Are You Belittled? What Is Behind Belittling Behavior and How to Change It?

Has anybody ever tried to belittle you? Was he/she able to do it and did you really feel belittled? Or are you among those who like to belittle others? Does it make you feel good specially when you are unhappy?

Anybody has been faced with unhappy persons who are used to and enjoy abasing others. Something that is important is the feeling he/she has been able to leave in you. If you felt abased and insulted then you have to analyse yourself, because it is expected from a psychologically and mentally healthy person not to feel abased and belittled so easily. Also, if you are among those who tend to abase and belittle the others, you have to analyse yourself again. This article is focused on the reasons behind belittling behavior and the ways one can change it. Either unhappy people can affect you easily by their belittling behaviors, or you are among those who show these kinds of behaviours, you will be a different person if you read this article to the end carefully.

Every person resents interruption of his established line of action. The car driver boils when another cuts in ahead of him. A person walking along the sidewalk dislikes being jostled. If you drink your coffee strong and boiling hot, you hate it served weak and lukewarm.

Earliest sign of protest in a human being is that of a baby crying out upon being restricted or disturbed. No body wants to change his habits.

“I am what I am,” many a person is apt to say. “I’m not going to try to put on any correspondence-school type of personality. I’m not going to be a phony. People can take me or leave me, just as I am.”

Most people who assume this attitude think they are being very hardheaded. On the contrary, are they not just being ruled by their vanity? Are they not quite impractical in failing to see that they have to deal with the facts of human nature just as realistically as they deal with the facts about a car, a stone wall, water, or the climate?

By refusing to make an effort to gear themselves in with others, such people set up all sorts of human ill will to work against them. All such people fail to achieve satisfaction from life. Some love their jobs, their friends, their loved ones. Some find life itself intolerable.

Psychologists tell us this stubborn, senseless attitude is often set up as a defense of an oversensitive ego.

Take the case of a railroad ticket clerk we used to know. When a customer approached, he was always slow to come up to the counter, slow to notice the customer. His greeting, if any, was an impersonal, “Well?” He spoke in a flat voice, devoid of interest. His face was expressionless. He volunteered no information. He appeared anxious to get quit of the whole unpleasant business of waiting on the customer.

One evening in a restaurant we sat next to this man, his wife, and two children. The man looked at his plate, out of the window, anywhere except at his wife and children. He said nothing unless spoken to, then responded only in monosyllables. The children were bad-mannered, jittery, causing a disturbance. Suddenly the man spoke loudly to one of the children, jerked the child off his chair, attracting the attention of nearby diners.

“You’re a student of psychology,” we said to the friend dining with us, telling him of the man’s habitual surliness to customers when at work. “That’s wrong with that fellow?”

“He shows the main symptoms of an inferiority complex,” he replied. “What’s gnawing at him is the fear that other people look down on him. His defense is to be indifferent to other people, to attempt to belittle people, to make other people seem little so he will seem big. Not only small-job people do this. Bosses who feel unsure of themselves act the same way—they are mean, tough, or blustery.

“That poor fellow is unhappy and making himself unhappier,” he continued. “It’s tragic that his bad habits, his ‘defense mechanism,’ carry over into his family life. His wife and children are in for a bad time.”

That ticket clerk later disappeared from the ticket office. We asked an associate what had become of him. “Oh,” he replied, “he just got sore and quit. He got to thinking everybody in the office was against him.”

Here was a case of a man driven by his senseless ego, acting emotionally without the benefit of good common sense. He was one of a vast number of persons who fail to act in their own best interests, who are unhappy themselves, who cause much unhappiness to others, and who eventually fail in business, social, and family life.

Why do people act like that? Is there anything wrong or degrading in being interested in other people? In showing it? Does the habit of recognizing people, of being courteous to them, and actually helping them, indicate a small man or a big man?

Let us remember that such a person as the ticket clerk is suffering from an inferiority complex. We mean suffering. He is very unhappy; we should feel sorry for him. Let’s not make the mistake of combating him with his own methods. Saadi, the Persian philosopher, advises, “Oppose kindness to perverseness. The heavy sword will not cut soft silk. By using sweet words and gentleness you may lead an elephant with a hair.”

Of course it is true that customers, too, are often difficult to get along with. The cause generally is the same—an inner feeling of inferiority or uncertainty of their own personal worth. They are the types who make it a practice to send back the first cantaloupe in a restaurant. They are usually loud. Consciously or unconsciously they seek to attract attention as a recognition of their personal importance. Usually they defeat their own purpose. The bystanders note them as people of poor quality and lacking good manners.

On the other hand, the customer who is considerate of sales people and others serving the public nearly always gets the breaks. The wise salesman will give average service to the customer however arrogant or overbearing the customer may be. That is the salesman’s job. He can’t be insulted unless he himself confesses a feeling of uncertainty about his personal worth. But for the kindly, considerate customer the average salesman will make extra efforts to show unusual goods or special values.

It may be noted, to return to the subject of inferiority complexes, that human perverseness often takes other forms. Doubtless you’ve known people who cherish and hug to their breasts other thoughts that tend to defeat them. Some boast of their quick tempers. Others revel in the idea that they are nervous or sick. Still others take refuge in the thought the world is against them, that they’ve had a bad break. All such thoughts are shown in attitudes or remarks that repel associates and lead to the failure of the person who holds such thoughts.

The natural desire of everyone is to act in self-interest. But it is an amazing fact that many people do not act in their own best interests. The reason for this strange situation is that most people act emotionally, impulsively, really without reasoning, in their relations with other people.

That people are governed by emotions, by what they feel, far more than by what they think, has long been recognized. But it was not until Sigmund Freud, the Austrian psychologist, that there was any sort of general acknowledgement that people can definitely help themselves by putting the thinking part of their brain in control over the stupid, unreasoning pan of the brain, the Ego, the ME. This vital point is simply stated by Lawrence Gould, consulting psychologist, who says, “Once you can see things straight, your feelings will come straight, too.”

How this inability to control our unreasoning emotions may lead us into unnecessary difficulties with other people and so work against our objectives may be illustrated by a story from a lawyer acquaintance.

Recently this man, attorney for a large public-service company, told us of an employee who came to see him because a customer with whom the employee had had a violent altercation threatened to sue the company. The employee, an aggressive, vigorous-spoken man, was voluble in justifying his conduct.

“This customer insulted me in the presence of a number of people,” the employee snorted. “I’m entitled to some respect. I can’t let him get away with that.”

“The customer has the same viewpoint,” the lawyer replied. “I have here the statements of the customer and yourself. They are remarkably alike. Each of you claims abusive language, threats, and public humiliation. Now, perhaps it’s too much to expect that anyone can see himself, impartially, but perhaps you may get something from consideration of my own experience.

“I’ve been criticized many times by attorneys, by judges in open courtroom, and by others,” the attorney continued. “I don’t especially like it, but I never feel belittled. Confidentially, I know I’m a very good lawyer and a good all-round character. I honestly feel I’m too smart to let myself be involved in trouble with someone, regardless of that someone’s low or unfair tactics, if that is going to work against my personal interests. I have a feeling that my control over my emotions and over the situation proves I’m a superior person.

“In this case the record shows that you were technically right under the store’s rules and under the law. It also shows that the customer was right in a practical way; he was morally right. We don’t want to go to law with the customer because both he and we would lose in the long run. Thus far the customer has suffered much mental anguish, and he will suffer more if we don’t patch it up with him.

“And how about you? You are having an unpleasant time with your bosses and with me. As matters stand now, you are regarded as an unsafe person to trust in dealing with other people. Frankly, you have a black mark against you.

“These disputes and rows are started by the first person who raises his voice and speaks a little harshly or who makes a flat arbitrary statement, such as ‘You can’t do that!’ Now the fellow who speaks harshly or makes the arbitrary statement usually does so quite unintentionally. But the other person doesn’t know that. He just hears the command type of statement or overbearing tone in the voice and without consciously thinking he flares back. So two people become involved in a sense less altercation that will cost each plenty. And either one with a little self-restraint could control the situation and save himself and the other party a great deal of grief.”

The parties to the incident became reconciled and good relations were established all around. But that is not the point of the story. The point is that we all need to understand what causes these emotional rows so we can avoid them. Once we see things straight, our feelings will come straight, too.

So let’s get rid of all emotional ideas that distort our outlook and repulse other people. Let’s have confidence in our own individual worth so that we expect and prepare for happy relations with other people. One’s attitude is half the battle: A happy attitude invites happiness, just as an attitude of success attracts success.

“This is all very well,” you may say, “but what about all the mean, inconsiderate people you see in high places?” First, there aren’t many. False impressions growing out of gossip, and suspicion give some a bad reputation they do not deserve. Men in high places are besieged on all sides for favors or concessions that they have to refuse. This refusal causes much of the criticism and resentment against them.

Most of the few men who are really inconsiderate of others are holdovers from a rough-and-tumble era. Often they themselves were handled by the old type of bosses who tried to break their subordinates like horses. A few have gotten where they are by accident. Social and business ethics and manners do not advance on an even front; there are always throwbacks.

As in nature, the few variations from the general rule are eventually eliminated. Brutal and greedy men finally defeat themselves by their own philosophy regarding their fellow men. They are overwhelmed by the powerful influences they set in motion against themselves. “Friend is but a name,” said Napoleon, the apostle of force; “I love no one.” Despite extraordinary talent, vision, and vast energy, he ended in lonely exile. “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” Hitler turned the whole world against himself by his contempt for the dignity of the individual man and went down to a terrible end. The seeds for his defeat were sown in “Mein Kampf,” and the horrors of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Lidice foretold the horror of Hitler’s own death. Likewise, in everyday life the town bully or the ordinary tough guy is very heartily disliked and, therefore, very unhappy. What success he may have eventually turns to ashes and wormwood.

“All right,” you agree. “Let’s admit that the mean, inconsiderate acts finally catch up with the person who commits them. But doesn’t making an effort to get people to like you seem pretty artificial? I detest yes men, smoothies, apple polishers, and professional backslappers.”

Most people want no truck with flatterers and such self-seekers. But honest efforts to get along with people, are the essentials of successful living.

Readjustment is the never-ending processes in the life on the earth.

In the long process of evolution, those forms of life which could not or did not adjust to changing environment were ruthlessly cut down by nature and disappeared from the face of the earth.

In human life the continuous readjustment is to other people. This is vital to existence. There is nothing more important.

Therefore, does it not make sense to say that each human being who wants to survive should be an expert in readjusting? Should he not be adaptable, flexible, fluent in the stream of life? Shouldn’t he be a specialist in accommodating himself to others; in gearing in his aims and interests with the thoughts, desires, needs, and actions of other people?

No one need feel that it is insincere to make a conscious effort to ins prove his human relations. On the contrary, he should be ashamed if he doesn’t. Self-training is one of the out standing attributes of the civilized man.

The farmer does not leave it to his crop to come up naturally—he cultivates it. He seeks to improve methods of cultivation. Teachers constantly seek new and better methods of imparting information. Statesmen constantly revise laws to make them better. Mechanical genius is constantly inventing new and better cars, radios, cook stoves. We all take care of the body by eating better food and exercising to improve it. We especially encourage our children to do likewise. And far deeper in the human being than is manifest by any of these physical, material things—in the very heart of man—is the urge to improve, to improve himself, his children, and the race. First came his effort to improve his physical environment, then to improve intellectually, and finally to improve emotionally and spiritually.

It is a fact that failure to adapt oneself to people and environment is the cause of many mental disorders and most unhappiness.

But what we are talking about here is the very simple, homely principle that a person should “use his head to save his back.” To so act toward other people that they will respond in a way that will make life easier for him. We can depend on it: People will pay us back.

Regardless of age, any intelligent person with the desire to, can improve his human relations. Experience of industry in the Second World War proved that middle-aged, even old people, can learn new skills and learn them easily, in some respects more easily than youngsters. Mental power, psychologists say, does not decline from its high level at twenty-five to thirty years of age as a person grows older.

In building skill in human relations, the older person has to supplant habits that have been longer established than in the case of young people. But the main consideration is to see the benefits, to have the desire. So the older person has the advantage, because, as a rule, a person has to have a considerable amount of hard human experience before he realizes that his relations with other people govern his own life.

The older person in learning to adapt himself to other people helps to keep himself young and flexible in mind and spirit, thus lessening nervous strain and adding to his happiness and feeling of well-being. Change keeps us young. Rejection of change and growth means decay.

“Most arts require long study and application,” said Lord Chesterfield, “but the most useful art of all, that of pleasing, requires only the desire.”

The unforgivable sin in human relations is failure to try to improve.

At this point we may note these facts that may help us to understand people:

1. Personal vanity prevents many people from adapting themselves to others.

2. Effort to make oneself seem important by belittling others always fails.

3. The tragic fact is that people do not always act in their own best interests.

4. The reasoning part of the brain must control the emotions.

5. Violent and unnecessary disputes are often started by the first person who unintentionally raises his voice or commands another person.

6. The person who is confident of his own personal worth is seldom insulted.

7. People like Hitler, or the town bully, who believe in beating people down defeat themselves by their own philosophy.

8. Nature destroys all forms of life that fail to adjust themselves to conditions. To survive, every human being must continually readjust himself to his environment. That means, to other people.

9. Older people can improve their methods of dealing with people. This helps to keep them young.

10. The unforgivable sin in human relations is failure to try to improve.

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