Don’t Take It Personally: What a Person’s Actions Might Really Mean

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It’s frustrating when you know a person who constantly sucks the life out of every situation, and it can be a difficult thing to deal with. Although you might not want to turn your back on this individual, at a certain point, you realize that you need to put yourself and your own happiness first. The reality is, most of us have at least crossed paths with someone who unfairly projects their insecurities on those around them.

According to Dr. Nikki Martinez, psychologist and licensed clinical professional counselor, when people focus on themselves and control an entire conversation, they are typically fearful of what would happen if they gave up control of the conversation. In some cases, people who do this may not be able to handle criticism, or the chance of it, as it would crush them. Therefore, they are inclined to keep the focus on themselves and all their successes. Martinez suggests that this behavior is less about bragging and more about convincing oneself this is the truth. At times, these individuals might go as far as putting others down in the same areas to build themselves up, as a means to make themselves feel better.

We were curious to learn more, so we spoke with Dr. Gail Saltz, bestselling author and associate professor of psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornel School of Medicine. Of course, there could be infinite reasons a person is behaving a certain way, and Saltz reminds us that these behaviors could be a reflection of what a person means, or they could very well not reflect what a person means, but in any case, you need to look at behaviors that are often repeated.

If you look at a person’s pattern of behaviors, these behaviors will either present themselves in an honest or dishonest manner. If a person is, in some way, destructive, it will usually come in a constellation of behaviors that might relate to what might be going on, in a broader sense.

When discussing if a people’s insecurities come out in actions such as constantly turning the conversation toward themselves, or putting others down in public, Saltz says this is a two-sided discussion — yes and no. When someone repetitively does something, there’s a wide array of possibilities to which this could be attributed, including:

  • A person’s negative behaviors could come from a place of insecurity.
  • A person might use bravado in order to feel superior.
  • A person could be a genuinely arrogant individual who is insensitive to others and their feelings.
  • A person could be struggling with Asperger’s Syndrome and not understand that what they are doing or how they are acting is hurtful to others.
  • A person could be an extreme narcissist, not having plotted out the projecting onto others. Rather, the pattern of their behavior is simply their message of who they are.

It’s also important to note that, if someone is trying to decipher what another person’s actions mean, they have to listen to how it’s actually making them feel, as well. Reflecting on your own vulnerabilities and how you’re apt to feel might be saying more about you than them. Is this the only person that puts you down, or is it often something you experience from multiple people?  If you often encounter these feelings from more than one source, start thinking about why you’re sensitive to this experience.

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