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What makes a mean person mean?



What makes a mean person mean?
e.
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quote post #1
Posted 01/26/08 - 1:09 AM:
Subject: What makes a mean person mean?

Folks,

I have often puzzled over this question. We sometimes meet mean people in our lives, and they express their meanness in different ways. Some are miserly with their money and some seem to enjoy seeing other’s unhappiness; these are the two obvious strands of meanness, but maybe there are others?

Where does meanness come from? Are we born with this disposition, or is it a way of being that we learn? What examples of meannness have you come across?

e.






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quote post #2
Posted 01/26/08 - 3:34 AM:


Not giving people money is mean? confused Surely charity is supererogatory.

At any rate, it's worth noting that meanness is often unintentional. Some of us don't intend to be mean, but it happens and we rarely realize it until it's over (and still can't prevent the next occurrence).

Some sources of meanness:
1) Revenge for perceived wrongs.
2) Expression of frustration. Someone having a bad day is more likely to be mean.
3) Lack of social skills. Someone may be mean because they haven't learned how to be dishonest or hold back an opinion.
4) Lack of consideration for others. The person simply does what they want to do without trying to annoy others, but not either not noticing or not caring that they do.
5) Hatred of people.
6) Practicality -- they find it helps them get their way.
7) A belief that such behavior is normal. Could be habit built from being around mean people.
7b) A belief that such behavior is required in order to be cool and popular.

Edited by Paul on 01/26/08 - 3:40 AM
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quote post #3
Posted 01/26/08 - 11:12 AM:


I meanness is relatd to a restrictd moral sphere--the individual is not aware of the broadr social context and consequences of their acts, is selfish and self-absorbd, and possibly acting on a level of immediate needs gratification. In this sense, being mean is likely unintentional, and is more like a bull blundring about a china shop of feelings.

OTOH, people more oftn than not are mean intentionally. In this case, their act is specifically meant to cause harm to some person or group of persons. I think there are at least two general categories here--when a person acts meanly in defence and when they act meanly for pleasure.

In defence, if a person feels threatnd, or has already been hurt physically or emotionally, being mean is a way of responding to that initial impact; this is more 'lashing out'. Hence, in the heat of argumnt, ppl say things to hurt the othr, usually when othr means of discourse are exhaustd.

For pleasure, if a person knows exactly what to do to harm someone, and does so because seeing that harm gives them satisfaction. This is an insidious form of meanity, possible close to being evil.

I dont think we are 'born' mean; rathr, it may be more likely that in the course of social and epistemological developmnt, 'highr' social consciousness faild to proprly arise for some reason, leaving the individual stuck in a restrictd moral sphere. Othrwise, its all conditioning. Ppl are oftn mean because it gives them a sense of control ovr something, and is a reaction to what they perceive as their own failure in the world (in some sphere) or their own fear about living.

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quote post #4
Posted 01/26/08 - 2:27 PM:


e. wrote:
Paul and MM,

Here is a real life example of meanness that you might analyse from your perspectives above.

One of my first homes was a rented flat. The flat was an extension of the owners house. Our heating and lighting was run on a coin meter which was on the wall near an adjoining door with his house.The electricity on this meter was costing us a lot.

One day the electricity ran out and we didn't have any money for the meter, so we had to sit in darkness. After about ten minutes the door between our flat and the landlord's rooms opened slightly and a hand reached around and put a coin in the meter. Our lights went back on and I heard his televison set coming on just after that.

I realised that the landlord was getting his electricity supply from our coin meter.

What do you think? Was he mean?

e.








Monk2400
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quote post #5
Posted 01/26/08 - 3:03 PM:


Lol, cheap bastard!! I think its mean to put coin operatd anything in a rental home. But mind you, thats not too common ovr here.

Sounds more like a scam than purposeful meanness. One might evn call it unjust, but then again, there has to be some leeway for how a person can manage their rental proprty. OTOH, if he didnt tell u that was the situation, that is a little undrhanded and deceptive.
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quote post #6
Posted 01/26/08 - 3:27 PM:


MM,

Yep, it was bad. We moved out soon after that. Anyway, I think that the deception would come under Paul's heading of practicality. They got away with some free electricity for a while.

However, meanness as practicality doesn't seem to get to it; IMHO for full blooded meannness there needs to be a deliberate lack of concern for other's welfare and it is a knowing lack of concern. This could either be inactive or active (not helping or harming). In the landlord's case the wiring would have been installed to run his house off the tenant's supply, so that would be active meannness in my book, and actually criminal, under UK law.

e.


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quote post #7
Posted 01/26/08 - 6:55 PM:


For practical meanness, I had in mind someone who finds that if they yell at someone the person will do what they want. Consider customer service situations. Perhaps the person wants a refund without a receipt that they shouldn't really get, and they find that by torturing the customer service person endlessly they increase their chances of getting the refund compared to if they were nice. They're mean to people because they get people to give in that way.

To me, meanness seems to imply some sort of direct interaction or intention to be noticed. The owner was scamming you, but he was actually actively trying to avoid offending you by hiding his actions -- his intent was that you'd remain blissfully unaware that anything was happening. A mean person would've threatened to beat you up if you didn't pay for his electricity, a thief is evil in a different way.

and actually criminal, under UK law.

I think there's a difference between a mean criminal and simply an immoral criminal. A mean criminal beats people up, or at least psychologically abuses them. Another sort of criminal may act extremely pleasant and compliment you and try to be a friend, but meanwhile he takes your wallet.

The immoral-but-not-mean criminal frequently has a conscience to evade, and will often invent rationalizations which make their actions okay. The owner who scammed you may have come up with a story in his head about how your rent was too low, or he was only using your electricity temporarily, or you owed him the favor for the time he shooed the bird away from your car, or whatever... people can be very creative in justifying what they want to do. A mean person, on the other hand, simply doesn't see anything wrong with harming you.

Edited by Paul on 01/26/08 - 7:05 PM
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quote post #8
Posted 01/26/08 - 8:21 PM:


e. wrote:
Here is a real life example of meanness that you might analyse from your perspectives above.

One of my first homes was a rented flat. The flat was an extension of the owners house. Our heating and lighting was run on a coin meter which was on the wall near an adjoining door with his house.The electricity on this meter was costing us a lot.

One day the electricity ran out and we didn't have any money for the meter, so we had to sit in darkness. After about ten minutes the door between our flat and the landlord's rooms opened slightly and a hand reached around and put a coin in the meter. Our lights went back on and I heard his televison set coming on just after that.

I realised that the landlord was getting his electricity supply from our coin meter.

What do you think? Was he mean?

I think that falls into the category of greed rather than aversion.
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quote post #9
Posted 02/05/08 - 7:22 PM:


Sometimes people appear mean by just being blunt. I guess being sensitive to the people around you and their feelings is what makes you not mean. Not caring about anyone else's feelings or thoughts is what makes a person mean, to me.
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quote post #10
Posted 02/07/08 - 10:17 AM:


I think meanness in adults is quite a profound issue. It is obvious to a rational person that to maintain a sense of sanity and relationship to others you need a working understanding of their needs in relation to your own. I think that what happens is a kind of short-circuit. Remember there are to meanings for 'mean'; the more street-wise 'mean' seems to be divorced from its direct moral connotations to indicate an attitude. However, I feel both can both more or less by held under the same conceptual unbrella. The 'mean' adult may be able to show some degree of sharing under compulsion in, say, a work relationship or even something approaching disinterestedness in a sexual relationship. In the latter, however, they will 'get what they want' eventually so this is a bit of a smoke screen. Their ego jealously grips what they hold to be their essence; they do not know alienation as such because this would require a degree of objectivity about other people. Rather, alienation is delineated within the character, they are that without reflection. Society is begrudgingly accepted as a kind of outgrowth of their psyche that will eventually be overcome when they acquire wealth and fortune and will not be answerable to anybody. If they lay claim to some kind of talent be it artistic or otherwise they will whole heartedly despise any sense of it in others; this will quickly reveal, in the case of the arts or any profession that requires a moral perspective, a degree of one-dimensionality that would only reveal their own lack of ability if they would see it but this is the last thing they would do. One can imagine a situation where they may go to some lengths to upset or prove the worthlessness of another possible 'talent' by trying to encourage others to view their work in a negative light only to draw increased attention to their own inadequacy and hopelessness.

What is depicted is an extreme case and this can fade by a matter of degrees to the 'normal' person who understands a more or less sane relationship with others.
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quote post #11
Posted 02/07/08 - 1:03 PM:


Oh, e I had a very bad experience about a mean woman coming from my country with her family. Her daughter has neurodermatitis and needed a special sort of cortisone cream, which she could only get through me from the germen chemistry. As you can imagine this cream was not cheep at all but I thought why not, it is for a child and for the person I thought she is my friend.
However, I did give her the crème and thought she would pay me for it, but she never did it but not because she was not able to do so, instate she was much better off than me. Nevertheless, in the end I had to pay the bill, because I had ordered the medication on my name, and thought okay I will never do her this fever again. Today we are no longer friends because it happened a few times that I felt misused where she just used me to take advantage of my connections.
There are always some people, thinking that everybody have to do them a fevered just because you are their friend and you would not say no. I do not think those people do it without consciousness, it’s just about taking advantage of other peoples social affairs. I do not think they have a genetic disorder, to me it is a sort of greed and selfishness to feed der self-esteem.
The funny thing is that those people are the ones who come from a better financial background and do not need to misuse another person, but cannot get enough. Perhaps they have that what we call Ersatzbefriedigung, (an increase in pleasure) of a replaced object whatever it is. A sort of must have it all free if possible. shaking head
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quote post #12
Posted 02/07/08 - 1:08 PM:


Nexus wrote:
I think meanness in adults is quite a profound issue. It is obvious to a rational person that to maintain a sense of sanity and relationship to others you need a working understanding of their needs in relation to your own. I think that what happens is a kind of short-circuit. Remember there are to meanings for 'mean'; the more street-wise 'mean' seems to be divorced from its direct moral connotations to indicate an attitude. However, I feel both can both more or less by held under the same conceptual unbrella. The 'mean' adult may be able to show some degree of sharing under compulsion in, say, a work relationship or even something approaching disinterestedness in a sexual relationship. In the latter, however, they will 'get what they want' eventually so this is a bit of a smoke screen. Their ego jealously grips what they hold to be their essence; they do not know alienation as such because this would require a degree of objectivity about other people. Rather, alienation is delineated within the character, they are that without reflection. Society is begrudgingly accepted as a kind of outgrowth of their psyche that will eventually be overcome when they acquire wealth and fortune and will not be answerable to anybody. If they lay claim to some kind of talent be it artistic or otherwise they will whole heartedly despise any sense of it in others; this will quickly reveal, in the case of the arts or any profession that requires a moral perspective, a degree of one-dimensionality that would only reveal their own lack of ability if they would see it but this is the last thing they would do. One can imagine a situation where they may go to some lengths to upset or prove the worthlessness of another possible 'talent' by trying to encourage others to view their work in a negative light only to draw increased attention to their own inadequacy and hopelessness.

What is depicted is an extreme case and this can fade by a matter of degrees to the 'normal' person who understands a more or less sane relationship with others.


you are right clap
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quote post #13
Posted 02/07/08 - 1:20 PM:


e. wrote:







I would call it a living on somebody else’s expense a shocking experience indeed and it robs people off their natural trust in the other person which I call the real lose except from the money you had lost. Personal I think losing your trust in the other person is the worst damage, which can happen because it is very difficult to regain it. sad
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quote post #14
Posted 02/07/08 - 1:49 PM:


Nexus wrote:
If they lay claim to some kind of talent be it artistic or otherwise they will whole heartedly despise any sense of it in others; this will quickly reveal, in the case of the arts or any profession that requires a moral perspective, a degree of one-dimensionality that would only reveal their own lack of ability if they would see it but this is the last thing they would do. One can imagine a situation where they may go to some lengths to upset or prove the worthlessness of another possible 'talent' by trying to encourage others to view their work in a negative light only to draw increased attention to their own inadequacy and hopelessness.


Nexus,

I'm going to be honest with you folks and myself and admit that I suffered from this meanness when I was doing my performance poetry. I started thinking just about getting the applause for myself, and I almost stopped listening to the other poets. Actually, I never let this show to anyone else but it was eating me away from the inside. In the end I had to take a break from the whole scene, after I finally got some paid gigs but - get this - I couldn't enjoy them! My ego was just beating me up all the time. Dreadful.

At least I can say that I know what meanness feels like.

e.


Edited by e. on 02/07/08 - 1:55 PM
e.
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quote post #15
Posted 02/07/08 - 1:54 PM:


Morgena wrote:

The funny thing is that those people are the ones who come from a better financial background and do not need to misuse another person, but cannot get enough. Perhaps they have that what we call Ersatzbefriedigung, (an increase in pleasure) of a replaced object whatever it is. A sort of must have it all free if possible. shaking head


Morgena,

I have heard people say that some rich people become rich and stay rich precisely because they are mean; it is their way of being.

e.
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quote post #16
Posted 02/07/08 - 1:58 PM:


Morgena wrote:


I would call it a living on somebody else’s expense a shocking experience indeed and it robs people off their natural trust in the other person which I call the real lose except from the money you had lost. Personal I think losing your trust in the other person is the worst damage, which can happen because it is very difficult to regain it. sad


Morgena,

If you are talking about my landlord story, it is the 'hand around the door' that shocked me. He was reaching into my space, sneakily, without telling me. It was like the hand of a ghostly pickpocket.

e.
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quote post #17
Posted 02/07/08 - 2:25 PM:


e. wrote:


Morgena,

If you are talking about my landlord story, it is the 'hand around the door' that shocked me. He was reaching into my space, sneakily, without telling me. It was like the hand of a ghostly pickpocket.

e.



Yes I was thinking about this shocking experience I was talking about cos I never thought something like this could ever happening to someone, but like I said before, I have seen horses vomiting in front of a chemistry. Everything seems to be possible in this country positively or negative even the most unbelievable you can never tell what comes around the corner. wink


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quote post #18
Posted 02/07/08 - 2:33 PM:


e. wrote:


Morgena,

I have heard people say that some rich people become rich and stay rich precisely because they are mean; it is their way of being.

e.



I would say that you have analysed the situation perfectly well, but there are a number of people, who had lost everything because they were mean, such like my grandmother. At the time, she fled the communistic regime in Hungarian and had to leave everything.
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quote post #19
Posted 02/11/08 - 1:51 PM:


e. wrote:
He was reaching into my space, sneakily, without telling me.

the short story that "heybabiedollz" posted in the bad stories thread describes a violation of boundaries that provokes (in me at least) a reaction similar to what you describe (presumably to a much greater degree, due to the described violation being not only of a person's living space but also of their physical body). in the story, the perpetrator believes himself to be motivated by mere boredom (root of all evil?), coupled perhaps with a rationalization that the offense is not really that serious (maybe the latter is also true of your then-landlord?). it's very well-written; i recommend checking it out.

cheers,
lib

Edited by libertygrl on 02/11/08 - 2:14 PM
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quote post #20
Posted 02/12/08 - 4:03 AM:


Many years ago, I had realised, too many people do understand their human value through positions or let us call it marked value. As if to say, you are what you have or have not and society proved them right. So the more you posses the greater your value in society and most people would follow those rules, despite the cost, even worst, they would judge others the same way they were teacher by their society.
To be honest I see this as one of the situation why so many people are mean, people define their value through economic value as they were indoctrinated by their society.rolling eyes

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quote post #21
Posted 04/29/12 - 9:26 AM:


interested in any insight as to the correlation between one's personal sense of self worth and these acts of unkindness.
i have often felt that in social interactions, many may treat others as extensions of themselves; and in the case of a 'mean person', this would have them feeling others are warranted both the 'practicalities' of necessity for their own person with disregard to the other, as well as their own feelings of self loathing; ultimately projecting both their personal disdain as well as their now skewed need for gratification or objective (which then manifests as selfishness).
thereby, all these 'strains of meanness' (very well put as a descriptive marker for this forum by paul) are all under an umbrella of one's perception of their own self worth and ultimately that projection unto others. (the greed, hatred, social ineptness, selfish motives, etc.) are all stemmed in and one, of one's own senses of personal ill-will and self entitlements, which when never ceased from their own minds, and a disregard for practical civility is implemented (or more accurately is habitually formed over time since the negativity brought forth by such acts becomes a kind of validation for their own feelings of themselves and ultimately 'reality' as they know it),feels impossible for them to act otherwise.

i can't legitimately envision an individual for whom would steel from a tenant, as in e's account, or direct someone with brutality of either physicality or spirit, as one for whom he himself has a great sense of personal value or self love.

my mother is whom most would readily identify as a 'mean person' which is why i sought out this forum specifically to begin with. it is an unceasing challenge to deal with the brutality from the simplest act of coldness to the directly offensive and unkind, which has now proven a regularity on her part equally as much as the now exponentially growing distance between us i feel i have to implement for my own sake. in feeling that through love and understanding would be the essential element in my living without allowing the hurt while still loving and having her in my life (albeit with the restrictions deemed necessary based on my own capabilities/ sensitivities of course) that the implementation of which would allow for at least some mutually appreciated relationship between us, because i do love her and believe (like in the most of us all) she is truly and most genuinely good (and loving) at heart, and it is with the restrictions of both environmental and physiological downfalls not of her choosing, that she is this.. well, 'mean' to me. :/

any thoughts or advice from anyone with a similar scenario?

thankssmiling face
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quote post #22
Posted 04/29/12 - 9:39 AM:


Hi I999,

Welcome to The Couch. smiling face

To begin with, though it's very difficult in close relations, but start practicing forgiving. More the reasons you know because of which mean persons act mean, more the chances that you will be able to forgive. Localizing meanness and thinking about foibles of a person or relation without being able to identify it as a meme, archetype or global trait makes it difficult for us to be kind and generous enough to forgive.


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quote post #23
Posted 10/23/12 - 6:30 AM:


"What makes a mean person mean?"

As the scorpion said to the toad: 'it's my nature.'


ungawa
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quote post #24
Posted 10/24/12 - 3:30 AM:


Paul wrote:
For practical meanness, I had in mind someone who finds that if they yell at someone the person will do what they want. Consider customer service situations. Perhaps the person wants a refund without a receipt that they shouldn't really get, and they find that by torturing the customer service person endlessly they increase their chances of getting the refund compared to if they were nice. They're mean to people because they get people to give in that way.


I agree with you, sometimes it's just it worked for them, so they keep doing that for the rest of their life. Still, it just seem wrong :(
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quote post #25
Posted 10/24/12 - 6:01 AM:


"it just seem wrong"

Eye of the beholder, I think.
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