How To Deal With Jealous People: 5 Tips That Actually Work

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Jealousy is a complicated emotion, and it’s something that we’ve all experienced.

It’s so easy to look at another person’s successes and begrudge them those successes.

But that’s a distorted view because we rarely consider the massive amount of work, time, and energy that went into enjoying those successes. Most things don’t come easy to people, so it’s easy to be discouraged or jealous when we see someone with something we want.

It’s important to note that jealousy doesn’t make anyone a bad person. However, what people do with that jealousy is another matter entirely.

Sometimes they will make snide and cutting remarks about what you deserve and don’t deserve. They may find a way to deprive you of the thing that you are now enjoying, or reduce your enjoyment of it at the very least.

On the other hand, sometimes the person just needs to feel bad about it for a little bit and will let it go.

Whatever the case may be, dealing with another person’s unconcealed jealousy is not always easy. That’s why we’re going to go over some tips for navigating jealousy, ranging from compassionate understanding to establishing solid boundaries to protect yourself.

But before we get into those tips, we need to better understand jealousy, envy, and why people get jealous in the first place.

Jealousy or envy?

Jealousy and envy are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same. That can be a problem because context can get lost in communication. So, let’s start with literal definitions and work our way from there.

Merriam-Webster defines the two words as follows:

Envy: the feeling of wanting to have what someone else has.

Jealousy: hostility toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.

There’s a pretty good chance you can think of several examples where you or someone you know has used jealousy to describe envy and vice versa.

Wanting that nice car that your neighbor has? Envy.

Angry that your cousin failed their way into a well-paying job while you worked hard? Jealousy.

Wanting your boss’s job because you want the money and can do it better? Envy and jealousy.

It’s complicated and interwoven because the general use of words doesn’t often mirror literal definitions. Still, it can be helpful to understand the difference so you can better understand where the other person is coming from.

For example, there’s a difference between someone wanting what you have and someone being angry at you for having what you have. Anger is hostile, which can be a big problem for you, while desire is not.

Jealousy, then, is most often accompanied by ill-feeling toward the person one is jealous of. You may happily see them fall and fail because it would make you feel better about yourself.

Whereas envy carries no such negativity. You can be pleased for someone’s success and still be envious of that success. It’s the thing you desire; you have no qualms about the other person having that thing too.

Jealousy is personal. Envy is impersonal.

What causes a person to be jealous?

Jealousy typically stems from unhappiness with oneself. The person may lack self-esteem, self-confidence, or feel inadequate about who they are.

These people tend to compare themselves to others to lift themselves up, and they don’t react well when they see someone doing better than they are.

The jealous person’s feelings of inadequacy create feelings of anxiousness and insecurity.

Consider a relationship where one partner is jealous. The jealous person may feel threatened by their partner having a life of their own, friends of their own, and doing things by themselves. They may feel threatened by their partner having friends of their preferred attraction because they are afraid of being rejected and losing the relationship. They may feel jealous of their partner’s friends or family for getting the attention that they feel they should be getting.

A person with healthy self-esteem who feels good about themselves isn’t spending their time comparing themselves to other people. They typically aren’t jealous because they aren’t in competition with anyone else. However, everyone gets a little envious sometimes. That’s normal.

Sometimes jealousy can be a knee-jerk defensive reaction. You can inadvertently brush up against someone’s insecurity, and they react with jealousy as a means to protect their vulnerability. After all, they aren’t as likely to be hurt if they are acting angry and aggressive. They are trying to make themselves into the aggressor and take on a position of dominance to ward off conflict within themselves more than anything else.

Jealousy can come from many different places. It may not be predictable from the outside looking in. A person can be very well put together and have a lot of success, but can still be jealous if they are unhappy and at war with themselves.

How do you deal with a person who is jealous of you?

1. Use empathy to disrupt their negative feelings.

Jealous people who are being vocal with their jealousy are often looking for a negative reaction. So they express their anger or distaste in the hopes that you will get angry and engage with them. Then, when you respond with anger, they can paint themselves as the victim to themselves or other people.

“Oh, XYZ is doing so much better than me and has the nerve to get angry with me!”

“XYZ thinks she’s so much better than I am! How dare she speak to me that way?”

The easiest (and funniest) way to defuse this kind of bait is with warm kindness. Instead of anger, react with a smile and understanding for the person.

The most likely reaction you will get out of the person is a lot of confusion. Angry people tend not to know how to react when you don’t respond with anger because they are all geared up for a confrontation that they just know they are going to win.

Deprive them of that confrontation, and they typically just deflate like a balloon.

2. Ignore their jealousy-inspired comments.

Jealousy brings with it a lot of passive-aggressiveness and snide comments.

One easy way to deal with those comments is just to ignore them. They don’t require a response from you. Your responding to them validates to the jealous person that you are willing to be in conflict with them.

Remember, jealousy is not about something you’re doing wrong. It’s about how that person feels about themselves. What business is that of yours?

Granted, you may not be the type of person that can just ignore those comments and let them slide off your back. In that case, you may need to take a more direct approach, particularly if the person is not someone you can ignore, like a coworker or your parent.

3. Set solid boundaries.

You may need to set some solid boundaries. For example, if it’s a person in your personal life, you may need to say that you won’t discuss the particular thing that makes them jealous. And if they choose to keep doing that, put some distance between the two of you, even if it’s a family member or someone you’re close to.

Unfortunately, not everyone will respect your boundaries, so you may not have any other choice than to keep them at arms length, temporarily.

Approaching jealousy in the workplace is a little more difficult. You can try asking the person something like:

“It appears that you have a problem with me. What can we do to make this working relationship better?”

And if that fails, you may need to escalate the problem to management or HR to get some resolution. Pick your battles carefully, though. Document everything if you feel you need to go that route. Communicate by email and save all evidence when possible. That way, if they choose to react against you, you’ll have something to take to an attorney.

4. Cut them out of your life.

Suppose they fail to respect your boundaries or adjust their behavior. In that case, the nuclear option is to cut the person out of your life completely.

There’s a lot of advice about practicing kindness and empathy out there for the jealous person, but there is a problem with that. A lot of that advice is confusing niceness with kindness. Kindness is not necessarily nice. Niceness, when you’re dealing with an angry or jealous person, will just get you turned into an emotional punching bag for them to take their frustrations out on.

People are entitled to feel whatever they want to feel, whether it’s euphoria or jealousy. What isn’t okay is to accept another person’s bad behavior just because they have some negative feelings. They have to address and manage their own negative feelings.

Not only is that not your responsibility, but it’s going to be mostly impossible for you to make any real difference. You can’t change other people. You can’t make other people act right or respectfully to you. All you can do is stand your ground and hope that they choose to adjust their behavior.

And if they don’t, the only things you can do about it are limit the harm they can cause to you or remove yourself from the situation.

If you can have a real and frank conversation with them, suggest working on that issue with a therapist. No amount of niceness will fix their self-image issues and choice to take their negative emotions out on you.

5. Addressing jealousy in romantic relationships.

Jealousy in relationships is a whole different problem unto itself. Jealousy is poison in a relationship that can easily lead to far more negative, abusive behaviors. It usually starts off with small things.

“I don’t like that you spend so much time with XYZ.”

“Why do you need to have other friends? Isn’t spending time with me good enough?”

“I don’t think we should go see your family.”

Then after a couple years pass, you look around and realize that you haven’t talked to your family in months and have completely lost touch with your friends.

And that’s just the subtle, small stuff. There’s also:

“Where were you!? Why didn’t you answer your phone!?”

Throwing stuff, breaking stuff, screaming, intimidation, physical and emotional violence.

Frankly, if you start smelling jealousy in your relationship, you should strongly consider whether or not to proceed in that relationship. If they aren’t working on it, it will get worse and may never get better.

If they are working on it, it may still get worse before it ever has a chance of getting better. And if you feel threatened or unsafe, speak with a therapist or call a domestic abuse hotline and get some professional help.

Jealousy and control in a romantic relationship are usually just the tip of the iceberg. You do not want to waste years of your life in that kind of relationship and years afterward dealing with the trauma and emotional damage those kinds of relationships will cause. People do not come out of those relationships unharmed.

Still not sure what to do when confronted with a jealous person? Whether it’s a partner, friend, family member, or coworker, it’s worth getting expert advice on the matter to find the best resolution. So why not chat online to one of the experts from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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