth is that the best way to deal with hostile, hurtful people…is not to deal with them at all.

Caroline is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor, and writer with an office in Queens.  She works with individuals, couples, and families.  Appointments are available throughout the week and weekends.  She can be reached at 917-717-1775 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or at

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