Do people say you’re mean? And are they right? (Part 1)

Two girls gossiping about another girl
Photo: © Antonio Guillem / 123RF Stock Photo

Think about it

  • Have you ever slammed the door right on someone’s face?
  • Or rolled your eyes because you felt someone was foolish?
  • Or been insensitive to the one who really needed your help?
  • Or spread gossip about the girl who was short or dark or fat?

Chances are that we have had several situations in which we thought about ourselves first, and not the other. And we did not really reason or reflect much before we said something about someone. Often enough we may not even have intended to be uncaring. Yet, we exercised no self-control because we didn’t even contemplate on what self-discipline really is. Or why it is ever needed. We thought that we need to survive and we deserve to win and that it is all right to do what it takes to get ahead of others as long as it is what makes us happy. And this way, a lot of the time and most likely, we have been unpleasant, nasty, unkind; or simply put, mean.


Empathy is the art of understanding how and why people feel the way they do. If you knew that something you do or say is going to hurt someone, ideally you would not do it. Rather you should not do it. The truth is, we are not born with empathy. This is something we learn as we grow. There are specific areas in the human brain which help us understand people and interact with them successfully. For this we first need to recognize people’s feelings, think about what we might want to say that would be apt, and then respond to them appropriately. We go through a period in adolescence when we are searching for our own identity, to know what makes us unique from someone else. At this point it becomes easy sometimes to develop an egoistic or greedy attitude. This may be partly a self-preservation instinct. But it is empathy that allows us to be more human in our interactions.

Where we go wrong

It’s not eternally easy to keep all interactions with everybody positive. Sometimes we have to choose between being happy and being right. You may not always agree with everybody around you and it is of course not easy to pretend to be okay when you’re not okay. But, it is possible to try and accept people for who they are, and not expect them to be who we want them to be.

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Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at

Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at