“To the Brave Everywhere. (Mean People, You Know Who You Are.)”

Health & Wellness


The title (and illustration) of this post comes from a wonderful little children’s book, The Book of Mean People by Toni Morrison, which I discovered on one of my favorite websites, Brain Pickings. The simplest call to action is this: “Somewhere between Twain’s irreverent advice to little girls and the faux-meanness of the facetious faux-unkindness Cat-Hater’s Handbook, the book nudges us to reconsider what “meanness” is and isn’t, and how a child’s assessment differs from a grown-up’s. The Morrisons’ dedication reads:

To brave kids everywhere
(mean people, you know who you are)


As much as this book highlights the way children encounter meanness, it asks us to think about the way we treat others, too. Meanness can come in many forms– from an aggressive bully to false kindness or subtle complacency. So, how do we react to the subtle and not-so-subtle mudslinging that happens within our circles? Sometimes my heart overrides my head, and I match their meanness with my own. I’m still working on the best way to stand up for myself while keeping my cool. What I do know is this: I never feel better about the situation when I approach it negativity. So today I thought we’d dig a little bit deeper into what motivates a mean-spirited person and discuss a couple ways we can deal with the negative people in our lives without compromising humility and maturity.


So. What do you think motivates someone to be malicious and how do we best react when someone attacks? It’s easy to set boundaries with strangers who are mean, or to block those emboldened by anonymity and comment forums. But what about a person who enters your family or friend group? They’re much harder to cut ties with, and often times the only option is to learn how to live with this difficult person. Understanding why someone may throw stones your way doesn’t heal all wounds, but it helps one find the strength to forgive. I’ve thought long and hard about what drives meanness in people and I keep coming back to these two theories:

Maybe it’s the fear of judgement. When a person needs validation for their self worth, they’ll go to extreme measures to get it. Could this mean a backhanded compliment is just a way to protect themselves from judgement? Are they judging me, fearing I’ll judge them? Is this how a frenemy is born? 

Maybe it has nothing to do with me. Rarely do we ever see someone for who they really are. You never know what battles a bully may be fighting, but acts of malice is often a learned behavior. Everyone is fighting their own battle. 

These theories then raise these two questions:

If it has nothing to do with me, then why? The common thread may be that negative people blame external factors rather than oneself for their situation. 

So how do we deal with it? There are few options when dealing with an unkind person. One can ignore the problem and hope that something changes, or confront the person and implore them to work with you to improve your relationship. But these options can sometimes go awry, as ignoring the problem can be draining and result in even more damage to your relationship. Confronting someone is difficult because the person needs to be willing.

Sometimes meanness tells us more about someone’s fears than it does the person they’re trashing. I’ve concluded that the best way to deal with a meanness is to find the humility to remain positive about the situation, and recognize that- unless you’re dealing with someone who is borderline or sociopathic– the negative behavior has everything to do with them, and nothing to do with you. What do you think?


When a negative person makes me upset, I often wonder if that means I have a little bit of negativity within myself. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just being too sensitive. But meanness is something we’ve all experienced and we’ve all dished out (in small ways or in big ways.) No one likes to hear that someone doesn’t like them, or that there’s a person saying malicious things about you. But we must remember that it is impossible for everyone to like us. It is impossible to make everyone happy. Approaching negativity with indifference or even kindness may feel like you’re not standing up for yourself, but it is the only way to protect your own happiness.

BY Kate Arends - September 2, 2014

Did you know W&D now has a resource library of  Printable Art, Templates, Freebies, and more?

take me there 

Arrow Alone

Get Our Best W&D Resources

for designing a life well-lived


add a comment

  1. Jennifer

    September 2nd, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    It’s almost as if you can see directly into the headspace I’m occupying today. You have written JUST what I needed to read and I agree—it’s tough to know how to deal. I’m currently attempting to reward good (see: kind) behavior and ignore (see: manipulative, mean, aggressive, etc.) behavior at the moment. It may not be the perfect solution since it still weighs on me a great deal to distance myself from a loved one, but it’s currently the best option for my situation. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. Katie

    September 2nd, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Wonderful post, Kate. I have a friend who for quite awhile was really mean to me. At first I was stumped and really did wonder if I had done something wrong. As this continued to go on, I realized that it really wasn’t me she was mad at. She definitely had a lot of emotional issues and anger. I eventually reached a point where I had to confront her. It was so hard and awkward and it didn’t go very well. She felt hurt and well so did I. But time heals all wounds and although we aren’t as close as we once were, we are still friends. What I learned is, 1. It pretty much almost never is your fault. The mean person is going through something and this is their unhealthy way of expressing it. 2. Stand up for yourself and be protective of your well-being. Say something (it’s hard, I’m the first to admit it).

  3. Britta

    September 2nd, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I met you at Dahlia’s official store opening and you just radiated the most positive energy. Love reading your insightful, smart, thoughtful posts. Thank you!

  4. codes psn gratuit sans logiciel

    September 2nd, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Thank you for any other magnificent post. Where else may anyone get that kind of info in such an ideal way of
    writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the search for such info.

  5. Erin

    September 2nd, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    It took me a long time to understand that people being mean was about what’s going on for them. It doesn’t always help, in that white-hot heat of the moment when the words sting, but I try to keep that front and centre in my mind. I try and imagine the times I’ve been less than friendly to other people, and be humble about it. I tend to just fade away from that person rather than confront them, I don’t always see what can be gained from it. It’s hard to salvage a relationship after dragging obviously painful things into the bright light on both sides. Ah well. It’s a hard one.

  6. wedding videography philippines

    September 2nd, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    With havin so much content and wedding articles do you ever
    run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My wedding blog has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it looks like a
    lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my agreement.
    Do you know any methods to help protect against content from
    being ripped off? I’d definitely appreciate it.

  7. Chelsea

    September 3rd, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Thank you for this! I have a little girl and I’m constantly trying to teach her compassion and acceptance but sometimes I forget to take heart/teach myself too. These illustrations are adorable (and super accurate).

  8. Kate

    September 3rd, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    So glad to hear that, Chelsea 🙂

  9. Kristina Juarbe

    September 3rd, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Love this! Thank you!

  10. Girl Boy Eat Drink

    September 3rd, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    I have to give credit to my lovely girlfriend, Leith, for being as brave as you’ve described. She’s moved from Nashville to New Orleans and just recently made her first trip back. You can read all about it here:

    Feel free to check it out and like us on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/girlboyeatdrinkblog

  11. Mollie

    September 3rd, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I am a believer that when people are mean or rude it is a comment on them. Even despite that belief it is truly hard at times not to take things personally. Since I hate confrontation I usually deal using kindness first and then indifference. I just know that I always want to be a better version of myself and that is all I can control. At times, I do find my road rage uncontrollable though 😉 I swear I’m consciously working on it now!

  12. Kate

    September 3rd, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Omg, Mollie! I’m so glad I’m not alone with the road rage. I’m trying, too!!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m super sensitive too, so I’m less apt to taking the confrontation route.

  13. Nicole B.

    September 3rd, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    I was dealing with a not so nice person for a while and every time we interacted with each other, I would just smile and continue to be nice. Kill her with kindness. After almost a year, all of a sudden she started being nice to me. I’m not sure what changed, but I figure when people are that way, it usually isn’t something we did, but a problem they have internally. By the way, you got a shout out from Falen, Dave, and Steve-O at KDWB this morning on the radio!

  14. Laura

    September 4th, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Amazing post. Thanks for doing the thinking for us, as it’s hard to wrap your head around the “why” and “how” sometimes. I’ve been a reader for years, and absolutely love the content shift of your blog, as you separate from the idealist and more into the realist. It’s a breath of fresh air in the female blog world to be able read intelligent, thoughtful writing that captures all the pieces of life. So write on!

  15. Ashley

    September 4th, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Amazing, amazing post. I found it via @BrainPicker, on Twitter. So fantastic. Thanks for the inspiring words!

  16. Jade Sheldon-Burnsed

    September 4th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    I’ve always been a sensitive person. Strong… but sensitive. I absolutely hate meanness, even if I’m just a witness to it. Meanness is so unnecessary and aggressive. I hate that anyone has to experience it…

  17. johnna

    September 4th, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Love this so much.

  18. Liz

    September 8th, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    So true, so very true. Saw a post the other day that has just stuck with me…”Be Kind, the world is a small town.”

  19. Sami H/ @swuerta

    September 12th, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    I absolutely love this post. As I aspiring blogger and stylist. It’s so easy to feel let down by negativity, especially when it comes to your work. But I loved what you said about trying to take people “meanness” with a grain of salt and try to figure out WHY!

    Thanks for your thoughts!!

  20. baofeng osx

    October 8th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    So, so that you can survive within the tough sphere of competition, it is important to the radio channels to have some extra take into account them
    that truly makes them enticing. Right now, the technological world
    plus God or spirituality is evolving. Baofeng english Even they implement
    this very innovative technique for getting things noticed by their viewers.

    So, you desire a fine balance of entertainment
    and persuasion in your store. Jual baofeng uv-3r The following can be a
    few tips on the way to maximize a Radio Media Tour once you have gotten the bookings:.
    In the late 1960s, r / c such because the WABC transmitted rock ‘n roll music for this band with huge success.

  21. theswingerpass.com

    October 14th, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    I will right away take hold of your rss feed as I can’t to find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service.
    Do you have any? Please permit me know in order that I may subscribe.


  22. meja makan minimalis

    May 12th, 2015 at 6:02 am

    Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Texas!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Why Decorating Your Home Is Good for Your Mental Health

What 10 Years of Blogging Taught Me

The Hidden Benefits of Being Incredibly Uncomfortable

6 Easy-to-Grow, Can’t Kill Houseplants for Beginners

The Golden Rule: A Dream Career Built From Love, Loss and Resilience

Introvert Dating An Extrovert? Here’s How To Make It Work

Tornadoes to Tablescapes: Life Inside the Lifestyle Blog

Black, White and Love All Over

Marriage – A Requirement of Commitment?

Women vs. Women, and a Little Thing Called “Self-Respect”

Homemade Green Tea and Honey Mask

An Apartment of Firsts: A Personal Story

W&D England Packing List: The Wedding Edition

What Iris Apfel Taught Me About Being Pretty

Women Share the Unconventional Things That Turn Them On

Team Wit & Delight’s Favorite Podcasts

Our Favorite Sofas Under $1000 (And a Few Under $500)

My Anxiety Toolkit


Arrow Alone

the latest

Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.

Hi, I'm Kate. Welcome to my happy place.

Easily navigate all our recommended products across beauty, fashion, decor, and wellness. 

SHOP W&D Loves ›