How to Address Someone’s Hurtful Habits and Subtle Mistreatment

This article is about speaking on others’ bad habits which don’t warrant a full blown emotional sit down, but would be nice to somehow address.

We generally have a good sense of when our words and actions are hurting someone else in some way. Talking about our wrongful deeds, then apologizing for them, is a little harder to get around to thinking about however. Though we may feel a sense of guilt for causing someone pain with our words and actions, it’s difficult to face the music and hear the honest truth from the victim’s mouth.

Why It’s Difficult to Bring Up People’s Annoying Habits

An everyday occurrence of subtle mistreatment is a friend constantly being late attending scheduled plans. Though tardiness once or twice is never something to get up in arms about, the consistent and disrespectful act of not respecting another individual’s time can be labeled as a habit of subtle and continued mistreatment.

Bringing up such a topic with individuals you deem to have habits which negatively affect you is thereby a difficult task. The acts themselves may be hurtful, but our reactions to them can be easy to label as overreactions. The process of speaking to someone about their hurtful little habits is thereby a delicate balancing act.

Below, are tips on addressing these people’s subpar traits in a manner which aims to motivate behavior change. Rather than seeking an apology from people reluctant to give one, it seems best to motivate people who cause us discomfort to genuinely want to change.

Strip Power: Mention Their Misdeeds Matter-of-Factly and Don’t Ask Questions

“Why didn’t you text me back yesterday? I wanted to know what food I should buy for our camping trip”

“Since you didn’t text me back yesterday, I went ahead and bought what I thought we might need for our trip.”

The two statements above are similar introductions to dialogue about someone’s act of ignoring your text, said in a different way. The first example above attributes too much power to those who may have brought you pain. It leaves you asking a redundant question, as the answers you receive to such questions will be unlikely to soften the blow of being ignored the day prior.

Answers to such questions have a high chance of introducing a contentious back and forth, as the individuals you’re questioning on their hurtful acts most likely don’t want to have that conversation.

If an apology is what you seek, then simply reciting the other person’s deeds without being inquisitive about the circumstances which led to those deeds will still do the trick. The benefit in simply mentioning people’s misdeeds whilst continuing onward with your business not only strips their – perhaps nefarious – deeds of their power to cause pain, but communicates their lack of effect on your plans.

Stating things people around you need to work on as matter-of-factly as you could will communicate to them that their hurtful habits are causing them more harm than they cause the people around them. Even though, for instance, it’s an inconvenience for a friend to always be late, by stating their habit of tardiness as if you’ve grown used to it will communicate to them that they’re expected to be late.

Package people’s hurtful habits in a manner which brings attention to them in not only an unfavorable light, but an unimportant one. Present such traits as obstacles to overcome – which you consistently do. The responsibility of changing those traits will be left on the shoulders of those who exhibit them, but without the added pressure of needing to address and excuse such habits head on.

Attributing Identities by Saying Things in Jest

If you find yourself constantly bringing attention to someone’s subtle, but hurtful, behaviors in everyday conversation to no avail, it may be time to escalate in your approach.

The attribution of an unfavorable identity is an effective agent for sparking behavior change. People yearn to protect their reputation from any stench to be picked up and gossiped over. Even if the individual doesn’t personally have an issue with being labeled with negative traits, that individual likely cares about a general unfavorable reputation being spread about them.

What we think of our bad habits has no effect on our reputation. The desire to prevent our reputation from sliding down the drain is why being labeled with negative traits is effective at changing our behavior.

If we are to continue with the example of someone always being late, assigning that individual an identity to match may be effective encouraging them to prove you wrong.

Saying things in jest around the specified individual – and others around the both of you – does well to label them with unfavorable traits.

“Alright we’ll meet you at the coffee place nearby Mike, since you’ll likely be late and we don’t want to freeze.”

“Okay it’s a plan for eight o’clock tomorrow; see you at eight thirty Mike!”

Take Care in Labeling People

Initial reactions to being labeled with unfavorable traits can sometimes lead to the subject of your efforts to double down on that identity. However, in such a case they’d only further prove you right and they’ll feel a desire to disprove you sooner rather than later.

Ensure you’re cautious and sensitive during these phases of the process of addressing others’ behaviors which bother you. People can develop a sense of resentment for those who label them in an unfavorable light, thereby you should not be annoying about it. Ensure you’re acting in good faith; by helping someone else rid themselves of a bad habit.

If you act in good faith about labeling someone, you’ll stop at the line well short of when a joke turns into a form of bullying. If you notice an individual being genuinely hurt or annoyed by your efforts to label them, it’s best that you back off and leave some breathing room.




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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.