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Why Do Some People Want Others To Fail?

July 23, 2010 · 960 comments

in Life

As I get older, I am realizing that many adults are really just children, immature children, in an adult-sized body.

Maybe it is a lack of self-esteem, a need for power, whatever.  However, I am sick of it.

Let me share some examples.

I used to do some legal-runner-type work that required filing some paperwork.  When I would go to the City County building to file this paperwork, I would get all nervous.  I was nervous because there was one clerk there that would find fault in the paperwork no matter what, even if it was written by God.  I always breathed a sigh of relief if a different clerk called my number.  I would look over at the poor sucker that was trying to turn paperwork in to  my nemesis, and they would be getting their paperwork back with ‘rejected’ stamped on it.  (Figuratively speaking, there was not ‘rejected’ stamp.)  Whenever I was working with that negative clerk, I felt like I was a criminal of some sort, trying to pull a fast one.  I don’t miss that experience at all.

More recently, I had problems with my laptop, which required a visit to the Geek Squad.   Previously, I had only had good experiences with the Geek Squad, so I was not too concerned.  However, I was waiting in a long line and there were 2 Geek Squad employees.  One guy was very nice and helpful.  The other guy had people whipping through the line quickly, as he said ‘no’ to every request.   I could tell just by looking at him that he was just negative, and was either having a really bad day, or didn’t really want to help anyone.   You can only guess who my case was assigned to – Mr. Bitter.  I explained my situation, and he quickly described the worst-case scenario.  I asked if the problem could just be a case of dust-buildup.  He huffed at me and then went to the back to blow air into the laptop to clear dust.  Of course it didn’t work, but hey, I just wanted the guy to give it a try.  (Or maybe he just ran the air compressor in back to trick me and didn’t actually touch the laptop. 🙂 )  He may have been right, my laptop may have been a lost cause.  However, I expect people to at least pretend they want to help me at the service desk!

On a more generic note, I have often heard of someone explaining an idea they had or a plan for their future, and ‘friends’ would just shoot it down, saying all the reasons why it won’t work.  That is one of my biggest pet peeves.  Obviously, if someone says ‘My goal is to fly a jet-pack to the moon’, then by all means, explain the insanity of the plan.  However, if it is an idea for weight loss, job change, whatever, I cannot stand when someone will just be negative and cause second-thoughts for the person looking to make a change.

I really believe if there was a lot more encouragement in the world instead of negativity, the world would be a lot better off.  I think some people are so wrapped up in their own bitter little world that they don’t want to see others have success.  Maybe it is because if a friend or family member does something and finds some success, it may force them to take some similar action, and they don’t want to.   For example, say you are overweight and your best friend plans to go on Weight Watchers.   That may force you to take a look at your own weight, which may not be a pleasant thing to do.  So maybe it is easier to just say ‘oh, I hear that people gain their weight back anyway, what is the point?’, when instead you should say ‘I think that is a great idea, maybe I will join too’.

In the end, everyone loves a compliment, as long as it is honest.  So next time you have the opportunity to say a nice thing, provide encouragement, or thank someone, just do it!  Instead of saying ‘it can’t be done’, say  ‘is there a way I can help?’.  You never know what a positive mindset may do for you and your own goals!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Lola July 23, 2010 at 10:26 am

I am completely with you on this one – what does anyone really gain from being bitter and negative? I guess it must feed some insecurity that some people have.

Years ago, I was at a convention where the speaker gave a very good presentation with the sounds bite “Act, don’t react.” The speaker’s point was that if you react to negativity, you’re letting someone else’s attitude control you. Give people the benefit of the doubt (especially when driving, ha ha! – I think the term road rage had just come into usage) and act according to YOUR attitude.

Good advice – very challenging to practice 24/7!


Budgeting in the Fun Stuff July 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I also think the world would be a better place if everyone could just try on empathy for a day…

As for your crappy customer service rep, I refuse to work with them. If I’m in a long line that gets called up one by one, I let the people behind me go until I get the rep I want. I even explain to the people behind me what I’m doing and have had some people decide to wait as well. 🙂 The people who didn’t care about the reps loved it since we let them cut.


Sandy L July 23, 2010 at 4:19 pm

When I read your post title, I thought it would be more about the catty work colleague who does things to make you look bad instead of expending energy to make themselves look good. I’ve questioned why some people are like that. I think in the end, it’s easier to try to bring someone down to your level vs rising up and doing something drastic to change your own behavior.

I think in your examples, it may be a power thing. I rarely run into that kind of attitude with a confident and successful person. My husband says the guys who end up being cops are the ones that shouldn’t be one. This was sure true in the big city I grew up with. Many of the bullies in school ended up becoming policemen so they could continue to harass people for fun. The small town I live in now is the polar opposite. The police here are wonderful public servants. Maybe it’s something in the city water.

Anyway, great article and I’m so glad I found your blog.


Rebecca The Greeniac July 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I am SOOOOO with you on this one! My personal pet peeve is the people who throw lots of lingo at you in an attempt to show how smart they are and intimidate everyone else. I just feel like saying “come on, dude, would it kill you to just explain it so normal people can understand?”


Money Reasons July 23, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I’ll never understand people like that! I know a guy that if it doesn’t benefit him, he will break it so nobody else can use it either.

Once he saw that a lady that injured her back and was parked in the handicapped parking space (with permission from the owner) at work. He knew she was hurt and had permission to do so from security, but called the police on her anyway…

She probably only needed to use the spot until her injury healed, but my friend’s little tantrum caused her to have to get one of those hanging handicapped signs.

Some people are just that way, but not me! I like to help people, especially if they have a positive outlook too!


Young Mogul July 25, 2010 at 8:19 am

I have no idea why some people are so negative. But, I grew up in a home that was negative, so I vowed never to be like that. You would think it is common sense that it saps one’s energy to be negative, pessimistic, and criticizing all the time. But I guess negative people don’t get it or simply don’t care. I surmise that most of our issues are rooted in childhood, some people break the cycle and some people carry the dysfunctional behavior into adulthood. I always assume that negative people are deeply unhappy people, for one reason or another, and that believe allows me to not take their negativity personally.


Little House July 25, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Excellent point. Being positive and exuding confidence towards other people’s ideas breeds good karma. I can’t stand when people are negative, or won’t even think about an idea for longer than a minute. In my experience, the negativity is usually a concealed form of jealousy. I also agree with Young Mogul, negative people are probably just deeply unhappy about life and don’t want anyone to feel happy or encouraged. The term misery loves company was created for these people!


Rich@Work-Life Balance July 25, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Thanks for the great reminder of the power of positivity and believing in others. One book that has helped me with this is “Love is the Killer App” by Tim Sanders.


Kevin@InvestItWisely July 28, 2010 at 2:38 pm

This is so true… I think in many cases, it simply stems from envy and jealousy, which are normal human emotions. We don’t want others to necessarily do better than us, because we feel that our own position in society is then threatened.

The key to manipulating this energy positively is to turn it around and say “How can I not only help this person do better, but feed off that positive energy to improve myself, as well?”. Then you can turn the envy energy into a positive force, rather than a destructive force that just brings the other person down and you with them.


Kris July 29, 2010 at 10:02 am

Good points Kevin. I agree that jealousy is probably at the root of it, it is just too bad we can’t control it better and have common sense step in once in a while.

I will admit, when I am stuck with one of the those negative service agents, I definitely am not a good person and think ‘How can I help them’. I am just thinking ‘Please help me!”…


Kevin@InvestItWisely July 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Well, sometimes we’re all a little more selfish than we’d like to be 😉

Without these negative emotions, we’d have less of an impetus to get moving in life. These emotions serve as a signal to keep working on that degree or to keep putting effort on that project.

The thing is, we gotta keep the positive and negative in balance. That is admittedly one of the hardest things to do; but someone once told me to look at the opportunity in every problem.

Each difficulty often presents a way out by showing you what you need to improve on in order to make your own life better off. You might still be asking yourself “Why me!” or “Please help me!”, but at least you’ll learn to see a way out of it! 😉


finallygettingtoeven.com July 29, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Some people are just ‘negative nellie’s’ and there is nothing that will ever change that. The best thing is to just see them for what they are and try to get ‘around’ their poor attitudes. You can’t let them get you down.


Kris July 30, 2010 at 8:37 am

FGTE – As I have gotten older, I have learned to more just disregard all the negativism from certain people. I have even sort of ‘left’ certain relationships because of the negativity. But it can be harder in the workplace where you don’t have as much control over who you interact with. As you said, all you can do is try to avoid it.


Nicole August 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm



Susan Broadbelt December 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

You know, I have made the same observation, especially after I entered the workforce as a teenager. I used to be so niave, really believing that others thought and behaved the same way that I did. As I have matured, I expect that for the most part, people are friendly, but everyone is human and has a darkside. Then, there are people whom are just negative and miserable overall. It’s like they get up first thing in the morning, suck on a lemon and hope for the worst. I just think that it is so important that we don’t allow the miserable people to influence those among us that are trying to live our best lives.


Dana March 22, 2012 at 5:47 am

I really agree with all what you said, but I think it touches on a big issue, namely people’s failure of your success. As you said, if I succeed, then I am forced to make other people do something useful too. I say this from experience , as I am faced with this very problem now. You see, I run a small community project where we teach under privileged kids English, and you may not believe the opposition I am gaining, with all the comments ranging from “What difference will you make” to “You should do something more important” to “It’s been done before”, so I agree with you people can be negative simply because they don’t want to do anything and they don’t want you to do anything to improve life around you either. Thanks for the great article it touches on exactly what we are facing now.


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