Revenge: Why Are You So Mean?

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“People are not mean to us because they don’t like us, but because they don’t like themselves.”

Jodi Aman

What Did I Do To Deserve that?!

You know those times when out of the blue, someone does or says something that shocks and hurts you? In that moment, you’re encountering the goal of revenge, a mistaken goal of misbehavior in which a person subconsciously invites rejection from others. Revenge is difficult to redirect because it’s hard not to take hurtful, shocking behavior personally.

Revenge stems from discouraging, limiting beliefs “I can’t be accepted and liked, I need to hurt others as I’m hurting and I don’t deserve love and connection”. The person then seeks alienation. They provoke others to withhold and withdraw love and caring. Despite how cold, harsh, and arrogant the behavior shows up, their deepest immediate need is “help me I’m hurting.” At a glance you might think, “he sure doesn’t look or feel like he’s hurting. He just looks and feels like an evil, selfish bully.”

Here’s how to redirect the mistaken goal of Revenge: 1) first feel your own feelings of shock and hurt and use them to remember “this person’s in the goal of Revenge; he’s hurting and needs to be reminded he’s worthy of love and connection.” 2) Next, as hard as it may be, refuse to take his behavior or words personally. 3) Then, establish a connection; get kind and curious. Ask questions designed to show genuine warmth and caring such as “How have I hurt you?” “Are you mad at me?” “Is something bothering you?” If you’re not taking the behavior personally, you’re okay asking these because you’ve no need to defend anything. 4) Your ultimate goal is to help him fully express ALL his pain. And don’t be surprised if he gets worse for just a little while. He may up the ante in an attempt to influence you from his fear and discouraged state of mind and to test whether you are for real.

Example: Mary sat beside Debbie at a project planning session sharing recent success she’d had on her diet. To her surprise, Debbie retorted in a bitter, angry tone, “I don’t want to hear about how much weight you’ve lost. You’re always talking about it and that’s rude!” Mary was first stunned and hurt, then angry (a typical specific sequence of emotions with this goal). She was about to respond back, “I do not talk about my diet all the time and I’m not rude!”

Instead she took a breath and realized just in time that Debbie was in the mistaken goal of Revenge and therefore suffering. Mary got busy redirecting. Rather than take it personally, Mary said, “Hmm… I do talk about my diet and myself a lot. Have I been rude for awhile now?” She avoided being even semi-defensive, such as when we say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude. It was never my intention to hurt you.” No matter how these phrases sound, they’re about me and my hurt, not the other person.

Mary knew she was succeeding when Debbie upped the ante saying, “Yeah. You rub it in people’s face how well you do things. You brag a lot.” Mary recognized this last ditch attempt to alienate her as a natural part of the redirect process and determined not to buy in to Debbie’s influence. She responded, “I do brag. I just bragged the other day about something. That’s got to be annoying. Is there anything else bugging you?” Debbie began winding down, saying in a less biting tone, “No one’s helping me with information I need on this project!” Mary responded, “Oh, here you are needing some answers and I’m going on and on about my diet. That must be frustrating.”

To Mary’s surprise, Debbie’s lip started trembling and she said, “Mary, I’m not really mad at you. I’m just feeling so depressed because I can’t get the weight off from my pregnancy and it’s been six months. I can’t fit into any of my clothes and summer’s coming. I don’t feel attractive anymore. I’m sorry I took it out on you.” Mary encouraged Debbie to express all her pain and fears about this and the project until she emptied herself of her suffering. They ended up working very productively as well as growing closer personally.

The beauty about redirecting misbehavior in others is that you receive so much in return. You aid a fellow human being in deep healing of their discouragement and as you do, you heal the same in yourself, helping you love people and your life!

Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace and recognize a systems approach ensures consistency and sustainability in the transformation process. They know that conscientious employees grow your business and improve your reputation, giving you competitive advantages.

This article was published nationally in The Women’s Journal in the column Emotional Intelligence, Aug/Sep 2011.

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