There’s nothing more difficult than dealing with a friend or client who is negative, often disrespectful, and yet completely unaware of his behavior. In my experience, people who are insecure are also not self-aware. So a heart-to-heart about their self-centered ways usually doesn’t work. They will generally deflect that to you and try to play the victim–which is their preferred position. Sometimes they will apologize not because they think they have done something wrong, but because they think you are mad at them and they want to be back in your good graces. It’s not “I’m sorry I have wronged you,” as much as it is “I’m sorry you feel that way.” See the subtle and yet important difference? Here’s my approach:
So we need to break the cycle of abuse, and the only way I have been able to do that is to wait until another “infraction” happens. Talking about the past seldom works because of the insecurity and the distorted perception of events. The moment it happens: a snide remark or a slight put down, you need to take control of the conversation in the most calm and rational way possible. Stop it in its tracks. I have said something like this before:
“Your last comment bothered me.” He will look puzzled and say “Why?”. And then you need to be honest and calm and let him know why his words were disrespectful. “I was just kidding.” is often the cheap way out.
“It doesn’t matter if were you kidding or not, the impact is the same on me. As a matter of fact, these types of disrespectful comments have hurt my feelings for a while now. I value our relationship and want to make sure you know that it bothers me.” He can either say “I’m sorry, I had no idea.” or he can blow you off and tell you that you are making too much out of nothing.
The next time it happens, you do the same thing. If he is not able to see the point, that should be a good indicator that you either accept the status quo and allow for the abuse to continue, or you walk away from the relationship.
How have you dealt with the disrespectful jerks in your life?