Some people like to have a little dig at others whenever they can.
They belittle them, they make fun of them, and they put them down.
If you are on the receiving end of this type of behavior, it can really hurt your feelings.
So, you may be wondering, why do they do it?
What makes people put others down?
And when it happens, what’s the best way of dealing with it? How should you respond?
That’s what we’ll explore in this article.
Let’s start with the reasons…
13 Reasons Why People Put Others Down
1. To make themselves feel better.
As backwards as it may sound, these people feel better about themselves by making others feel worse.
They will typically have low self-esteem, and their misguided way of boosting it is to take aim at another person.
Even though they, themselves, are insecure, a common technique they’ll use is to pinpoint the insecurities of others.
Their ego will get temporary relief from its own pain by inflicting hurt upon someone else.
Of course, this relief does not last long, and so the perpetrator is always on the lookout for ways to put people down.
2. They are jealous.
Given their low self-esteem, it aggrieves them to see someone else doing well, in any sense of the word.
Their jealousy causes them to lash out. Their aim is to bring the other person down to their level by belittling their successes or happiness.
Yes, it’s spiteful, but it’s the only way they know how to approach those people who have what they want.
The underlying message is: “If I can’t feel good about myself, neither can you.”
3. To make themselves feel important.
Nobody likes to feel small or insignificant. But some people use put downs to give themselves greater importance.
This is often as part of a group or in a hierarchy where they believe that attacking someone else gives their own standing a boost.
What these people don’t realize is that, whilst this approach might work to a small extent in some cut-throat business arenas, it often has the opposite effect in general life.
4. To make other people like them.
Making someone the butt of a well-considered joke amongst a group of friends can make everyone laugh.
However, some people take this approach in other situations, thinking that it will help others feel more positively toward them.
These people really care what others think of them, but even if they generate some smiles or chuckles at the expense of their victim, the underlying feeling will often be that of awkwardness.
5. To get attention.
Some people feel a little lost when people aren’t paying attention to them. And so they make fun of others in order to get the attention they desire.
Despite the previous point, it’s not unusual for attention-seekers to be almost as happy with negative attention as they are with positive attention.
Any attention makes them feel noticed and gives people a reason to interact with them.
6. To feel in control.
Putting someone else down provides a level of control, and this can make it extremely tempting.
Some people have grown up feeling very little control over their lives, often due to childhood difficulties or trauma.
Many bullies, for instance, either have been or are being bullied themselves and so to get that sense of control back, they “punch down” to someone they perceive as weaker.
7. They are using displacement as a defense mechanism.
The bully in the previous point is an example of someone using the psychological strategy of displacement to deal with their negative emotions.
Essentially, displacement involves taking a hostile emotion from one situation and transferring it to another.
A person may, for example, take their stress, anxiety, or anger from one part of their life and find an outlet for it by knocking others down.
This is an unhealthy and destructive way to deal with one’s own difficult feelings.
8. To weaken the resolve of another person with a view to manipulating them.
This could be the malignant narcissist who simply wants to destroy his victim’s self-esteem in order to control them.
It could also be a person seeking to guilt trip someone into doing what they want them to do.
Putting others down and belittling them can weaken their self-belief and assertiveness, making them easier to influence.
9. They have a negative outlook on life.
Some people seem to live with crippling negativity that affects the way they view everything they come in contact with.
They are, pessimistic, cynical, and utterly disparaging of anyone else’s positivity.
Putting others down is almost second nature to them. It’s an automatic response to anything remotely cheerful.
If you share good news with such a person or seek some words of encouragement, you are likely to receive the polar opposite.
10. They have low social and emotional intelligence.
Some people struggle to grasp many social norms. They do things that most others simply know not to do.
Neither do they have the emotional intelligence to understand that their actions directly affect how other people feel.
Mocking, making fun, and putting others down is something they do because they don’t receive the usual alarms in their mind that tell them what they are doing is not okay.
Often they can’t understand why the target of their mockery is so offended.
11. They fall foul of stereotypes.
They might allow their preconceived notions of who a person is to taint their behavior toward them.
For example, a person who relies on state welfare handouts to get by might be judged, by some, as being lazy, unintelligent, and lacking in ambition.
It doesn’t matter how far from the truth these things are, some people might express such unkind thoughts openly.
12. They are unwilling to listen to an opposing point of view.
When a person holds a particularly strong stance on a topic, they are unlikely to be open to different points of view.
Some people can handle such disagreements in a mature manner, but others will seek to tear down the views and opinions that go against their own.
This can lead to attacks on the views themselves and put downs of the person who holds them.
Phrases such as, “You’re so naive,” “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” and “I can’t believe you really think that,” are all forms of belittling.
13. They don’t know how to communicate properly.
Some people may resort to making fun of others because they don’t know how to effectively communicate their true thoughts and feelings.
They either feel unable to express themselves, or they simply cannot find the right words to say what they want to say.
So, to avoid having to try, they use mockery and put downs as a means of distraction and to prevent any heartfelt conversations from taking place.
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How To Deal With People Who Put You Down
Now that you know why someone might choose to belittle you, make fun of you, or put you down, what should you do about it?
There are two parts to this. First of all, let’s focus on the internal work you ought to do at this point.
1. Realize that their comments reflect on them, NOT you.
It’s not easy to hear mean words said about you and not be impacted by them in your heart and mind.
At first, the best you can do is to not take their comments personally.
Whatever they say, it’s a reflection of their own insecurities, their own troubles, their own past, and their own warped mindset.
They have expressed a view – perhaps one they don’t even truly believe – for one reason or another, but it is just their view, nothing more.
Remember your power: the power to consciously choose how you react emotionally.
You don’t have to let it affect you.
It is difficult… it really is. BUT, with time and practice, you can reach a point where the spiteful words of others don’t affect you.
2. Consider the counter-evidence.
One of the things you can practice to help you deal with put downs is to take what the other person has said and come up with all of the reasons you can think of as to why it is untrue.
You do this in your mind, and not out loud to the other person.
This reminds you to focus on your positivity, and not their negativity.
It says, “I hear you; I just don’t agree with you.”
Any difficult emotions that have arisen due to the comments can be challenged and turned on their head when you realize that you know the real truth.
Eventually, your mind will be able to counter the negative comments in real-time so that you can bat them away without ever having let them permeate your mind.
3. Put things firmly in perspective.
You have a heck of a lot to celebrate in your life…
…people who care about you and believe in you.
…things you have worked hard at and achieved.
…pastimes you enjoy doing.
…moments to treasure.
The question you have to ask yourself is whether you are going to allow someone else’s unkind words to overwhelm all of these things you have to be grateful for.
As difficult as it might be to put your emotions to one side in the heat of the moment, try to reflect on how insignificant the put down really is.
It is unlikely to have any effect on your life outside of what you allow.
Sure, if a person repeatedly puts you down, it will certainly affect your relationship with them, but you have control over this.
You might choose to not have that person in your life anymore, for instance.
But their words don’t hold any power over you by themselves.
4. Ask whether there was anything constructive in the put down.
Some people are quite rash with their choice of words. They may express themselves in ways that don’t quite reflect their underlying thoughts or opinions.
Without realizing it, they say something insulting, when they meant to say something constructive.
Whilst nine times out of ten this won’t be the case, it’s good to be on the lookout for that one time when what they said was meant in a different way.
You don’t have to let them off the hook entirely if this is the case, but you can take on board the constructive message underlying the poorly chosen words.
5. Don’t attack them in return.
Let’s now turn our attention to how you should actually respond to the person who has belittled you or made fun of you.
The first and most important point to take on board is to never fight fire with fire.
In other words, don’t be tempted to use a put down of your own to hurt them like they hurt you.
Remember, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
So, what should you do instead?
Well, as hard as it might be, one way of breaking free from the effects of the put down is to empathize with the person who said it.
Keep the previous section in mind and consider that, in many cases, they are saying hurtful words from their own position of pain and/or misery.
They are wounded and are lashing out to try to find some comfort.
This doesn’t mean you have to allow this sort of behavior to continue unchecked, but it does allow you to approach the situation from a calmer and more diplomatic position.
6. Laugh it off.
A good way to respond to a put down is to simply laugh at it.
The person who said it will likely be confused by this response, but by showing how little it affected you, you might persuade them to think twice about doing it again.
If you’re in a group of people, it also gives you a position of strength because self-deprecating humor can make other people warm to you, and not to the perpetrator.
7. Say thank you.
You might be wondering why on earth you would thank someone who has just made fun of you or belittled you in some way.
Well, just like laughter, a thank you can help to disarm the situation and put you in a good light if there are other people present.
Of course, you don’t have to just say thank you, you might say something like:
“Thank you for your opinion, but I wholeheartedly disagree.”
“Thank you for such high praise!” (Said with a sarcastic and ironic tone.)
“Thank you. I look forward to proving you wrong.” (When someone has cast doubts on your ability or likely success.)
8. Tell them how it makes you feel.
Only take this approach if the person who put you down is someone you care about and who cares about you – a good friend, a family member (one who you have a good relationship with), a partner.
In relationships like these, you should feel able to be honest about how the other person has made you feel.
Perhaps something was said in the heat of the moment when tempers were raised.
Or maybe they thought they were being funny and didn’t realize how their words would affect you.
Or perhaps, as hinted at above, they were trying to give you some honest, but hard to hear, advice and it simply came out wrong.
Whatever the situation, responding with, “Perhaps you didn’t intend it to be, but what you just said was quite hurtful,” can make them stop and consider their actions.
Many times, you’ll find the other person to be quite apologetic.
It is best to say this straight away if you can, because it avoids the whole, “I don’t remember saying that” saga if you bring it up at a later date.
9. Exit the situation.
If you don’t think being honest is the right approach, or the person is not someone close to you, you could always choose to walk away from them.
You don’t have to be rude about it. You can just say, “Well, I’ve got to go and do X,” or “On that note, I think it’s best I go now.”
If you are with a group of people and you don’t want to leave entirely, you could just disappear for a few minutes to let the conversation move on to something else.
Maybe use the time to go to the toilet, get some fresh air, order some food or drink, or make a quick phone call.
Then come back and rejoin the group once you’ve had a chance to process the put down and get your emotions in check.
10. Say goodbye to repeat offenders.
If a person often puts you down or makes fun of you, you might wish to get rid of them from your life.
Not all friends are really your friends. Not all family members deserve your time and attention. Not all co-workers require a friendship outside of work. And not all partners are meant to be.
Even if you are unable to say goodbye completely, you can look to minimize the interaction you have with this person.
You can keep things to basic pleasantries and refuse to engage in anything more than is required.
11. Be prepared to defend others who suffer a put down.
If you know how bad it can feel to be on the receiving end of a put down, it pays to step in when someone else is targeted.
You can defend them, state your disagreement with the perpetrator, and make it clear to all those involved that that sort of behavior is not acceptable.
Not only can this convince the individual amongst a group of friends or co-workers to think twice before saying something similar in future, it can encourage others to come to your defense if you are ever the target.
If you have their back, they will be more likely to have yours in return.
And always, always, always remember:
Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you.