That’s Mean, Quit It!

I was reading a book the other day, I can’t remember what, which spoke about people’s behaviours, and how much simpler it is with kids. There was something in the book about dealing with mean people, and it said that when a child does something mean, another child, either the victim or an observer, will simply say ‘That was mean! Quit it!’ It’s so simple and straight forward and really resonated with me.

Marilyn Monroe once said that being famous was ‘living life as an object’. And sadly, I have found that to be true. People will do or say things to a famous person, (and assume things), that they would never say to another human being. But as a famous person, you’re fair game. Famous people aren’t real and have no feelings, right? My feelings get hurt like everyone else’s. And people love to say mean things about famous people, not just famous people, all people. It’s the nature of our tabloid world. Who’s got the dirt? Why does there have to be dirt? What if there was something nice to say instead? Maybe that wouldn’t sell papers.

But take the famous piece out of that equation (okay, I’ll stop whining), we all know people who say mean things to us. We all do. There is someone in our life, or several of them, who always find the bitchy thing to say. They slip it under the door in conversation, like hate mail under our door. And we’re often so startled by it that we have no response—-until 14 hours later when you’re lying in bed and think of the 600 things you should have said. We also see people like that do or say something mean to others, and we are so embarrassed to be part of the interaction that we don’t react, and later wish we had. It’s hard to get those moments back, although sometimes we can address the issue later, but often we can’t.

I had an extremely critical mother, often unfairly. I spent my whole childhood defending myself to no avail, trying to convince her of my innocence of whatever I was accused of. And then I spent my entire adulthood letting those moments pass. It was easier not fighting it, but letting those things pass costs you. The arrows hit your soul.

I am often annoyed at myself about the things people say to me, that really hurt, or things they do, knowingly or not, that really hurt my feelings and I don’t say a word. I just smile and act like I’m not upset. It’s so much easier and less embarrassing. And it seems ‘easier’ to be polite, and just smile and nod, or ignore it.

I’m ashamed to say that sometimes when people are mean to others, I let it pass. I don’t want to get into a fight. Maybe I think it’s their problem, not mine. And we are so often told not to get involved. Why not? I am willing to fight for the underdog in causes, to speak up for the homeless, to defend my children—-so why don’t I stop someone dead in their tracks when I hear them being mean to a friend? Maybe I’m scared. But the right answer to that is what I read the other day, to do what any brave kid in the playground would do and say, ‘Hey! That was mean, quit it!’ So often, I want to say to someone who is mean to me, unfairly, ‘why did you say that? It’s not true’. I am horrified to realize how often people say untrue mean things to me and I don’t say a word. I can’t defend myself in the tabloids, but what’s to stop me from looking someone in the eye and saying ‘that was mean, quit it’? I think the bullies who do it would be stunned. They are counting on my silence and most of the time they guess right.

I’d like to make a commitment to myself, now and for the future, that from now on, when someone says something nasty to me, subtly or overtly, or to someone else in front of me—from now on, I want to say ‘That was mean, quit it!’. I hope I have the guts to do it, because the kids have it right. Bullies, watch out!

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11 Comments so far
  1. Sheila January 17, 2009 6:20 am

    I hope you keep the commitment you are making to yourself. Bullies rarely bully the people that call them on it. If it helps, saying “knock it off” or “quit it” is alot easier than kicking yourself for the next couple of days for not standing up for yourself.

  2. Lisa January 18, 2009 12:13 pm

    I have really had a problem with that area all of my life. And you know, mean people seem to sense that about me. I too often ponder and anylyze to pieces the words that come out of their mouths to me. Now in my 40s I would have thought that it would get better. I would be stronger. But no, the same little girl lives in the adult body. I heard someone talk the other day and took those words to heart. She said that if someone says something offensive then just say to them ” Im going to pretend like that never happened”. I am on one hand glad that I do not treat people like that. And sad that I become so hurt when on the defense. My daughter (7) came home the other day with a story about a classmate that said a mean thing to her. Oh no, it has started. So I have to be strong for her and just calmly asked, well what did you say? She replied “I said so what” Good I said.

  3. Kim January 18, 2009 2:19 pm

    I think assertiveness requires pratice, for me at least. : D And I’m learning–practicing to say, as childish as it sounds, ‘Stop, be nice, that(whatever it was)is unacceptable to me, has hurt me!’

  4. Aude January 20, 2009 5:05 am

    Chère Danielle Steel ,
    Quel bonheur de vous lire sur votre Blog !
    Je sais que vous avez passé une partie de votre enfance en France , c est pour cela que je vous écris en français( et j espere que vous comprendrez ce que j’ écris !)
    J ai toujours rêver de pouvoir vous écrire .
    J ai 25 ans et je suis maman d’ une petite fille de 13 mois .
    Je suis une fervente lectrice de vos oeuvres ! Je lis vos livres en boucle , je ne m en lasse pas . Mon préferé est celui où vous parlez de votre fils … C est une histoire bouleversante . Vous etes ( vous , nick , votre famille , Julie et les siens ) des personnes tres attachantes . Ce livre est absolument magnifique et j en suis quasiment tombé amoureuse de nick !!
    Je suis heureuse de pouvoir vous ecrire , c etait un de mes reves !
    J espere vous lire encore longtemps .
    Avec tout mon amour , Aude .

  5. Helen February 6, 2009 5:20 pm

    I am a teacher and find myself letting my students know (11-14 yrs) when they are being mean. Just like you, Danielle, I do find it harder to tell adults the same thing. Thanks for focusing on this theme. I will continue to work on this issue.

  6. LAURIE February 7, 2009 4:17 pm


  7. Rica February 20, 2009 2:19 pm

    that’s a good idea!!

  8. Nancy February 22, 2009 8:07 am

    I was searching for information regarding how to avoid reacting to mean things people say and am surprised that you find it necessary to change what you have done up until now. I think you are handling it really well.

    I have a boss who is nasty and co-workers who find it funny to be mean to other people. I almost can’t stand it. I come in early and work because their behaviour is so distracting and I don’t socialize with them much because not only do they gossip about everyone, they sneak in the little comments that get your blood boiling so you react.

    I was new at my job and had just been complemented for my performance by my boss’s boss. I was glad but didn’t overplay it because my boss was feeling insecure about her own performance. A couple days after this happened she came in my office and said that a recent restructuring meant that I would most likely be losing my job by the end of the year. I called my supervisor (who is not my boss) immediately and asked if that was the case. She got in trouble and was told to stop spreading rumors.

    I have learned to stick up for myself by stating facts and when the above occurred, my boss later came into my office, closed the door and then said I had completely mis-understood her. I told her what she said and then asked where I might have misunderstood. She had nothing to say. She then went on to reinforce that my job would be gone by year end. I didn’t react this time because I was already told that wasn’t the case by my supervisor who works with her boss. But I did find out later that before she came back into my office to tell me I misunderstood…just seconds before that she went into a co-workers office and said to disregard everything she said about me losing my job by year end.

    The best way to deal with people like that is to not react because that is what they want. The first time my boss said something mean to me, I reacted immediately and her response was…you are going to get eaten alive here. Then she laughed. How do these people ever get placed in a position of management?

    If you see someone else getting picked on, don’t respond to the person being mean. Instead stick up for the other person or let them know in some way that you understand or make mistakes yourself but wait until the person is alone. Don’t poke a stick at the bully or say to the person getting picked on how mean you think the other person is. Because here’s the thing, most likely the person you are defending will be having lunch with another co-worker and tell that person what you said and you will become the target. Good luck to you. nj

  9. Shamar July 28, 2009 11:23 am

    Kudos to you, Danielle! I think that it is great for you having decided to take a stand for yourself. Like you, as a child, I was criticized very much by the one who was suppose to be my supporter, nurturer, and protector. Many a time while being the critized, taunted, or teased one how i wished that I could disappear into nothingness. However, with the birth of my child, I decided that enough was enough. All those years of me feeling bad about myself and being on the butt end of harsh comments and/or jokes was one thing, but I never want my child to feel that it is okay for people to treat her that way in any fashion.

    By nature, I am not a confrontational person. It is much easier not to oppose the bully and click your heels three times and wish for you to fade into the black. The all too often unfortunate reality of this is that the bully will keep picking at you and others, it usually causes the victim to question their identity when nothing’s the matter with them, and you’re enabling bad behavior from the bully. Listen, I don’t put up with crap from my kid, I refuse to put up with it from anyone else’s, and especially an ADULT!

    The few times that I have taken the aweful and uncomfortable stance against the overly insecure bully I have felt even more self assured after the situation has settled and my adrenaline has calmed. Just as importantly, most of the former bullies treat me with respect now. One refuses to get it and is just a miserable person, and I am in her presence as leaste as possible (she’s family).

    In regards to standing up/speaking up for someone else, I think we should for those who have yet to find their voice, or for those who are not present when people are speaking harshly about them. Sometimes, when we keep quiet it can give off the impression that we are in agreement with the bully.

    I am glad that you chose to write about this topic, Danielle. Writing about what these people have done to you is a courageous act in itself and a step toward overcoming.
    May the Lord continue to bless you and your family.

  10. jill April 8, 2011 7:20 am

    I tried to stand up to some bullies. Made things worse. Some are very clever and good at what they do and others don’t even know what’s going on. They know when you’re insecure. That drives them. They go after weaklings of course who don’t know how to defend themselves. They also like to get a reaction. That drives them. Makes you look bad. They know they can beat you if you stand up to them so they just keep going at it because they think you’re weak or they can make you make a fool of yourself. So you’d better be sure you can win if you try to fight back.

    Danielle Steel? Famous people, I’d say those bullies are real jealous. Don’t let them take you down with them to their level. You’re a winner. And they can’t stand it.

  11. jill April 8, 2011 7:30 am

    Great advice Nancy. Thank you for those tips. I came here through a search on dealing with mean people too, not knowing it was Danielle Steel’s site.

    Helen, I am so glad you are teaching your students this sort of thing. Otherwise they carry it into adulthood. I don’t know why they need to be taught something like that but have said for years that teachers should not allow it to go on. Thank you.