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How To Deal With Someone Who Humiliates You In Public

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Social dynamics can be strange at times. It would be great if we could all get along in a positive, constructive way.

You get together with your friends and everyone has a good time because they treat each other with respect and dignity.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it always works out.

Some people just love to push boundaries, make inappropriate jokes, or raise themselves up at the expense of someone else.

These people may needle you, undermine you, or even try to humiliate you in public. And sometimes those people aren’t just casual acquaintances or friends; sometimes it’s your partner or a family member.

How do you deal with someone who humiliates you in public? Well, it really depends on who that someone is.

But understand this…

It’s not about you.

Emotionally healthy, well-balanced people do not humiliate other people in public on purpose. They might do it accidentally by saying the wrong thing or making a wrong action.

And if it is a one-off occurrence that is out of character for the person, then it may be something to just forgive and forget after you’ve voiced your displeasure over the situation. Chances are pretty good they didn’t understand that they made a mistake and will offer an apology.

People who do it on purpose or regularly, on the other hand, are usually trying to make up for their own shortcomings.

They likely feel they are not good enough or interesting enough, so they need to try to bring other people down to their level to feel good about themselves.

This may look like mean-spirited teasing, making you the butt of their jokes, or undermining what you have to say. These people generally stink of insecurity.

Then you have the people who are just mean and angry. They seek to bring others down because they are miserable people. If they’re not happy, why should you be?

If they see something is bringing you joy, they may call it stupid or immature so that they can steal away your happiness and bring you more to their level.

Some people just like to destroy. Others are reminded of their own unhappiness by being around happy people, so they want to disrupt that.

Personality clashes can also cause social static that wouldn’t exist in a more harmonious group.

Some people view roasting or messing with each other as the glue that holds their friendship together. And if you are a sensitive person who takes offense at that kind of thing, you may find that it’s just not the right personality fit for you.

A sensitive person may find a casual roast as something offensive, uncomfortable, or humiliating – and that’s okay.

You’re allowed to have boundaries on how people treat you. You just also need to be okay with the boundaries of others too.

How do you deal with someone who seeks to humiliate you in front of others?

Now that we’ve made it clear that this person’s behavior is not a reflection on you but of their own insecurities, let’s look at what you can do when it happens.

If the person is a stranger or a casual acquaintance…

No one likes to be messed with by a random stranger, casual acquaintance, or friend of a friend.

They mouth off, cause problems for you, and you obviously need to stand up for yourself! Right?

Well, that depends.

A person who is acting hostile to other people they don’t know is a wild card. It’s hard telling what is actually going on in that person’s head.

Maybe they are having some mental troubles that are causing them to act erratically. Maybe they’re on drugs or drunk, with their inhibitions down and their impulsiveness amped up.

You can’t ever be truly sure of what’s going on in another person’s head, but if they are acting out or hostile, it’s probably not good.

Check your ego and pride. If someone is causing problems for you or trying to get at you, leave the area as soon as possible. It’s a much better choice than getting shot or stabbed because they’re unstable, high, or drunk.

If they are incredibly disorderly, a call to the police after you’re safe might be a better option.

If the person is your friend…

People say and do dumb stuff sometimes. They may make an insensitive comment or not realize that they are being hurtful. That is when boundaries serve their role.

Call out the action directly through direct language, “Hey. I don’t appreciate you saying XYZ about me. It’s hurtful.”

Then gauge their reaction.

Do they take your complaint seriously? Or do they somehow try to blow it off?

Hopefully, they take your complaint seriously, because that means they respect your opinion and your boundary.

But they might not. They might blow you off, tell you that you’re being too sensitive, or just flat out ignore you. In that scenario, it may be best to just leave and get away from the person.

But it’s also time to do some serious reevaluation of the friendship to make sure you understand that you’re on the same page with that person.

Do you overvalue the friendship? Is that person actually your friend? Are they there for you when they can be? Are they contributing positively to the friendship and your life? Are you doing the same thing for them?

And if the pros outweigh the cons, it may be helpful to have a private conversation with the person about their behavior or actions.

Maybe they apologize; maybe it’s time to build a new boundary. Perhaps the person is a great person a majority of the time but turns into a total jerk when they’re drunk. It’s okay to not want to be around the person while they’re drinking in that case.

Or maybe they’re just mean-spirited more often than not, and you realize that they aren’t truly your friend. It may be time to end the friendship if they are just using you to aggrandize themselves at your expense.

If the person is your partner…

A partner humiliating you in public is a major problem because it indicates a lack of respect.

Your partner should be someone who respects you and treats you with respect in front of other people.

Again, it comes down to intent and the person’s behavior. Was this a mistake? Or is this a repeated thing? What are the circumstances in which the disrespect is happening?

Some people completely change the way they socialize when they are alone with you versus when they are with their friends and family.

If they mistreat you in front of friends and family, that’s a bad sign because it tells you that their friends and family are okay with that behavior too (assuming they didn’t reprimand your partner).

You don’t want to get pulled into a toxic or destructive circle that you might have a hard time getting out of.

Setting the boundary for yourself, that you will not accept being treated disrespectfully, is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. By setting it, you will quickly find out who is respectful and worth being around, and who is not.

Do not waste your valuable time on people who do not treat you with respect – even if this means ending a relationship with someone you love and care for. After all, they clearly don’t feel quite the same way about you or they wouldn’t be treating you so poorly.

Yes, people sometimes say the wrong thing or crack an insensitive joke. But repeated humiliation and disrespect is not something that you should tolerate from anyone.

If the person is a family member…

Things can get quite complicated where family is concerned. Boundaries are often lower amongst family members and people feel more able to speak poorly toward each other.

Just remember that this does not make humiliation and ridicule any more acceptable.

If someone in your family is talking or acting badly toward you in front of other members of your family, you need to be straight with them and address the issue. And it’s better to do this sooner rather than later so that the other person doesn’t believe what they’re doing is okay.

But resist the temptation to involve the other family members present in the conflict (which is what it is). It doesn’t pay to try to get others on your side because they may not take your side for one reason or another.

Perhaps they think that’s just how Uncle Joe is, for example, and that you should accept him and his mean and belittling comments for what they are because he’s always been that way and he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Unfortunately, some family members simply cannot get on. It might be a genuine clash of personalities, or they may regularly act in a toxic manner toward you (and other people for that matter).

Cutting ties with toxic family is hard because there will be repercussions for your relationship with other members of your family.

But it might be a necessary last resort to take if the other person doesn’t stop humiliating you, or you are unable to grow a thick skin when dealing with them (which you shouldn’t feel you have to do if you’d rather not deal with them at all.)

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.