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POPULAR ARTICLES

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

When You Have Been Betrayed

Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Feedback, Self-Efficacy and the Development of Motor skills

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Performance Enhancement in the Martial Arts: A Review

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?





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Audio Version of Article: Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

WHY ARE PEOPLE MEAN? DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY (page 1)

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Tap to Listen to Article
"...most people are mean due to some flaw in themselves or distortion in their thinking. Usually, unless you have done something significant, it is not about you."
"Why are people so mean?" seems to be a plaintive cry across the internet. Although the issue may be more prevalent online due to the anonymity and accessibility, it is by no means limited to the online community. Yet, other people's “meanness” impacts us more than it really needs to. The more that people can recognize that the meanness they experience from others is either unintentional or is more about the mean person rather than about them, the less they personalize the meanness and the less impact it has on them.

What is Personalizing?

Fran focused on doing a good job at work and because she tended to not spend much time chatting with her co-workers she tended to accomplish a great deal. In fact, it was apparent to everyone that she was able to complete more tasks than her co-workers who spent a great deal of time on their phones, playing on the internet, and talking with one another. One day, one of her co-workers came out of the supervisor's office and verbally attacked Fran: “I just got in trouble and it's all your fault! You make everyone else look bad by being such a brown-noser.” Fran, shocked and hurt, felt bad about herself because someone was angry with her.

Obviously, Fran hadn't done anything wrong. The problem in this situation was the co-worker who was directing her anger at Fran rather than taking responsibility for her own behavior. This misdirected self-protective behavior often occurs when someone has problems with insecurity which frequently leads to jealousy and blame.

However, even though Fran wasn't wrong, she still suffered the consequences of the co-worker's wrath. In fact, this is the purpose of such behavior, by blaming the problem on someone else and causing them to feel bad, the co-worker could feel better.

Personalization is interpreting someone's behavior as being about you or due to you and then feeling bad about yourself. If Fran could recognize that the co-worker's attack was due to the co-worker's personal problems and had nothing to do with her, she could more easily shrug it off and not suffer the consequences of it.

Why Are So Many People Mean?

I don't believe most people are mean people. However, under the right circumstances, most people can be mean. For example, about 50 years ago Milgram conducted his famous “obedience” studies which involved telling the subject that a person in the next room was attached to a machine that delivered electric shock (unknown to the subject, the device was not actually attached). The subject was to ask this person questions and to deliver a shock by flipping a switch on the machine in front of them. The device had a dial on it clearly labeled from mild to dangerous. The researcher told the subject to increase the amount of shock with each wrong answer.

Although most people deny that they would turn the dial to dangerous and shock someone when told to do so, Milgram found that nearly 70% of the subjects obeyed the researcher and increased the shock to the dangerous range even when they heard screaming, and finally silence, from the next room. This type of study is not allowed to be conducted today due to the potential psychological harm to the subject from knowing they could cause harm to another human being.

Most of you reading this are probably trying to rationalize right now why you would not be among that 70% or you are thinking that something must have been different about those people who were subjects in the study. However, the research and other similar research was conducted with different variations showing the same type of outcome.

I believe that this research shows what I stated earlier, that under the right circumstances most people can be mean. The circumstance in this research was the pressure to obey, the pressure to conform, the stress of the situation, and the fear of authority. These are only some of the circumstances that may contribute to people doing “mean” things even when they are not “mean” people.

1) Mean People Are Noticeable

Often there appears to be so many mean people in the world around us, because the behavior of mean people tends to be more noticeable. One reason for this is probably the way our brains are wired for survival. According to Rick Hanson, author of Buddha's Brain, we need to be especially observant of the negative things in our environment because those are the things that are most likely to harm us. As a result, those most likely to survive and pass their genes to the next generation were those who were particularly sensitive to danger in the environment.

Another reason mean people are more noticeable is that their behavior is often particularly offensive and hurtful. We are more likely to notice and dwell on the person who cut us off in traffic rather than the person who let us merge. The more malicious the behavior, the more likely we are to be distressed and to dwell on what occurred.

However, this supports my position that meanness isn't the norm. For instance, notice what stories make the news. The nature of news is that it is unusual or it has an extreme impact on people's lives. A good example is that the West Nile virus that had significantly fewer episodes and fatalities than the flu got much more media attention. Or a major airplane crash, because it is so rare, will get extensive coverage. And certainly, anything negative tends to generate more media focus than positive things. Therefore, since meanness gets our attention, I would propose that it is actually rarer than niceness but more noticeable.

2) Meanness is Rewarded

Unfortunately, another aspect of meanness that makes it more visible is that it is often rewarded. Sometimes the reward can be tangible such as a ruthless businessman being rewarded by making more money. However, it can also be rewarded with attention or escalation of conflict. It varies with each person what sort of reward is meaningful, although for meanness to continue there must be some sort of reward to the perpetrator. We will examine this further as we look at the different reasons for meanness. READ MORE: page 2

Why Are People Mean? Introduction--page 1

Unintentional vs. Malicious Meanness--page 2

Reason 1: Lack of Skills/Knowledge or Awareness--page 3

Reason 2: Miscommunication/Misunderstanding--page 4

Reason 3: Misdirected Intentions--page 5

Reason 4: Self-Protection--page 6

Reason 5: Reactive--page 7

Reason 6: Superiority--page 8

Reason 7: Mental Disturbance--page 9

Reason 8: Pleasure-Seeking--page 10

Why Are People Mean? Conclusion--page 11


CRAZY-MAKERS: PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PEOPLE (page 1)

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
I'm sure you've dealt with individuals who have caused you to be so frustrated that afterwards you scratch your head asking "Am I crazy?" Most likely you just had an encounter with a passive-aggressive person. Such encounters may include sarcasm, shifting blame, saying one thing while meaning another to name a few. For instance, I used to know a co-worker who was very skilled at giving back-handed compliments such as "You look great! You must be doing something different" as well as sarcasm disguised as a compliment "Oh, I hear you've managed to pull off another miracle." The problem
with these kinds of comments is that if you try to confront them about the insult, you will be accused of not understanding, "I didn't mean it that way" or of misinterpreting, "You must have a problem to think that. I was just trying to compliment you. Sorry I didn't word it right to suit you." As a result, you end up looking like the bad guy, feeling frustrated, and asking yourself, "Am I crazy?" And the other person walks away blameless.READ MORE: page 2

Introduction--page 1

What is passive-aggressive behavior?--page 2

Catagories of passive-aggressive people.--page 3

Types of passive-aggressive behavior.--page 4

How do you handle passive-aggressive people?--page 5