The Glee of Malice





The red flag is when someone’s saying bad things about other’s is like — a hobby, or something. It’s hard to describe. But it’s very destructive.

wisdomengine said:

I have a guess at what you’re trying to get at: that it’s when the person takes pleasure in relating bad things about others. Of course sometimes we have bad things to say about others, whether negative information to share for others’ benefit or negative feelings to vent. But there is a world of difference between, “I’m concerned Tom is stealing from the till” (relating information) and “That Tom is no good, and I bet you he’s been stealing from the till — mark my words” (reveling in a negative judgment of another’s character).

There’s various ways people demonstrate taking pleasure talking ill of others. Perhaps they allege these negative things about another in a tone of voice that is jovial and light, as if what they were saying were funny and they think you would be inclined to laugh. “Oh, you know how she is, always the spaz, ha ha.” Perhaps they use a tone of voice which is satisfied or triumphant, and they are crowing. “Didn’t I always say that he couldn’t handle the pressure. Goes to show!” Perhaps they use body language that is not that of someone saying something they’re upset about, but something they’re pleased about — they’re not frowning, they’re smirking; their eyebrows aren’t dropped in consternation, they’re raised in knowingness; they don’t sigh and speak slowly like one sad or hurt or confused, they wave their hands casually and rattle off words like machine gun bullets. They use witty putdowns, and seem to be very satisfied with the cleverness of their snark.

Or perhaps they say these things in a way which telegraphs that they intend it as a commiseration, expecting you to agree with them as a means of social bonding, the way people commiserate about bad weather. “The receptionist screw up your appointment, too? I don’t know she ever gets it right. I don’t know why they don’t hire someone who can read.” Stereotypes and *ist epithets often get used this way. “What do you expect from a ____ like that?”

Perhaps they don’t betray any pleasure-taking in words or voice or face or posture, but do the concern troll thing, where they’re terribly, terribly concerned about someone else’s faults… and its always someone different, and they seem to need to have someone to be so concerned about, and in fact never have anything to say except negative things about one person or another, to the point you can’t recall ever having had a conversation with them which they didn’t center on disparaging some absent third party.

All of these are ways that someone might betray that they enjoy “talking smack” about others. And someone who enjoys talking smack is usually not a great person to involve in one’s life, for all sorts of reasons from they’ll eventually talk that way about you to when the other people who know that this person talks smack is someone you’re hanging with, what do you think they’ll conclude about you and whether they want to be your friend? to do you want to fill your ears (and your perspective on others) with that kind of relentless negativity? to we become like whom we cleave to. It’s not going to make you kinder, more charitable of judgment, more patient with others, a better friend, or more socially adept to hang with someone who uses others for verbal target practice.

realsocialskills said:

That sounds closer, yes.

That said, sometimes this can be misleading when you’re talking about abuse victims. People who’ve been abused often find it satisfying when other people dislike their abuser and notice the bad things they do. They also often find it satisfying to see the abuser fail to be accepted in communities, especially when that person’s access to an apparently safe community is a reason they trusted them.

That pattern can look similar to how people who just like to tear people down talk. It’s not the same, though, and someone feeling this way about an abuser isn’t a red flag about their ability to respect others.

Context matters.

wisdomengine said:


*blink* *blink*

My dear realsocialskills, I believe you have just put your finger on exactly why sexual abuse and assault victims receive the heart-breakingly familiar response they so often do, of being socially rejected, “Oh I don’t want to choose sides”, disbelief, and discrediting.

I mean, yes, sure, there’s all that stuff of wanting to believe the perp is a grand person, and It Couldn’t Happen Here We’re All Such Nice People and so forth.

But… most people can’t tell, can they? Some domestic violence victim starts talking about what happened behind closed doors, speaking with outrage of what was done to them, trying to convince other people that the perp doesn’t deserve their warm regard… and what they recognize it as is talking smack. Negativity. Trying to pull someone else down for purposes of personal satisfaction. So they put the person off. Their scripts for discouraging others from saying those sorts of things kick in, automatically.

I’m going to go think hard about this. I think it matters very much.

realsocialskills said:

It gets really, really complicated. There’s a lot of thinking that needs to be done about this.


Social skills for autonomous people: Anonymous asked realsocialskills: re: talking bad about people as a…


re: talking bad about people as a red flag. in my experience, literally everyone on the planet complains about other people from time to time. this is part of normal adult social behavior as far as i can tell. someone who is constantly…

thefrumlifechoseme said:

I think it’s when someone criticizes something that a person can’t help–for instance an invisible illness, appearance, family/background,or a bad past–that’s really harmful.

There’s also a difference between venting about someone’s behavior that was hurtful or harmful and attacking who they are as a person.

And of course there’s a difference between unnecessarily bringing up someone’s past and bringing up a person’s history in order to protect others. For instance, if someone has a history of habitual violence, that should be brought up in order to protect others. However, someone’s past struggle with addiction, depression, or an eating disorder isn’t always necessary to bring up in order to protect others–the only context in which that would be okay to bring up would be to protect the welfare of the recovered person if they started showing signs of their previous illness.



Do you have any tips on how to figure out who is trustworthy and who is not? As in whether or not someone intends to cause harm to you, etc. I find that I never realize I’m being mistreated until it’s too late, and it makes it really hard for me to find good friend, especially IRL. Advice/tips?
realsocialskills said:
Here are some things I consider to be red flags:
Having a strong self-image as not being the kind of person who does bad things:
  • We all do bad things, even awful things, from time to time
  • People who think that they’re “not that kind of person” actively avoid noticing when they’ve done bad things
  • People who deal with one another regularly hurt one another from time to time, and it’s important to be able to acknowledge this and fix things
  • If you’re dealing with someone who can’t bear the thought of having done something wrong, you’re not going to be able to tell them when they’ve hurt you
  • Because they will blow up at you and hurt you worse when you try, or else they’ll cry and convince you that you’re a terrible person for making mean baseless accusations.
  • Either way, it will make it impossible to deal with problems, and you’ll end up tolerating things that hurt you badly
  • I wrote about that some here
Expecting immediate trust
  • Trust is developed over time
  • If someone wants you to talk about deeply personal things right away, and gets upset when you don’t, they’re not respecting your boundaries and that’s dangerous
Asserting that a deeply intimate relationship exists without considering your opinion on the matter relevant
  • Close friendship only exists if you *both* think it does
  • You are only dating if *both* of you think that you are dating
  • Someone can’t just decide that they’re close to you and that you have a deep close committed relationship; you both have to want it
  • If someone considers your opinion of the matter irrelevant, run.
  • I wrote a post about that here 

Wanting you to depend on them

  • If someone tells you that you couldn’t function without them, do not trust them
  • If they want you to fix your life, do not trust them
  • If they think your sanity depends on their loving understanding care, *seriously* do not trust them
  • If they get angry, or hurt, or cry when you don’t do what they want you to do in your personal life, don’t trust them

Being under the impression that they’re doing you a favor:

  • If they think that they’re doing you a favor by being friends with someone like you, they’re not likely to treat you well
  • Friendship is not a charitable act. It is a mutual relationship between people who regard one another as equals.
  • Similarly, when someone thinks they’re doing you a favor by employing you, it will probably end badly

If people you trust dislike them:

  • If you have people you know to be trustworthy, and they don’t like a new person in your life, it’s important to find out why
  • Sometimes they will be wrong, but often they will be right
  • It’s important to figure out what’s going on, and why they think that — then if you disagree that’s fine, but it’s not a good idea to dismiss it without thinking about it

I’ve also written a lot of posts relevant to this issue. It might help you to read through my abuse tag and my boundaries tag and my red flags tag.

myindustrialvagina said:

and also

1) people who suddenly take a shine to you out of nowhere then always need stuff (physical things like money or car rides) 

2) people who cannot deal with confrontation under any circumstances and either refuse to talk to you about your concerns or constantly change the subject or make it your fault

3) people who discuss others esp talking bad about them, because i guarantee they’ll do the same thing to you as well

realsocialskills said:

Yes, although talking bad is a somewhat misleading way to put it. Because people who’ve been mistreated a lot might have really legitimate reasons to say bad things about others.

I’d say it this way:

  • If someone violates confidences without any apparent reason, they will probably violate yours
  • If someone doesn’t seem to respect anyone they talk about, they probably don’t respect you either
  • If they go out of their way to humiliate other people, or talk about others in degrading terms, that’s a serious red flag

Also, if they tell hate jokes (eg: racist/sexist/antisemitic/disability hate/mocking children or old people) or use racial slurs, that’s a red flag for being untrustworthy. (And for being someone who is likely to make *you* less trustworthy for members of the groups they’re mocking).