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Published on November 4, 2020

How to Deal With Mean People the Smart Way

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How to Deal With Mean People the Smart Way

Not everyone you meet in life will be on their best behavior. Whether they’re just having a bad day or are inherently grumpy, mean people are everywhere. However, you don’t need to reciprocate their rudeness.

People who work in retail and service industries know how difficult this forbearance can be. Being kind to mean people has never been easy, but it will get you much further in life than stooping down to their level.

Do you want to know how to deal with the most difficult people and customers around? You’re not alone. This guide will help you handle mean people the smart way.

Preparing for Confrontations

While coping with mean people is difficult, there are ways you can prepare for nasty confrontations so you can manage them more quickly and peacefully.

Start by taking the following steps:

1. Begin With a Foundation of Self-Care

To best manage your interactions with mean people, start by taking care of yourself. If you’re in a healthy mental and emotional state, you’ll be better equipped to relate to people lacking in those areas. If you’re not prepared, they’ll walk all over you.

Look for ways to strengthen your self-esteem and self-worth. If you make self-affirmation a regular practice, the insults of an angry person will be less likely to get under your skin.

Getting good rest and exercise will likewise improve your quality of life and your mood. Work on gaining that positive outlook, and the mean people of the world won’t throw you off your game as easily.

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2. Take a Deep Breath

If you can tell you’re in for a long and challenging interaction, take a deep breath. This simple action can slow your heart rate and calm you down enough to approach the situation with composure.

Breathing exercises are an effective way to reduce anxiety. You might well feel anxious when interacting with someone who is being unkind or irrational, so use this technique to keep your cool.

3. Learn How to Empathize

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes to try to understand how they feel. Unfortunately rare in today’s world, empathy is a powerful attribute and critical to defusing tense situations.

Oftentimes, mean people may be reacting to outside situations that you have no knowledge of. While such people certainly aren’t fun to deal with, they could be facing their own problems that outweigh the present situation.

Acknowledge their frustration and ask what you can do to help. When you approach people with empathy, you will reduce their hostility. You might even get to the root of what’s really bothering them.

4. Practice Problem-Solving

While some people are mean just for the fun of it, more often than not, they’re simply expressing their frustration about a certain problem. Providing the solution is the quickest way to turn off the meanness.

Flex your problem-solving muscles, and you’ll be well-equipped to cope with the difficult people you encounter. Consider the problems that arise in your workplace and how you’d go about resolving them. Speed and accuracy in providing solutions will turn a mean person into a grateful one.

5. Actively Engage With Mean People

This tip may sound counterintuitive. There are plenty of scenarios in which you’ll want to avoid mean people, such as obvious bullies, if possible.[1]

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I’m not suggesting you go out of your way to find mean people to converse with. However, don’t shy away from situations where you can learn and grow from your interactions with less-than-pleasant individuals.

Avoiding all of the difficult customers won’t help you improve your communication, problem-solving, or customer service skills. The more experience you have with your fellow human beings, the better you can respond in tough situations.

6. Don’t Be the Mean Person

Are you the mean person mentioned in these hypothetical scenarios? It’s possible—in fact, an entire internet community has sprung up to ask this very question.[2]

There are times when you might be the mean person without realizing it. When you’re in the middle of a contentious conversation, it can be hard to pause for self-examination. But that’s exactly what you need to do.

Did you give a snarky response? Roll your eyes? If so, apologize. It will de-escalate the situation and help you regain a problem-solving perspective.

Mean people don’t mix well—their anger will bounce off of each other until it is out of control. When you stop being the mean person yourself, you’ll be able to deal with difficult people in a smarter way.

Handling Mean People in Practice

Preparation is half the battle. The second half is managing the confrontation itself.

No matter how well you’ve prepped for tense moments, you need to be able to conduct yourself with poise and professionalism when they arrive.

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Here’s how to do it:

1. Start off on the Right Foot

The first few seconds of an interaction really set the tone for the encounter. Be as warm and open as possible when interacting with mean people. Triggering them even further will do you no good.

Starting off on the right foot takes patience and self-discipline. That’s why preparing yourself for these confrontations is so important. If you can’t keep a level head, you’ll only make a bad situation worse.

2. Pay Attention to Your Body Language

Body language can say just as much as your words, if not more. Mean people can feed off of negative body language, such as slumped shoulders or folded arms. It shows them that they have power in the situation and encourages them to keep at it.

When dealing with rude customers or mean people in general, think about what your body language is telling them. Make eye contact, stand up straight, and maintain an appropriate physical distance. Projecting friendly confidence will make a huge difference in the interaction.

3. Follow the Golden Rule

Empathy is an internal attribute. The Golden Rule—“do unto others as you would have them do to you”—is what puts empathy into action.[3]

Following this ethical principle will help you take the best course of action in all confrontations. The Golden Rule guides you to act fairly at all times in the hope that the recipient of your good-natured behavior will reciprocate.

4. Avoid Retaliation

Responding to meanness with nastiness of your own will only escalate the situation. You can’t put out a fire with gasoline.

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When someone confronts you, respond with kindness, even when every fiber of your being wants to retaliate. The calmer you act, the more easily you can defuse the situation and put it behind you both.

5. Practice Listening

Listening is a nearly lost art. Too many people interrupt each other or simply wait for their turn to start talking. Genuinely listening to the person you’re communicating with requires so much more than that.

Listen intently to what mean people have to say. Reflect on their words before formulating a response. Taking the time to listen and respond thoughtfully will provide better results than just saying the first thing that pops into your head.

6. Speak Clearly and Carefully

In the heat of the moment, people will pounce on every word you say. They’ll look for ways to twist your words and use them against you. If you speak calmly and accurately, there will be nothing for angry people to use as ammunition.

Practice speaking clearly in every situation. Whether it’s explaining a company policy or pleading your case to a friend who feels wronged, speaking plainly will prevent a bad situation from getting any worse. It might even calm someone down who’s feeling angry or upset.

7. Get Someone Else Involved

The buddy system does wonders for unpleasant situations. It’s always nice to have someone on hand to help you say and do the right things and defend you when people start getting nasty.

Whether it’s a manager, a friend, or a trusted colleague, having someone else by your side will make mean people think twice about their grievances. The point isn’t to intimidate them but to encourage them to think more rationally by showing them another person’s point of view. When they no longer see you personally as the source of their problem, they will likely calm down.

Final Thoughts

In a perfect world, there would be no mean people. Until that blessed day arrives, though, you’ll have to learn how to handle those lovely individuals in a smart way. Start preparing today to deal wisely with mean people who cross your path, and you’ll leave both sides better off.

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More Tips on How to Deal With Mean People

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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Kimberly Zhang

Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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