How to deal with a bitter person without getting embittered

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Robert Maurer
@robertmaurer
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Dealing with an embittered person is not easy, for that person there are no intermediate terms. Everything is bad, negative, frustrating… And it is not difficult for it to end up infecting us with its bitterness.

Unfortunately, it's not always possible to get that person to see the brighter, brighter side of life, so sometimes we have no choice but to protect ourselves from bitterness.

How is bitterness born?

No one is born embittered and resentful. Bitterness is something that develops over time. As Franz Kafka observed: “A man's gesture of bitterness is often only the petrified embarrassment of a child”.



Bitterness is a difficult feeling to define because it includes several emotions. Resentment, anger and sadness play a major role, but there is also a hint of disappointment and frustration.

In fact, bitter people have often suffered several disappointments over the course of their lives. The problem is that they weren't able to turn the page, they got stuck in these situations mulling over what happened, reliving the facts over and over. This generates a deep inner frustration complicated by the fact that it is impossible for him to go back to make other decisions.

The embittered person has remained anchored to a past that cannot change and that frustrates him. To which we add that he has chosen - more or less consciously - to see what happened through a negative lens, drawing generalizing conclusions that reaffirm his pessimistic vision of the world, of life and of others.

The embittered one feels that he has lost control of his life, has fallen into a state of learned helplessness marked by an emotional numbness in which there is practically only room for negative emotions. This person has assumed the role of victim, has shifted the locus of control out of himself, assuming a defeatist attitude. As Paul Watzlawick said: "Leading a bitter life can be done by anyone, but to bitter life on purpose is an art that is learned."



The emotional impact of dealing with an embittered person

Embittered people often relate from a guilty and not very empathetic position. In their personal relationships they may be tempted to blame others when things go wrong or don't flow as expected.

Due to their external locus of control, they feel the urge to seek out culprits, so at that moment their empathy is "turned off". These people are so saturated with their negative feelings that they do not have a clear enough mind to practice mutual respect and perceive the feelings and needs of others.

Therefore, those who have to relate to bitter people may think that it is impossible to reason with them, they always end up feeling that nothing they do is good enough or they get involved in a series of interpersonal conflicts or in the pessimistic world view. In the long run, that situation can become emotionally exhausting.

The keys to dealing with bitter and resentful people

• Assume it is nothing personal. Frustrated and embittered people often have conflicting interpersonal relationships with others, not just us. This means that, in most cases, they have nothing against us, it's just their usual way of relating. Understanding that it is not a personal matter will help us to keep our emotions under control and take the necessary psychological distance to better deal with that dose of bitterness and frustration.

• Understand what happens to him. Empathy unites. Embittered and frustrated people, although they can be difficult to deal with, are not bad, they just carry a heavy emotional load on their shoulders that they have not been able to get rid of. They are people who, although they don't usually recognize it, carry an overwhelming weight of disappointment, anger and sadness that often enslave them. They generally don't know how to assertively manage their emotions, so they need help. Therefore, a dose of empathy, patience, kindness and compassion can be the perfect antidote. We need to remember that happy people are those who feel loved, respected and validated and who don't usually disturb or mistreat others.



• Identify the activators of bitterness. Fortunately, bitter people usually don't constantly express their resentment. Typically, they have some sensitive spots that trigger bitterness. That's when they become extremely pessimistic or develop passive-aggressive behaviors. Knowing which are the activators of bitterness will allow us, on the one hand, to avoid them and, on the other hand, to know that when these people are activated they will be more confrontational, so at that moment it is better to change the subject or leave them alone to reflect.


• Stop passive-aggressive behavior. Embittered people usually don't behave in an openly hostile way, but they mask that anger under a passive-aggressive attitude. It is important to know how to spot these behaviors and stop them because they can be very harmful. Pointing the accusatory finger at others so that they take on flaws that do not belong to them, making innuendo or playing with silences are some of the most common passive-aggressive strategies that we must not fall into. Being empathetic with a person and understanding where their bitterness comes from does not mean voluntarily participating in their game.


In any case, we must remember that getting embittered and doing nothing is much easier than facing negativity and trying to solve our problems. It is easier to be unpleasant than positive, but it is certainly much more harmful to ourselves and to those around us.

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