Being treated badly hurts. We feel humiliated, rejected or even attacked. That’s why our first reaction is usually to get defensive and hit back. However, returning insult for insult or indifference for indifference will not solve the problem. On the contrary, it will only serve to generate more frustration. Therefore, if they treat us badly, we must try not to react equally badly.
Do you let yourself go or do you keep control?
It’s easy to treat people well when they treat you well. It’s easy to return a smile when someone smiles at you and to be kind to those who have helped you. The real test comes when you are treated badly.
When those things happen, it’s normal to feel angry, hurt, humiliated, disappointed, or even sad. In these circumstances, the desire to fight back is natural. It’s understandable that you might feel the urge to give him back a dose of his own poison or want revenge for what he’s done to you. All of those impulses, emotions, and thoughts are a perfectly normal reaction when we feel hurt.
However, they are just that: a reaction. When you react you lose control. You let yourself be carried away by your impulses, so you are actually giving up control to the person who has treated you badly. Every knee-jerk reaction is a missed opportunity to choose your path.
Of course, when you react by putting yourself on the other’s level – whether by yelling at them, insulting them, or getting angry – you can experience some release and satisfaction. You probably feel good because you gave him what he deserved. You may even go too far, thinking that your behavior is justified. However, that feeling of euphoria is also likely to last only a little while.
If the person who treated you badly follows the same path, you will fall into a crossfire of reproaches, insults or indifference, making it increasingly difficult to resolve the situation in a reasonable manner. As Gandhi said: “An eye for an eye and the whole world will end up blind.”
Once you start down the slope of hatred and resentment, it is very difficult to stop the fall. Remember that holding onto anger by causing the other person to explode is like throwing hot embers with your bare hands: you will both get burned, to paraphrase Buddha.
Your bruised ego is likely to make you say or do things you later regret. In fact, if you reflect on what happened with a cool mind, you will likely disapprove of your reaction or the person you became. When the dust you’ve raised settles, you’ll probably feel bad inside.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stoically endure insults, humiliation, or indifference. But if you really want to stay in control and not give in to that other person’s anger or resentment, you must choose how to respond. And that means being able to stay calm.
How to treat people who treat you badly and prevent them from doing it again?
• Pause. When a person treats you badly, you must start by stopping the reaction of fighting back. Restrain your first impulse. Remember that it is easier to get in trouble for what you say than for what you remain silent. Therefore, give yourself some time, even if it’s just a few seconds, before responding. That’s probably all you need to calm down and avoid an emotional hijacking.
• Take your side. If someone treats you badly, the most common thing is to see them as an enemy. If he has hurt your ego, it is normal for you to feel attacked and see him as an opponent to defeat. However, a smarter position is to stand for yourself, not against that person. This will allow you to change your perspective completely, so that you will stop focusing on how you can attack him and dedicate your energy to thinking about what is best for you at that moment.
• Clarify the facts in your mind. What really happened? Rate what happened on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 could be a look of contempt and 10 could be a verbal insult. Next, rate your emotional reaction. You may find that you are overreacting simply because the person has touched one of your sensitive spots. The objective is for you to analyze in the most objective way possible whether your emotional reaction really lives up to the grievance because in many cases a wounded ego makes us see things worse than they are.
• Try to see the big picture. When people treat you badly, it’s easy to focus on the word or the attitude that hurt, but this way you’ll miss the bigger picture. If you focus on the trees, you won’t be able to see the forest. Therefore, try to place what happened in a broader context. It is not about justifying the person who has treated you badly, but about trying to understand their motives. He may have been under a lot of pressure or even misinterpreted your words.
• Look for the positive part. When someone hurts you, it is normal for the pain of the wound to recall your attention so much that you can’t see anything else. That tunnel vision makes you focus only on the negative of the situation. However, most things, no matter how terrible they seem at first, usually have a positive side. You can see this affront as an opportunity to test your self-control or as a revelation of the true face of a person who is not worth having in your life.
• Stay true to your values. The fact that a person treats you badly is not enough reason to deviate from your values. Therefore, try to respond following your code of conduct. In the long run, staying true to your principles will make you feel much better than embracing anger and resentment. Ask yourself how you would like the other person to react if they were in your place. You’d probably prefer me to stop that crescendo of anger. In that case, you do it.
• Express your limits clearly. Staying calm does not mean allowing yourself to be treated badly. There are times when it is necessary to confront the person. Express how you have felt and explain the boundaries that you cannot cross again clearly and firmly. You can say, for example: “I have felt very bad, so I will not allow you to insult me again” or “I don’t like people talking behind my back, if something bothers you, tell me directly so we can solve it.”
• Keep going. If someone has treated you badly, it is common to get stuck in that situation. You probably won’t stop turning things around, going over what happened. However, it is advisable that you let go of those thoughts and emotions, for your own good. Don’t obsess over what is part of the past and focus on your present and future. Don’t waste energy on people who don’t deserve it and focus on what makes you feel good and at peace.
Throughout life, you are likely to encounter people who treat you badly. Sometimes you can’t help it, but you can put a stop to it so that these attitudes don’t happen again. Remember that when you are treated badly, your priority is to protect yourself. And usually that means preventing others from dragging you into their whirlwind of irascibility.
It’s hard? Yes, a lot! Will you always make it? No, but when you manage to stay calm and set firm boundaries you will feel very proud of yourself.