Sometimes, people who are handed lemons don’t make lemonade.
They’re either not interested in turning the sour hand they’ve been dealt into a sweeter one, or they’ve had so much thrown at them that they haven’t been able to find a way to do so.
As much as someone might try to see the silver lining, life may deal them so many blows that it’s very hard not to end up bitter, especially if they weren’t a particularly optimistic person to begin with.
Someone who’s bitter holds grudges, is often jealous, and generally focuses on the dark side of life.
Even someone who has it all – the job, the security, the family, the partner, the friends, the money, and the long holidays – can still end up feeling bitter.
Someone who feels bitter isn’t always the easiest of people to deal with. They can be pretty unpleasant company and being with them can make you feel negative too. If you let them, they can have all kinds of negative effects on your life.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to help someone who’s bitter. Only they can help themselves.
It’s important to be able to identify a bitter person when you come across one, though, so you can put your guard up against the effects they might have on you.
Here are a few signs to look for.
1. They Generalize
Someone who’s bitter and jaded is generally so as the result of one or multiple experiences.
Yet, they’re often not just angry with the individual who’s wronged them, but whole groups of people.
They might feel anger toward all men, all women, all members of a particular profession, or maybe even a certain ethnic group, all because of an experience they’ve had with just one person.
Or, they might just think that absolutely everyone in the world is out to get them.
They will often make sweeping statements that show they’ve judged a person or situation without bothering to try to understand the circumstances.
2. They Hold Grudges
We all get angry sometimes, but misunderstandings and arguments are normally cleared up and forgotten.
Even if two people don’t see eye to eye, they understand that there’s no point in wasting their energy by holding a grudge.
Those who are bitter, however, will find it very difficult to let something go, even when everyone else has forgotten about it.
3. They Like The Sound Of Their Own Voice
A bitter person’s favorite topic of conversation is likely to be things that have happened to them.
They generally won’t ask questions about your life and things that are going on with you. They just want to complain to you about what someone said to them, something that happened to them, or just the state of the world in general and how it affects them negatively.
4. They’re Jealous
Rather than be happy for a friend or colleague when they get a promotion or when something’s going well in their life, they’re just jealous that things aren’t going as well for them.
5. But They Make No Changes
They think they should be the one getting the promotion or getting engaged, but they take no steps to change things to help them get there. They stay exactly where they are, wondering why things don’t fall into their lap.
A bitter person isn’t likely to keep quiet about the way they feel. When they feel like life is treating them particularly unfairly, they want sympathy and reassurance that what they’re feeling is justified, because deep down they know it isn’t.
7. They Struggle To Accept Advice
Whilst they love to complain, if a friend that genuinely cares about them tries to offer some helpful advice, they quickly go on the defensive.
They are blind to those people in their lives who do care about them, focusing on those that they feel are out to get them.
8. They Don’t Like Cheerful People
Being around cheerful, optimistic people throws their behavior into sharp relief, meaning they’re confronted by their own negative attitude; not something they want to face up to. So they tend to just avoid naturally happy people.
This can mean they start to become pretty anti-social, preferring to spend their evenings mulling over why the world is against them rather than being out socializing and making the most of life.
9. They Never Congratulate Others
Their jealousy means that they find it difficult to genuinely congratulate anyone else on their skills or achievements. You never hear them say the words “well done,” and they wouldn’t dream of giving anyone a thumbs up.
10. They Gossip
They love to spread stories they’ve heard about things that other people have done wrong. They are the person you’ll find at the water cooler or down the pub spreading that juicy bit of gossip they’ve heard about a co-worker.
How To Handle A Bitter Person
Does that sound familiar? Clearly, anyone who ticks all of these boxes isn’t a great person to have in your life, and if you can’t avoid them, you need to find a way to handle them.
If they’re an acquaintance or colleague:
1. Don’t confide in them.
This isn’t the kind of person you should be sharing sensitive information with. If you do, it may quickly become office gossip, and you probably won’t get the caring reaction you were hoping for.
2. Don’t become their shoulder to cry on.
They’ll be looking for people to moan to, so you need to make it clear that you’re not one of them. If you’re constantly exposed to their negativity, you’re bound to end up feeling negative yourself. Bitterness is contagious, so protect yourself from it.
3. Don’t be rude, but don’t agree.
When someone is expressing their opinion, it can sometimes be very easy to just nod along and agree with everything they say. If a bitter person is spouting things you don’t agree with, try to avoid that tack.
We know it’s easier to just nod your head, and there’s no point getting into an argument over it, but politely make it clear that you don’t share their opinion.
If they’re someone close to you:
1. Talk to them about it.
The three points above are all well and good if the jaded person you’re contending with is a casual acquaintance or a colleague, but if they’re a close friend, a member of your family, or a partner, you might not be able to take that approach.
Try to find the courage to actually sit down and have a discussion with them about it and how they can move forwards.
Don’t expect them to take it well or for it to solve things every time, but if you approach the situation with love and tact, you might be able to put a chink in their armor.
Make it clear that you understand their pain and are there for them, and only want the best for them, as a bitter life is never a fun one.
They may well have not even realized that they’ve slipped into bitterness.
With a bit of self-love and a bit more love from others, they might just turn things around.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.