We all have that ugly person | Opinion | The Press and Standard

by | February 21, 2016 5:00 am

Last Updated: February 17, 2016 at 12:58 pm

My life is made of stardust, rainbows and unicorns. NOT.
Just look at all that’s happened in the last month: My car was keyed. I got sick. I was advised to schedule cataract surgery. The diamond fell out of my ring. And David Bowie died, which pretty much ruined my year.
As a karma-believing Episcopalian, I don’t know what I’ve done to warrant all this. Okay, that might be a lie. I’m pretty sure it’s because of my mean streak.
Sure, I make an effort to be nice, even when other people aren’t — and I often fail. (Full disclosure: I inherited my mother’s temper and tongue.)
I just don’t want to be that person — the ugly one. The one you dread being around.
We all run into grumpy people; it’s part of life. You smile, count your blessings and move on.
A woman I see occasionally on business has a negative attitude. When I greet her, she grunts. When I make a request, she sighs. I’m pretty sure she does an “Oh, God” eye-roll when I leave.
Clearly, she’s not a happy person. I don’t know what happened to make her the way she is, and my copping an attitude won’t help. So I grit my teeth and shake it off. (Looking at you, Taylor Swift.)
Sometimes shrugging it off is hard. We might have to work with unpleasant people. Or, God forbid, live with them. Short of popping Xanax every hour, what’s the answer?
Glad you asked. There are two schools of thought:
1) If you run into more than three jerks a week, it’s time to look in the mirror — because you’re the common denominator. Do some soul-searching.
2) Rise above. Whether it’s gossip — the struggle is real — or someone aggressively trying to ruin your day, ignore it. Repay meanness with kindness (which is lovely in theory, but can be exhausting in reality.)
BTW, there’s no easy way to tell mean people they’re being mean. It’s like informing a mom that her kid is a brat. It won’t end well, unless you want to start Armageddon. Nobody likes to be called out, even if — especially if — they deserve it.
Probably the best solution is to limit your exposure to toxic people, the way you’d limit your exposure to lead paint.
If you can’t, hum a little song in your head and keep on trucking. Bonus: It will drive them crazy. Unpleasant people, oddly, don’t like being ignored.
One thing that surprises me: The fact that jerks sometimes don’t grow out of it. It’s always startling to realize that women who were mean in high school still are. This I don’t get, at all.
When men get together for drinks they talk about sports and fishing and politics. When women get together for drinks, they talk about other women. Sad, but true. And, yes, I’m guilty as well. (See “mean streak” reference above.)
One more thing: There’s a difference between having a bad attitude and not suffering fools. I don’t suffer fools gladly or otherwise, but I try to be tactful about it.
The bottom line is, we’re all in this together. As the late Rodney King once said, “Can’t we all just get along?” Think about that the next time someone gives you an “Oh, God” eyeroll.
Also, I’m going back to that lady with the bad attitude, and I’m going to ask her about her day. And smile.

(Julie R. Smith, who makes many people hum a little song in their heads, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.)

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