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How do you deal with a really mean person without being annoying?


How do you deal with a really mean person without being annoying?—Adam, AL

Shayna Answers:

Dear Adam,

Finding a way to deal with mean people can be frustrating, but here are a few techniques that might help you cope.

Most bullies are used to being the ones in control. They use their power to
manipulate and embarrass others, but they’re only effective as long as nobody challenges them. So, try confronting the person being mean to you on their bad behavior. You can be funny or serious about it, but make sure you communicate this message: “Listen, you need to stop.”

Romans 12:20 and Matthew 5:43-48 tell us that it’s important not to repay meanness with the same, so be careful not to humiliate them—especially if you’re being funny. Stick to the facts and don’t be intimidated. Once you’ve called the person out on their behavior, their attitude will probably change a little.

Unfortunately, most bullies also thrive on the attention they get from other people, so try to talk to your bully alone when you confront them. Matthew 18:15 says this is the right first step to take in conflict resolution.

As you talk, be careful about the tone you use, because it’s important to be assertive, but you don’t want to be rude or aggressive.

Besides, you may be surprised to find that a bully acts a lot different when he or she is alone than when a crew of friends are around.

If talking to the bully alone isn’t possible, let a teacher or parent know what’s going on before you take the next step. Since things may escalate, it’s important to have a trusted adult looking out for you and knowing that you’re trying to make the situation better. They may also choose to intervene or give you advice about what to do. Then, depending on who the bully is, you may try one of two things.

You could just ignore what the bully is saying and focus on forming a separate group of friends. Since bullies crave attention from others, if you don’t respond to or acknowledge them, provoking you will no longer be fun. Likely they’ll move on to someone else who’ll visibly react to them, which is what they want!

Or you could find something in common with the bully and try to focus on that. Usually, trying to befriend someone who’s mean to you isn’t what you want to do, but remember that bullies pick on other people because of their own insecurities. There’s likely something about you that your bully is jealous of. If you focus on the one thing that you have in common—a sports team, an extracurricular activity, the neighborhood you live in—it will even the playing field and make you seem like less of a threat.

You may find that you end up making a new friend with the person who used to be mean to you. If you don’t, however, there’s still a lot you can do. Keep praying for the bully and the issues that are driving them to be mean (Romans 12:14; James 5:16).

Also, don’t stop being nice to them—even if you’re afraid that you’re being
annoying. Remember that everyone has the potential to change, and this bully might end up seeing something in you that leads them to Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15).

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