Do You Act Out Of Spite?

A Better You Blog, Spite

I have a flip chart in my office I often introduce when a client is struggling in a relationship. Several things stand out as we go through the pages. I want to talk about spite here because it’s crept into many couple counseling sessions lately. Spite is defined as petty ill will or hatred with the disposition to irritate, annoy or thwart.

You may have heard the expression – Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. So many see the word spite and have difficulty acknowledging that they respond out of spite or begrudgingly admit they acted that way in the relationship they’re describing.

Spite can be a hazardous emotion. Acting out of spite is a great way to create or further an argument or fight. When I ask someone who admitted to being spiteful what their point was, they can’t answer with any clear or valid explanation. Think about how odd of a response that is. Why would anyone choose to act in a way that will produce a negative result? If I asked someone why they smiled and said hello to a stranger or held the elevator door for someone, they’d have no problem replying, “Because that’s polite.” Being nice to someone, stranger or not usually produces a positive result for us even though that isn’t why we acted nice.

Acting out of spite solicits some kind of negative response for us. Logically, it makes no sense to act out of spite because arguing or fighting is a waste of time.

So many utilize spite when they feel they’re under attack or want to show someone how wrong they were despite the strategy’s effectiveness.

Every time I’ve acted out of spite, if it didn’t come back to bite me, it made me feel bad enough that it altered or cost me sleep due to regret. I now consider not being spiteful one of my core values. I don’t like making people feel bad.

If you’re on a self-love plan, make sure to eliminate spitefulness as a behavior of yours. If someone hurts you, that doesn’t give you the right to hurt them back. If you want others to love you, never act or respond out of spite. A strong person can communicate effectively without being mean.

Being spiteful is dirty fighting. Instead of being spiteful, deliver your message directly and tactfully if you have to respond at all. Remember, how another person acts is a reflection of them. How we respond is a reflection of us.

Also, doing things for others has been proven to lift depressed people out of their funk.

If you want to test your level of spitefulness, there is something called the Ultimatum Game. The experiment was created by Werner Guth and his team in the early eighties as a simple take-it-or-leave-it scenario.

It works like this. There is an amount of money known to both, say fifty dollars, that can be split between two players, a proposer and a responder. The proposer is placed in control of the money and can split it any way they want and offer the deal to the responder. The catch is to have the offer accepted. If it is, both the proposer and the responder each receive the agreed-upon amounts. If they do not agree and the responder rejects the proposer’s offer, then nobody receives any money.

So, imagine the proposer offering an even twenty of his fifty dollars. In the Ultimatum Game, there is no negotiating and no second chances. If the deal is turned down, both walk away with nothing. Most would take that offer and see it as very generous. They wouldn’t worry that the proposer would walk away with an extra ten dollars, especially since this proposer’s offer was unsolicited. They made twenty dollars essentially for doing nothing.

However, what if the proposer has $5,000 in their hand and offers the same twenty to you? Would you take the deal? You’d still be getting the same twenty bucks. Most people surveyed rejected the offer and essentially deprived themselves of the money. What changed? They couldn’t stand the fact that the proposer would be walking away with $4,980. The responder acted out of spite and nixed the deal.

What would you do? It’s a matter of how spiteful you are.

Research has shown that people who demonstrated higher levels of spitefulness also scored higher on measures of aggression, narcissism, resentment, jealousy, bitterness, and mental health deficiencies. So be aware of your spite levels.