How to Deal With a Spiteful Friend

Updated on January 18, 2017

5 Tips for Calming Down a Spiteful Friend

Two and a half years ago I met one of the best friends I'll ever have in my entire life. It was not a "friends at first sight" situation. I was her new boss, she was the one staff member I was warned about by 3 different people. These people told me she was manipulative, bitter, unhappy, underhanded, and that's just to name a few. But, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, a decision I've never regretted.

It wasn't easy at first. She would come in to work with a frown on her face, she wouldn't talk to anyone, and when she did, it was always to complain. She would start sentences emphatically, "That's just not right! We can't let that happen! Someone needs to be held responsible!" And I would listen. Eventually, I started joking with her, giving her a hard time about whatever she was complaining about, letting her know I cared about her opinions, but I wasn't going to be bullied. By the next year, we were inseparable.

What I learned is this: she's an emotional person who feels strongly about things. She has insecurities and fears that sometimes make her put up a front. She tries to protect herself, taking on the offensive, rather than risking getting hurt. Do you have a friend like this? Here are a couple tips on how to deal:

  1. LISTEN, BUT DON'T REACT. From my experience, much of a person's anger can be dissipated simply by being allowed to get it off their chest. It's cathartic to talk about the things that bother us. That said, avoid fueling the fire. Let them talk while you listen, but don't react strongly to the things they're saying.
  2. QUESTION THEM KINDLY. One of the most common phrases I use with my friend is, "I understand completely why you're worked up about this. I see your point, but, I'm going to play the devil's advocate here, have you thought about _____________?" That's one of the best ways to try to get them to see the other side of the situation.
  3. KNOW WHEN TO USE HUMOR. There would be times my friend would come in and start ranting from the get-go. Sometimes, I knew I could stop the negativity simply by saying, "Wow, someone got up on the wrong side of bed! Did you forget your coffee this morning?" Then she would laugh and the ranting would stop.

  4. HAVE THEM THINK ABOUT THE DRAWBACKS OF WHATEVER ACTION THEY'RE TAKING. My friend can absolutely be spiteful. It's not because she's a mean person, but because when she feel hurt, she refuses to do anything that will help the person who hurt her, which in turn, often ends up coming back to haunt her. For instance, if someone at work was mad at her and wasn't talking to her, rather than try to mend the relationship, she would say, "Well, if Sue doesn't want to talk to me, fine! I won't talk to her!" When I see her cutting off her nose to spite her face, I call her on it! "Really? You aren't going to talk to one of your closest friends just because YOU messed up in the first place?" Sometimes people just need a dose of reality.
  5. REFUSE TO BE AFRAID OF THEM. I think that many people use spiteful or vengeful behavior because others don't know how to respond, and will cave rather than deal with the confrontation. It works. They get what they want because people are afraid of them. When you refuse to cave, and when you do it in a nonconfrontational, respectful, and patient manner, you've taken their power away from them.

The fact is, spiteful people are emotional people. This means they feel strongly in both good and bad ways. My friend is one of the best friends I have BECAUSE she is an emotional person who will support me until the day I die. It's easy to give up on friendships like these because they take a great deal of patience, but if you're willing to put in the effort, they can be some of the best friendships you'll ever have.


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      Giorgio 3 years ago

      I read your Politico article must digrsaee with most of your premise. While I agree that President Obama has focused on raising taxes for the highest earners (income tax, support for ACA and more) and that he favors more money for subsidy projects than for defense, that is certainly neither the whole nor correct picture.Those who are preaching balance are simply suggesting that a path to a balanced budget will require both spending cuts and tax increases. You argue that more taxes are bad and yet taxes as a percentage of GDP and as a percentage of household income are at some of the lowest levels in generations.Bowles/Simpson presented a 4 trillion dollar way to start bridging the gap that included 2/3rds spending cuts to 1/3rd revenue increases. Their revenue increases looked to broaden the tax base (affecting more than just those making over a million dollars a year).Unfortunately, Bowles/Simpson did not achieve a supermajority and neither party nor the President supported it. Most people feel that if Paul Ryan had supported it, his influence would have given the bi-partisan support needed to pass. However, both parties are at fault.The challenge with Glenn & Tim's approach is that it doesn't deal with the real world. A balanced budget based upon lowering taxes for the most well off and hoping supply side economics will grow the tax base and cutting spending but only for the most vulnerable who have been the ones who suffered the most over the last 5 years is in no way feasible politically.Even if Mitt Romney wins the Presidency and if the Republicans capture the Senate, every piece of legislation will require 60 votes and even the GOP will have members voting against these types of legislation.We live in a polarized society, perhaps believing that we need to work with all sides rather than demonize them, might lead to constructive solutions.

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      Diogo 3 years ago

      I agree, Dawn! In Brazil (where I live), people are alywas saying si Deus quizer, which means God willing. They say it all day long, and I've picked up the habit myself. I have to remind myself that what God wants is for us to be happy, at peace, and full of love. All the time. I loved this post for this reason!

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      Przemek 7 years ago

      Spiteful people are not always emotional people. Often people are spiteful because they have no empathy for others. And it is said to be no. 1 cause of abuse. So be very careful, and rather stay away from them. (Unless you really know what to do to help them)

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      BIKTMIA 7 years ago

      First a friend is not spiteful. I believe. If you know how to communicate effectively and positive that is an adult that's a friend , that respects you for who you are as a person and knows how to be a constant and being your support.

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      Shame 7 years ago

      Thanks for your article. Im one of these spiteful people and I hate it but I just cant control how upset and personally I take things. I came on here to look for ideas on how I can work on it and its so nice to hear that there are people out there who care and who realise we arent awful people, we just have an issue that is really hard to beat. Thanks

    • Boss Number 1 profile image

      Boss Number 1 7 years ago from Stayton, OR

      Don't we all have our own issues and problems? I agree Leesa, I've got my own stuff to work through, and this article wasn't trying to imply that I always have the right answers or know how to deal with every situation. I absolutely don't. This friend is an amazing, loving, wonderful person who is incredibly loyal and I have learned so much from her. That's the great thing about friendship, in different situations, we both have the opportunity to play the devil's advocate to the other person & make each other better.

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      Leesa 7 years ago

      Some of this was useful but have to comment that the writer has some problems of her own.....playing the "devils advocate" to an emotional person is an indicator of someone that is pretty arrogant and places herself above the other person......perhaps "the emotional one' has some gifts of her own to share with the writer.

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      algar 8 years ago

      thanks for sharing with me.

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      jforrest 9 years ago

      She sounds like a highly sensitive person. It was kind of you to act compassionately but still not be bullied. Great article.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      She probably did not deal with it the right way in the beginning, but I am glad you were there to help her realize her mistakes. It sounds like you are a fair boss.

    • Boss Number 1 profile image

      Boss Number 1 9 years ago from Stayton, OR

      Oh, you're absolutely right! Before I started working there she had dealt with some unfair situations that had occurred, but it also prevented her from being able to relate to almost anyone at work, even though not everyone to blame. And, the way she dealt with people was not always fair, either. It took her realizing that the culture of the facility had changed, and she could trust people again.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      This article has some good tips, but I have also noticed we are all emotional to some degree. I think there are some reasons she may be reacting to how people are treating her at work. I do not know her, but sometimes in a workplace culture it is fun for everyone to gossip or pick on someone. Maybe she felt she was singled out, which is why she acted this way in the first place. Just a thought :)

    • Boss Number 1 profile image

      Boss Number 1 9 years ago from Stayton, OR

      I think EVERYONE needs them sometimes! And, the more aware we are of how to handle someone else's anger, hopeful the more self-aware we'll become as well.

    • senfunn profile image

      senfunn 9 years ago from India

      Nice tips .. :-) especially the 3rd and 5th ones. Great thoughts added. Thank you.

      Sometimes i need them and sometimes people around me need them.

    • Boss Number 1 profile image

      Boss Number 1 9 years ago from Stayton, OR

      Thanks helena! For me, it was worth the extra effort to make a great friend. Let me know if they help you out!

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 9 years ago from Manhattan

      This is such a great hub; thank you for answering my request so thoroughly! I'll keep these things in mind.

    • Boss Number 1 profile image

      Boss Number 1 9 years ago from Stayton, OR

      Well, adelacuesta, I hope this helps! I think it does apply--thanks for reading!

    • adelacuesta profile image

      adelacuesta 9 years ago

      I was about to request a hub on how to deal with pessimistic, sarcastic and overly negative attitude of a person. Then saw this and thinking this also applies.

      Good hub, Thanks!

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      thorax11 9 years ago

      You are absolutely right. Spiteful people are emotional people. The key

      is that they are emotional and can't control the emotions. Gaining control

      over the emotions is powerful. One technique to do that is called EFT.

      It's very powerful yet extremely simple. It's about energy blockages in the body

      and how to clear them. What's so amazing about this is it works on pain, phobias,

      physical and diseases. Check out the youtube video of a complete skeptic with

      neck pain become pain-free in about 10 minutes. Like I said it's incredible.

      It works about eighty to ninety percent of the time, which is amazing. It

      sometimes works so well that some people completely forget they had

      a problem in the first place. You can learn the simple technique free of

      charge. The more people know about this the better . I have first hand

      experience, and know it works. Your response to this comment would be

      appreciated after you have seen the video and tried the technique.