Tips for dealing with rude, unkind or ungrateful people
Posted June 27
In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares some ways to change your attitude and enforce boundaries with difficult people.
How do I deal with in-laws that treat our family horribly but still need and expect our help with money. Their behavior is horrible towards us. My mother-in-law is verbally abusive to my husband, but he feels a need to continue to help his mother financially. I am often asked to choose between helping them and seeing my own family. When this is asked of me, I get very emotional. I hate how my husband and our kids are treated by them.
How do I help in-laws, who are mean to all of us, but still expect our help, without resenting them?
There are two parts to this answer for you. First, I want to explain why you feel resentful giving to people/relatives who are ungrateful, unkind or take you for granted, and it might surprise you that it’s more complicated than you think. But when you understand it this way, you will also know how to choose a different perspective and feel a bit better. Then, I will give you some hints for dealing with rude, difficult people in general.
First, we at Claritypoint Coaching have some ideas about human nature and what drives our behavior. We believe all bad behavior is driven by fear of failure or loss. We believe everyone who is mean or unkind to you is hurting at some level because they are battling some big fears about themselves and their life. They are usually either afraid of failure and feel inadequate, or they fear loss and feel life has been unfair to them, or sometimes they are suffering from both.
Your in-laws sound like they might be in a loss state and feel mistreated (by life, God or the universe) for giving them so many challenges and trials. They may be functioning in a victim state and they could also have some shame around their situation and their lack of funds to take care of themselves, so failure may be in play, too. People who live in this state (experiencing fear of failure and loss) can often be selfish, resentful and mostly focused on themselves. They don’t want to be selfish, but fear by nature affects us subconsciously and keeps us focused on our pain points.
We want you to understand this because these same fears are in play for you and are causing your pain and resentment. (This usually happens when we deal with people who are in fear because their bad behavior triggers our fears and we then end up behaving in a less than loving way too.)
It sounds like you feel mistreated by them and are then asked to help them, too, which makes you feel even more taken from. These relatives are triggering your fear of loss and it is creating the resentment and fear about your own quality of life, and it probably feels bad because you are not functioning in love, which is your real nature. You also know that resentment is self-inflicted misery and totally unproductive. So what do you do instead?
Look at your options and find the most love motivated one.
- You could refuse to help anymore or at least until their behavior changes and they treat you all with respect.
- You could accept the fact that you are probably not going to feel good about not helping because you would feel too guilty. But could you set a healthy boundary about how much you are going to give? Figure out what you feel is reasonable and choose an amount you can give as a gift of love, freely given, expecting nothing in return (even kindness or gratitude). This amount would be different for different people, so you have to figure out what your love limit is. You will know you have found it when you can see that anything above that would trigger fear of loss and its accompanying resentment.
- You could keep giving what you have been giving and just choose a different attitude about it. You always get to choose how you are going to feel about any situation, and believe it or not, you can feel different (less resentful and more peaceful) even with the situation as it is — if you want to. The trick will be deciding not to be offended by their abuse or bad behavior anymore and giving from love, totally in trust that God and the universe will make sure you always have what you need.
You will also have to remind yourself that only hurt people, hurt people and their abusive, unkind, rude behavior is a reflection and projection of their own inner pain. They are mean because they are miserable and scared. When you see bad behavior accurately for what it is, it becomes easier to let it bounce off. People can throw insults at you, but you decide if you are going to pick them up and carry them. Don’t do it. Let the insults bounce back to the sender because they are more about them than you.
If you have difficult relatives, co-workers or friends who are this unkind to you, you always have the right to protect yourself and just stay away from them. But if they are people you cannot avoid, you must become bulletproof and not allow them to hurt you. It is not selfish or mean to have healthy boundaries and insist that others respect you and treat you kindly. It is also not selfish and mean to have a limit to what you give to others. It’s healthy and wise.
You must officially give yourself permission to take care of you and have boundaries. You must love yourself and other people, not one or the other. Don’t have any fear around hurting their feelings by enforcing boundaries that are healthy for you. If they are offended and hate you, that is none of your business. Keep being the strong, loving, wise person you are and trust that the universe is in charge of them.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.