Learn How To Stop Being Mean Unintentionally

Updated September 29, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers

Getting along with other people isn't always easy. Each of us grows up in different types of families and environments, and because of that, we learn different communication strategies. That means sometimes we don't even realize when we're saying something that someone else might take as rude or mean. But you can learn to pay more attention to the reactions others have to your words, and from those reactions, learn how to stop being mean unintentionally.

Do You Want To Learn How To Stop Being Mean (Unintentionally)?

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Why Do I Keep Saying Mean Things?

Consider the situations in which you tend to say things that upset other people. Do you see any common themes or dynamics? Is something triggering you to make statements without thinking them through beforehand? Are the unkind words primarily used around specific people? Do the words come out around particular topics? If you can find your trigger, you can work on yourself to figure out how to speak words with a more positive feel, even in the hardest of times.


For some people, social anxiety is a cause of unfiltered speech. This anxiety may cause you to feel so nervous that you say things you would never mention if you were in a more relaxed state. Your mind and body are more focused on fear and stress than they are on the words coming from your mouth. You may want to look for a way to reduce stress by taking stress relief medications so that your fears won't feed on it.

Difficult Emotions

Another reason you may unintentionally hurt someone's feelings is if you are struggling with your own difficult emotions. If you are angry or sad, you are more likely to say things you don't really mean. This is because your mind is focused on healing itself, and you may not have the capacity to uplift another person at the same time. These times are hard for you, but the unkind words only cause additional problems.

Social Skills

Sometimes, being mean has nothing to do with the internal struggles of anxiety or difficult emotions. You may simply need to spend some amount of time working on strengthening your communication skills or learning to read tones, facial expressions, and gestures. If this is the case, you may feel perfectly at ease and happy, but often get unexpected negative reactions from people around you.

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You may be having a hard time with your own communication as well. You may be misinterpreted due to your body language or facial expressions. You may have little awareness of these issues because the expressions are unlikely to be reflected when you're looking in a mirror. They typically only show when you are speaking to others, so they can be hard to recognize at times.

You may even notice your social skills tend to lessen around those you love most. Ironically, you tend to be the most unfiltered around the people you feel the safest and most comfortable with. When you feel safe, accepted, and loved, you can actually be less guarded about what you say and how you say it. Because of this, you may find yourself hurting those you love more often than others.

Awareness and Effects of Unkind Words

Can your unkind words really affect people we love? Most people are unaware when they make comments that can hurt those around them. They likely don't want to hurt their friends and family, but the words they use do so anyway.

One way to prevent this is by having open communication with your loved ones. If you say something and the person you're talking to looks upset or suddenly becomes quiet, ask them what's wrong. Ask, "Did I say something wrong?" Ensure them you did not mean to offend. If you take this approach every time you accidentally say something mean, you will learn which words are hurtful and which are uplifting. From there, you can choose to stop using hurtful words to those you love.

This is a problem with all age groups. Thirty percent of children admit to being a bully at one point or another, and thirty percent say they've been bullied. No matter how old you are, your words make a difference, and if you pay close attention to the reaction of the people you are talking to, you can use the power of your words for good.

Do You Want To Learn How To Stop Being Mean (Unintentionally)?

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Childhood bullying can cause lifelong psychological damage, and using unkind words in adulthood has similar effects. Accidentally being mean can lead to people you love experiencing depression or social anxiety. They can lead to sad feelings or even to relationships coming to an end if the unkind words are used often enough.

When you understand the effect of your words, you can see why it is important to learn the ins and outs of using them kindly. Even though you may not try to be mean to your friends and family, learning how to be nice will make a huge difference in both your life and the lives of those you speak to.

Addressing Underlying Issues

In order to improve your relationships with friends and family, as well as have more enjoyable encounters with new people, you more than likely want to fix these challenges once you find them. Below, we will look into how to solve the struggles you may face in each of these areas of communication.

Addressing Anxiety

When you feel anxious, you might speak harshly or use unkind words. You can help reduce accidental communication problems by visualizing yourself in the situation ahead of time. Imagine yourself smiling and feeling relaxed. Give yourself a number of conversation ideas ahead of time. The more you practice possible scenarios, the more comfortable you can become during the actual interaction.

Addressing Difficult Emotions

If you have experienced a recent disappointing or frustrating event, you may need to take some time to yourself before you try talking to others. Negative emotions can make you more likely to be unkind to people unintentionally. Do things that help boost your mood. When you're feeling calm, try confiding in a close friend to help you deal with the challenge you are experiencing.

Addressing Poor Communication Skills

Effective communication is a skill that takes time and practice to master. You can begin by paying attention to other people's facial expressions, tones, and gestures. If you're uncertain of their reaction, ask them how they felt about what you just said. You will gain the best information by asking open questions and seeking honest answers.

Remember that listening carefully is equally as important as speaking carefully. Prior to responding, try your best to have a complete and accurate understanding of what the other person is attempting to convey. Much conflict in relationships is a result of misunderstanding, which can often be avoided by healthier and mutually respectful communication. Focus intently on what the other person is saying. It will help your responses to be kinder overall.

Seeking Help

Talking to a professional counselor can also help you develop strategies to stop being unkind unintentionally. If you are still struggling with being unintentionally mean after implementing the above strategies, a counselor may be the next step. But finding time to speak with a therapist can be hard. If you have a busy schedule or want to avoid long commutes to therapy sessions, consider speaking with a therapist from BetterHelp. BetterHelp is an online platform that gives you access to professional help from anywhere, at any time. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Krysten offers me support so I am able to reflect back on interactions I didn't even know affected me the way they did. She is helping me learn about myself and implement changes in my life while being kind and realizing this is a journey."

"I cannot say enough how much I appreciate Barbara's help and guidance. She has helped me through some difficult situations, providing just what I needed to stop negative cycles and self doubt to take over. I highly recommend Barbara!"

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Do I Come Off As Mean?

To be mean means to cause or intend to cause intentional harm towards someone. In some situations, the act may not be unintentional. This implies that you may be mean without realizing that you are. The following are some of the reasons you seem to be mean:

  • Not making any effort to approach other People: You may be perceived as mean if you invariably wait around and expect people to approach you. Who does that? It's something you can actually do — If you discover that people aren't talking to you, it may be because you're not talking to them in the first place.
  • Your Body Language seems Unfriendly: Your body language tells a lot about you. It's an indicator that shows if you're approachable or not. Of your body language is giving to people disinterested signs, you may be seen as mean. For instance, if you're not smiling, or crossing your arms, looking at your watch or cell phone, or looking around while someone is talking to you, it implies you are not interested in the conversation. If your body language is not open, you may seem to mean.
  • Being too Blunt: If you are too blunt while chatting with someone on Facebook or on Twitter, you may be labeled as mean. The way you express yourself while chatting must be properly censored as some individuals may see you differently even if it's not your responsibility to make them feel good.
  • Lateness: Most people expect you to show up when expected. Actually, it's a disrespectful habit to always show up late every time for no good reasons. With this, you may be seen to be self-centered and as someone that has no obvious regard for other people.
  • Impatience: When you are impatient with everything, you may over time be seen as mean. This is what you should think through before you feel stimulated to be impatient. Several people may interpret your impatience as agitation and anger. You can relate to this when you are in a queue with an impatient person standing right behind you.
  • Unbridled Tongue: There should be a limit to what you can say. Don't always think you can say anything you wish to say anytime you want to say it. People may take it wrong and interpret it as mean. Consider people's state or mood before expressing yourself. You may want to select the right words to use that suit their situation.
  • Bad Eye Contact: A good eye contact when having a conversation with someone means that you are interested in the conversation. However, if you forget to make good eye contact which probably may be because you are shy or nervous, you may come off as mean.
  • Too Secretive: Most people expect other people that are close to them to share their feelings. However, when this fails, they see them indifferently. If you find it difficult to open up to those around you, you may be seen as snobbish and cold which may draw people back from getting intimate with you. Your invulnerable mannerisms may be labeled as mean.
  • Bad Listening Attitude: When people are talking to you, they will expect your full attention because they really want to be heard and understood. But if your habit is bad by putting them off they may label you as mean.

How Do I Stop Being Unintentionally Rude?

When you are rude, you will tend to inhibit people from getting close to see or have something good to say about you. Being rude is a bad habit that is toxic. It can affect your relationship with other people. Here are some of the easy ways to stop being rude unintentionally:

  • Have a heart of Gratitude: Acknowledging and appreciating people who are good to you will help you become a nicer person.
  • Avoid Those that are Rude: if you continuously keep the company of rude people or being around them, it may be difficult to break off from your habit. You may want to think about selecting good friends. Also, you should be conscious of how you deal with a rude co-worker that can get you upset incessantly.
  • Ask Yourself "how will people feel": If you're unintentionally rude, it may affect people's feelings. Knowing how people can react to such unkind behavior may help you stop it.
  • Be Ready to Apologize: Apology is a very important step to take. It helps your mental health and makes you become a nicer person.
  • Maintain Decency: You should try to be positive daily. The thought that people may attack you may put you in a defensive and rudeness position. Occupy your mind with the thoughts that people have good intentions towards you— this will reduce stress and make you approach them with respect and kind words.
  • Put up a Smiling Face: People see your face as a gateway into your mind. So, when you are not smiling, sometimes they may assume it as rude. However, if you smile a lot, you will be seen approachable.

How Do I Stop Saying Things Without Thinking?

Saying things without thinking about them is a bad habit that can put you in trouble. What you say goes a long way in shaping your life and tells a lot about you. Speaking without thinking nay portray as thoughtless, careless, or rude. From time to time, when you are expected to think carefully about what you want to say before saying it. If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to take the following easy ways to stop:

  • Accept your condition and know that you are the only one that can bridle your tongue.
  • Practice diligently shutting your mouth as soon as it's opened (until you've thought about what you're going to say). 
  • Say only what you really mean.
  • Avoid excessive and needless talking. 
  • Don't talk about obnoxious and inimical subjects.
  • Give a sincere appreciation and compliment.
  • Don't speak angrily. Try to speak calmly.

How Do I Stop Myself From Being Blunt?

Being blunt means to be abrupt, plain, or rough in manners or speech. It may be seen as a problem that can affect people's feelings when it's used against them. Sometimes you may not know you are blunt until someone tells you. You can take the following easy ways to stop after the discovery:

  • Know or be mindful of other people's identity especially when you are talking to a stranger.
  • Assess your words very well and think about the effect it may have on other people's feelings.
  • Be mindful of how your words are phrased.
  • If you realize that you have been blunt at a point in time, try to ruminate on what you said and a better way to say it next time.

Can You Be Too Direct?

Being too direct has to do with your personality. Actually, you can be. When you are too direct, you will be seen by others as plain and blunt about situations.  This may, sometimes, be a threat to other people's faces because it may be pointing out the bad side of their situations.  Several people are uncomfortable when being attacked or talked down. However, it may be beneficial at times when dealing with some specific tough situations.

What is a blunt person like?

Someone who is blunt can easily be identified through the use of words or expressions. This is because the manner of speech of such a person is conspicuous and can be labeled as offensive. Most times, blunt people can be identified through the following traits:

  • They may insult people inadvertently.
  • They have problems with "yes people" (people-pleasers).
  • They are very impatient with long stories.
  • They acknowledge other people like them (other blunt people).
  • They may feel they don't need to apologize for expressing their opinion even if it hurts other people's feelings.
  • People don't usually ask for their opinion.
  • They persistently enjoy being proved right.
  • They are misunderstood regularly when emailing or texting (especially on Facebook or Twitter).

Is it possible to change behavior?

It is very possible to change behavior but can be challenging or hard. Behaviors that may be changed include habits, diet, exercise, dependencies, and Whatnots. They are tremendously difficult because of

  • Negative emotions such as fear, shame, regret, and guilt.
  • Thinking errors.
  • Its gradual process that needs specific and realistic goals.
  • Practical plan and specific tools (peculiar to an individual).
  • Failures (you may need to try more than once).
  • Lack of commitment.

How do I change my behavior?

Your behavior is an important part of your life that tell lots about you and decide the way you've seen or defined by others. Not every behavior is good; some are seen as unpleasant. Although changing an unpleasant behavior may be difficult, there are easy ways you can about it. You can take the following effective ways to change it and improve the quality of your life:

  • If your environment is affecting your decision-making, try to change it.
  • Exit negative associations. If your friends are negative and full of criticism, you may find it difficult to change in the long run. Ensure you know good ways to respond to them if you're still around them.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Deal with your bad habits one at a time.
  • Find a new way you can set your goals.

How do I stop being a mean person?

There are a lot of different reasons why you may struggle with anger management and being mean to others. It’s important to realize that It's not usually as easy as deciding to change your thoughts, feelings, and actions so you can feel happier and be nice to people. It would be nice to solve the problem like that, but it’s not usually so simple as just deciding to do it. 

Instead, it can help to pinpoint why you struggle with being mean. Is it because you struggle with difficult emotions? Or, maybe it’s because you had an experience in your past that causes you to feel like everyone is against you? There are many different reasons why you could struggle in this area. 

If you’re unsure of where the struggle is coming from, you may benefit from working with a LPC (licensed professional counselor) in order to determine where it’s coming from. They can also help you learn effective anger management strategies to change your behavior so you can feel happier in a healthy way. 

A few things that might be able to help you include:

  • Take deep breaths to help calm yourself down instead of responding in anger.
  • Learning to address negative feelings in a healthy way instead of stuffing them down.
  • Finding a role model who you can learn from.
  • Using your sense of humor to laugh and enjoy yourself more to shift your focus from negative emotions.
  • Journaling so you can write out your feelings
  • Learning to change your thoughts, feelings, and actions when your emotions feel out of control

Don’t expect it to be easy. Even if others try to tell you that it’s not that hard to change your behavior. Learning to deal with negative feelings can be a challenge for a lot of people. Talking to a therapist can help.

What is the root of my anger?

Discovering the root of your anger can be an important first step to change your behavior. It’s not always as simple as just deciding to change your words and actions. There are many things that can cause people to struggle with anger and it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. 

People’s feelings can be difficult to learn how to control when there are underlying issues adding to the emotion they’re struggling with. It’s not always just about anger management. The root of your anger could be depression, past trauma, or other situations that will need to be addressed. 

If you’re unsure of what is causing your anger, you may benefit from therapy with a LPC (licensed professional counselor). Not only can they work with you to help you identify the root cause, they can work with you on addressing thoughts, feelings, words, and actions that you may be struggling with. They can also help you learn anger management techniques to improve relationships. 

What is considered rude behavior?

There are many things that are considered rude behavior. For example, some people think that not being a good listener is rude. Others might think you are rude based solely on your words and actions. Some may think that your sense of humor is tasteless and rude. 

If you’re in a bad mood, it can feel easier to behave in ways that others may consider rude. You may hurt people’s feelings without even realizing it. It’s not that hard to do when you’re struggling with negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that leave you in a bad mood. Even if you’re not the kind of person to naturally take your anger out on others, you may find that you’re being meaner than normal. 

If you find that you are using rude behavior that others don’t expect, and maybe you don’t expect from yourself either, ask yourself why. Is it just that you’re in a bad mood for the day or are you struggling with anger management and it’s time to get some real help?

If you’re not sure if people see your behavior as rude, you could try asking people anonymously to find out what they really think. Or, find trusted family and friends that will be honest with you.

What does healthy anger look like?

If you struggle with showing anger in a healthy way, it may help to find a role model who can help you. This could be a friend or family matter. Or, it could be working with a therapist that can help you learn how to process difficult emotions like anger. 

There are some reasons and times in life when anger is a natural response. People’s feelings are true and important to understand. Anger, in and of itself, is not bad. However, it can become a problem if you don’t know how to process it and show it in a healthy way. 

If you feel like your anger is getting the best of you, you may benefit from doing things like taking deep breaths, meditation, journaling, exercising, or other productive activities that require you to use your energy in a healthy way. 

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