Dealing with people who constantly feel the need to constantly put you down is both hurtful and exhausting.
Some people just like having a little dig when they can. Whether they criticize you, make fun of you, or belittle you, the result is the same.
You’re left nursing broken feelings and wondering why they did it in the first place.
Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer for this one.
People take on this behaviour for a whole variety of different reasons, and most of them, have nothing to do with you in the first place.
At the workplace, out with friends, during your gym class… you are going to encounter these people throughout a variety of scenarios in your life.
This is why it’s so important to know what to do when it happens to you.
Here are 5 tips on how to deal with someone who is putting you down
1) Take a deep breath
When someone puts you down — no matter how they choose to do it, it stings.
Give yourself a few moments to process what they have said. Avoid reacting in the moment. It can be all too tempting to retort with a quick comeback, or your own mean words to bring them down.
But, do you really want to sink to their level?
It might feel good in the moment. And you might feel that immediate release — just the same way they do. Remember though, it’s very short-lived.
You don’t want to say or do something you might regret in the long run. So, instead of retaliating in the moment, try this instead:
- Turn away from the person. This way, they can’t see the effect they’ve had on you and it takes away some of their glory in the moment.
- Take in a deep breath. This will help you to stay calm and collected.
- Count to five. Before turning back around, count to five slowly to make sure you’re not going to simply react in anger.
2) Think about your answer
You want to say something to them, so you aren’t just standing there staring (and possibly fighting back the tears), but what can you say?
You don’t want to retaliate and make matters worse.
You could end up saying something you regret and stopping to their level in the process. Instead, here are some great options:
- “Thank you for your opinion” – Just leave it at that. The person who put you down won’t be expecting such a response. They are hoping you will react — they are waiting for the rise. When you don’t there will be nothing left to say.
- “Thank you, you may be right” – Another powerful sentence in this situation. Perhaps their comment stings so much because there is a bit of truth behind it. The person is looking to hurt you, but it’s up to you whether or not you let them. Think of it this way — it’s just a comment. You can turn the other way and ignore it.
- Chuckle and ignore. If you want to show them that their words have zero impact on you, simply laugh off their comment and walk away. It shows that you know the comment isn’t true, so you aren’t even going to dignify it with a response.
- Tell them their comment hurt you. You can also be completely honest with them. Instead of retaliating, simply tell the person just how hurtful their comment was and how it made you feel. They won’t be expecting such honesty and it might be a good way to teach them the power of their words in the future. Sometimes people bring you down to get a laugh from others. By letting them know your feels are hurt, it takes away the power and effect of their comment. The person might even be horrified to know they have upset you so much.
3) Call them out on it
If the person is one of those who put you down every opportunity they get, it might be time to call them out on it.
Next time they take a dig, stop them in their tracks.
Interrupt and tell them that you’re not going to listen anymore. After all, everything they say about you is always negative and hurtful.
Make sure you are calm and in control when you approach them. You don’t want it to be done in anger.
It helps to tell them you don’t appreciate the way they speak to you and to ask them nicely if they could try and work on it for next time.
If you remain calm while doing this, they will feel confronted but aren’t likely to retaliate — especially if others are watching at the moment.
It allows you to get your point across. If they continue to do it after this, just follow up with, “I’ve already asked you to stop with the negative remarks, do you think you can try again.”
Say this as many times as you need to until it sinks in for them.
4) Ignore it
If you’re not the confrontational type of person, you may prefer to ignore their comments altogether.
The best way to do this is to continue the conversation as if they never spoke in the first place. Don’t react or anything. This takes away any power they were hoping to gain with their comment.
It also makes them less likely to keep putting you down in the future. If they aren’t getting what they want out of it, then they’re more likely to stop.
Of course, this isn’t always the case.
Sometimes they will start digging deeper to see what your limits are and what you’re willing to tolerate. In this instance, you might have to think about calling them out on it.
5) Bring in the allies
If someone is constantly bringing you down in public situations, then it’s likely that others around you have noticed it too.
Approach some of them and ask them if they will stand by you and speak on your behalf.
It can help to have an outsider speak for you. In fact, it can often be more powerful than if you choose to do this for yourself.
The person putting you down is less likely to continue once they’ve been confronted by others.
Why does someone put you down?
Now we know exactly how to deal with people who choose to put you down — it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for you.
At the end of the day, it’s hurtful. No matter what spin you put on it. So, why exactly do they do it in the first place?
Here are some top reasons:
1) To make themselves feel better
As selfish as it sounds, sometimes people give their own self-esteem a boost by knocking yours down. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how they’re feeling in the moment.
The type of people to do this generally has low self-esteem themselves. They don’t know how to manage it, so instead, they knock down those around them in the hope of giving themselves that much-needed boost.
And you know what — it probably works for them in the short-term.
Watching your crushed face and seeing your reaction gives them that feeling they were searching for. But it’s a horrible way to go about it.
They’re a toxic person and you should try to avoid them as much as possible.
2) They’re jealous
Jealousy is an ugly emotion that can rear its head in truly hurtful ways.
Whether you have a better career, partner, or house than someone else, or something as simple as better hair, or you’re just nicer — they may be looking to take you down a few pegs.
Why? Because they’re jealous of what you have and want to make themselves feel better about it.
Let’s face it, no one actually likes to feel jealous. It’s an overwhelming emotion that can take hold of us and when someone allows it to overpower them, it can come out in ways they don’t mean.
While this doesn’t excuse what the person says and how they act towards you, it can go a long way when it comes to understanding why they are going out of their way to put you down.
3) To make others like them
When it comes to social situations, some people really want to be liked by those around them. They are constantly on a mission to prove themselves and stand out in a crowd.
They’re willing to resort to whatever measures necessary to achieve this.
More often than not, they put others down in order to get a laugh from the rest of the group. While some jokes can be funny, these ones generally aren’t.
The good thing? Everyone else usually sees through this. While they might not speak up, the received laughter will be awkward.
In these situations, it often helps to speak up and let the person know they’ve hurt your feelings.
They won’t be expecting that and it may help them learn that it’s not appropriate to bring others down just for a laugh.
4) They’re after attention
There are some people in life who simply love the spotlight being on them.
They crave attention — and in their eyes, it doesn’t matter whether this attention is positive or negative. As long as they get it.
Whether you’re standing around in a group and they’re feeling left out or you’re out for drinks and they want to be heard. They make fun of others to have all eyes on them.
Put simply, it’s not about you. It’s 100% about them.
They’re simply using you and stepping on your feelings in order to get the attention they crave. These people don’t care if they hurt your feelings or if the people around them don’t appreciate their joke — they just want to be noticed.
The best thing you can do with an attention seeker is to ignore them. Turn away and don’t pay them any kind of attention.
5) They want control
There are times in our lives where we feel completely and utterly out of control.
When our boss makes an example of us in front of others. When we do something embarrassing and all eyes are on us. When we say something accidentally and are teased a result.
Some people choose to retaliate and put down others in order to take the spotlight off themselves.
Unlike the example above, these people don’t like attention — especially when it’s embarrassing attention. So, they seek to take it off themselves by bringing you down.
In their eyes, even if people react negatively to their comment, at least the embarrassing moment is now put in the past. It’s a win for them.
On a deeper level, a person who is constantly putting down others usually has lost control in other parts of their life. They may have been the victim of childhood trauma or bullying, so now get their control back by putting down others.
6) They’re simply a pessimist
These are the glad half empty people.
No matter what, they just can’t seem to put a positive spin on life. It’s always a little bit of doom and a little bit of gloom.
So, when they see you so happy and positive, they aim to bring you down a few notches to their level.
Let’s face it, is there anything more annoying to a pessimist than an optimist? I think not. They want to cut you down before you spread too much of that optimism around.
So, they take a dig at you. In fact, they probably go in for a few rounds in an attempt to wear you down so you change your outlook.
As you might expect, the best thing you can do is ignore them.
Continue in your optimistic ways and let you know they can’t break you with words.
Share that good news and spread some words of encouragement and don’t let their negativity stand in your way.
7) They love a good stereotype
There are some great stereotypes out there that are downright offensive.
From Asians being bad drivers (sure, some are, but so are some Caucasians!) to everyone on Centrelink is a bum (now, we know that’s not the case).
Some people feed into these stereotypes and can’t help but open their mouths when they see one.
More often than not, it ends up more embarrassing for them than it should be hurtful for you. After all, most intelligent people know that stereotypes rarely apply.
In this scenario, it’s best to just laugh it off and know that that’s not you. Everyone else who heard already knows that. It will leave the person who said it looking like a fool and not the other way around.
How to regain confidence after someone puts you down
It’s no secret that your ego can take a shattering when someone puts you down.
You’re likely to go through a brief period of shock when it happens. After all, why would anyone want to hurt your feelings like that? It can take a little while to process what just happened.
Sometimes, these feelings can take a very long time to wear away.
You begin to analyze the situation and let the words eat into you.
The voice in your head can take over and start convincing you that the person was right, “I am unfit, I did do a bad job on that project, I shouldn’t play the guitar…”
It’s no wonder we often lose our confidence when someone shatters us with horrible words.
Here’s how you can help yourself regain it afterward, so the putdowns don’t affect you for the long term:
1) Acknowledge your feelings
Words can hurt, despite what people say. And it’s OK if your feelings were hurt by something someone said to you.
Instead of pushing those thoughts away and ignoring the situation, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings. By observing them, you can deal with them and work out why it is you’re feeling this way.
This will help you move on after the event.
2) Focus on the positive
The whole goal of putting someone else down is to make them feel small.
Don’t let this happen to you. Find something positive you can focus on instead. Push the comment to the side and think of something good to have just come out of that situation.
Did you give something new a go?
Did you speak up for yourself?
Did you make a new friend?
All these are positives that clearly outshine the negative comment that was thrown at you.
3) Forgive and let go
It’s no secret that this is often easier said and done. But when you hold onto resentment, it tends to fester there and take control of you.
Instead of letting this happen, choose to forgive the person and let it go. This means you can let go of all those negative feelings and move past them.
Of course, if the negative comments keep happening, this is much harder to do.
First, you need to confront the person and stop it from happening, before you can choose to forgive and let go. This will benefit both of you in the long run.
People choose to put others down for a whole myriad of reasons and each and every time, it tends to hurt.
If you have been the victim, then choose how you want to deal with it.
No matter what, you do have a choice.