How to Deal With Ungrateful People

Learn the ways on how to deal with ungrateful people, according to experts.

Here are their insights:

Jayaleigh Bowen

Jayaleigh Bowen

Transformational Life Coach

You give, you share, you help, you answer a million questions, and — crickets. Here are some tips and things to keep in mind when dealing with ungrateful people:

Examine your own triggers and what the underlying belief about yourself might be

Are you making their lack of gratitude or reciprocation mean something about you and your worthiness?

You are worthy and incredible no matter what anybody says or does, or in this case, doesn’t say or do. Imagine a world where we truly got this as kids and remembered it into adulthood. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case, but we can teach this to the kids in our lives now.

Give them the benefit of the doubt

Consider you never know the challenges someone might be dealing with in their life at the moment, and that everyone responds to life from learned behavior and a lot of the time from their own wounding.

Request a conversation

If it’s still bothering you days later after considering the above, then it’s taking up too much mental and emotional energy that could be better spent. Keeping frustration bottled up inside can often emerge down the road as an explosion of rage we later regret.

On top of that, unexpressed feelings of anger, resentment or bitterness can actually turn into physical ailments. You’ll want to do your best to have the convo when you aren’t at the height of your emotion.

Keep in mind that a conversation is a discussion where both people get an opportunity to speak and listen. If you don’t feel this will be possible, perhaps release your feelings by writing a letter or in a journal just for you.

Say “No” next time

Sure we’d all like to take the high road every time, but some people won’t ever be satisfied, and that is more a reflection of how they feel about themselves and life, not you.

If a person has a pattern of “taking” and not giving back or showing any kind of gratitude, you can also choose to say no to the next request or cut ties. Your energy and time are precious, and there are so many things to focus on these days.

It’s okay to have boundaries and to choose where you invest yourself.

Keep these final things in mind: explore only doing things because you want to do them. You will never be able to control another person’s behavior or thought process.

Whether it’s a service you’re providing or a conversation you’d like to have, do so from a place of non-attachment to the outcome.

Ask yourself: “What am I lacking in right now?”

The best way to deal with ungrateful people is to understand that, at that moment you think you need to ‘deal’ with someone, it’s really yourself you need to deal with.

Ask yourself, “What is lacking in me right now that I need this person to give me gratitude? What belief deep inside is causing this?”

Remember, we live out of the beliefs we hold deep inside.

And realize that you can become a person who doesn’t need anything from others to fill themselves up. You can let people be who they are, and you can transform yourself into a person who is so grateful and so happy with themselves and with their life that they don’t need other people to fulfill them.

So much unhappiness in the world is our own ungratefulness. The mindset of lack and blame is so rampant. “This person didn’t say thank you to me, so let me spend the entire afternoon stewing about it.” This is how we fritter away our happiness.

Just think of what our conversations are like at work often: Lots of complaining.

It’s our own mistaken belief that people and circumstances outside of ourselves need to change in order to be happy. Trying to change other people is so futile.

Changing ourselves is beautiful. We are all meant to evolve and grow. Look at nature. Everything is growing.

Just let people be who they are. Ungrateful? So what. It doesn’t affect you. You are not needy for this. They are on their own personal journey in life. We don’t know what they’ve been through and what they are dealing with either.

Just love people for being fellow human beings. We’re all imperfect.

And the real question to ask yourself every day is, “How can I change my negative programming today? How can I replace my negative thinking with happiness? Things like worry, fear, criticizing, and blaming can all be changed over time.”

This is the real mission in life. Remember, our programming is all stored in our subconscious minds. That is where a person needs to go when they are angry or frustrated with something or someone. Our subconscious minds are 95% more powerful than our conscious minds.

So, it takes a lot of practice and repetition to change negative thinking habits. But, it is possible. Little by little, every day. With tools like affirmations, visualizations, and powerful feelings. These tools reach into our subconscious minds.

Our happiness isn’t in the big moments. Like we’ll be happy this weekend or on that vacation or when we retire someday. Our happiness is in all the little moments of our days.

We have 60,000 thoughts on average streaming through our minds every day. And studies show that in an average person, 70% of them are negative. This is the only place we have to go for our happiness – to our thoughts.

Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, CGP, CPAI

Jude Treder-Wolff

Certified Group Psychotherapist | Creative Arts Therapist | Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Lifestage, Inc.

Communicate openly about it

When we dedicate time, energy, and resources to others’ needs and receive no recognition or gratitude, we need both perspective and claim power over our own choices.

If we tend to knock ourselves out for people who do not reciprocate or even acknowledge what we have done for them, the first step is to communicate openly about it.

But sometimes, the very need for those awkward conversations reveals something about the relationship dynamic that we need to understand.

For example, are we trying to change a person who has shown time and again that they are not capable of recognizing others’ efforts? If so, it can be a tremendous relief to realize we have the choice to step back and do less.

The relationship will become healthier and more equitable if we take ownership of our own choices within it.

Sometimes the desire to give and take care of others, even when they do not express gratitude, is driven by a need to see the right thing happen for them. For example, taking care of an elderly parent with whom we have had a difficult relationship.

In that situation, it can be helpful to focus on being grounded in our own narrative and very much in touch with our motives. It can be highly rewarding to realize we have grown beyond the need for approval in response to doing what we think is right.

Kathy J. Hagler, PhD, MA

Kathy Hagler

PhD in Higher Educational Administration and Certified Business Administration | Founding Partner, K2OH Solutions | Author of Art of Scars (Spring 2021)

We become prisoners of our wounds by hosting a judgmental mindset about another person’s perceived ungratefulness. Consciously remember:

“Act with kindness, but do not expect gratitude.” — Confucius

We can think of these three constructive thoughts when faced with someone that appears ungrateful. Our ‘AHA‘ moment:

  • Allow compassion– Remember, if you silently bless each heart with unconditional compassion, you bless your own heart! Everything within you needs patience, care, and attention.

Create a life of grace for yourself and others.

  • Heal your pain– Realize the deep pain and fear exhibited by an ungrateful person, and cease judgment. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel instead? What would that look like?”
  • Appreciate your ‘homeland security system’– Your subconscious mind is poised to provide an ‘AHA’ trigger to protect you from being a prisoner of your past harm and pain. Heed and heal.

Stop and think. Adopt the art of SCARS:

  • Surrender. Consciously acknowledge and embrace the brokenness. Your ‘AHA’ occurred for you to notice a potential threat to your own health and well-being.
  • Courageously assess the wounds and choose to heal. Think about the threat, the AHA. Why is it warning me? What can I do instead to be released from my own prison?
  • Allow connections with others for expertise, confidence, and learning. Request and accept support graciously. Learn to sew seeds of compassion for your heart and theirs.
  • Reframe healed scars as positive opportunities. Your strengths are kindness, and your healed scars represent your past judgments of others. Be grateful for the lesson and seek new opportunities to give.
  • Share and celebrate transforming fear to light. Enjoy the company of others, unfettered by your own wounds.

Make this your ‘AHA’ moment.

Lynell Ross

Lynell Ross

Psychology-Trained Certified Health and Wellness Coach | Behavior Change Specialist | Resource Director, Test Prep Insight

Following are some ways to deal with ungrateful people:

Accept what is

If you are dealing with an ungrateful person, and don’t want to be frustrated, then you must accept the fact that they are ungrateful. You can not change other people, but you can change how you react to them.

Stop expecting gratitude from them

If you are working with this person and it is your job to turn in projects or perform a task, then realize it is your duty, and your boss is not obligated to be kind or grateful, no matter how nice that would be.

Just do your job, and stop expecting things to be different.

Stop giving to them

No one is forcing you to do things for the ungrateful person in your life. If you are a naturally giving person, find someone else to give your time and attention.

Ungrateful people are usually takers who expect more and more from you. Sometimes, no matter what you do, it is never enough. Stop giving, and take your power back.

Jeff Dauler

Jeff Dauler

Gratitude Expert | Co-Host, THE UPSIDE with Callie and Jeff

Defeat their negativity by pummeling it with gratitude

Few things are as frustrating as the absence of expected gratitude.

  • When you go above and beyond for someone and don’t receive a simple “thank you” in return.
  • When your joy and excitement at something is dampened by a pessimist who always likes to point out ALL of the negatives.
  • When your genuine gratitude to them is met with ugliness or indifference.

Congratulations. You have crossed paths with an “UGH,” An UnGrateful Human. They suck up happiness and warmth like one of those fancy Dyson vacuums, justifying their salty ways with excuses like “I’m just keeping it real.”

Changing them would be a long and arduous process, and unless you are REALLY invested in their growth, I wouldn’t recommend taking on that project. If you are unlikely to ever see the person again, I also wouldn’t recommend trying to change them.

Sometimes, as they sang in the movie Frozen, you need to Let It Go.

As much as you want to chase down the person, you let in ahead of you in traffic who never waved the obligatory ‘thanks buddy’ wave after the merge, causing you to really suppress the desire to pull alongside them and scream “have you no manners?” before slamming your car into theirs, sending it careening off the road and into a ditch filled with filthy water from a broken sewer drain while you drive away happy and proud that they 100% got exactly what they deserved.

Let it go.

With those that don’t fall into those categories, and for your own sanity, make a game out of defeating their negativity by pummeling it with gratitude. No matter what they say, what they do, and how they behave; find some way to fire gratitude back at them.

They didn’t thank you for the extensive and detailed spreadsheet you made by their deadline because you skipped lunch and stayed an hour late? Thank her for trusting you with the project and for the new tips you learned while building it.

They showed no appreciation for the fact that you dropped everything to come to watch their kids because they forgot about the baby’s doctor appointment? Thank her for allowing you to mix up your normal routine and spend time with the kids you don’t get to see much.

No high-five for the meal you made (at the last minute because someone forgot to mention they were coming) for your in-laws last weekend? Thank him for allowing you to test your skills in the kitchen in a stressful situation.

The other person’s impact might be negligible; they might not even catch on to what you are doing. (If they do, it’s a bonus!) But you will be forced to stretch your gratitude muscle.

Lots of research has suggested that it’s impossible to feel negative thoughts alongside true grateful thoughts.

This ‘game’ will not only suppress the frustration you feel but also remind you that even if they haven’t said it, there is still gratitude to be found. And then let your pent-up rage out on the next fool who doesn’t give you the ‘hey thanks’ wave while driving.

Annemiek van Helsdingen

Annemiek van Helsdingen

Founder, Academy for Soul-based Coaching

Deal with the situation as best as you can to control damages

We all come across these individuals, people who just don’t seem to realize how much we’ve given them. Be it your time, energy, attention, love, support, or even your services as a business owner.

When you notice someone is ungrateful – what do you do?

Here’s the guidance I wish I’d learned in school. It will help you stay out of drama, and be able to tend to the relationships that matter to you without abandoning yourself.

First, realize that when you feel they are ungrateful, it means that you expected a different response than the one you got.

There can be lots of reasons for this. The first is that they could just be horrible and obnoxious people. If that is the case, deal with the situation as best as you can to control damages and then just let them go. They are not the people you want to invest your time and attention in.

But most of the time, that’s not the issue. They are fine people, maybe even friends and family members that you love. Or the person you are happily married to.

Then it’s time to go on a fact-finding mission.

Check-in with yourself: what are your thoughts and feelings around this? What were you expecting? Is there a reason why you could imagine them feeling less grateful?

When you catch yourself thinking about how ‘right’ you are for expecting their gratitude, making a case for why they are wrong – take a breath and explore further.

What else is going on? Why is this so important for you? What value is being questioned?

Then check in with the other person. If you really want to get to the bottom of what happened and invest in the relationship, decide to hold space for them.

Invite them to speak about what this was like for them, what happened from their perspective, and commit yourself to listen and to keep listening, even when you feel triggered.

Try asking: “And is there anything else about … (a literal word they used)?”

This is a clean language question that we use a lot in Soul-based Coaching. They have been developed by David Grove and help you both explore the situation without putting your own ‘stuff’ in the conversation at that point. It’s ‘clean’ because none of your opinions, judgments, accusations, emotions, or thoughts can fit into it.

Asking that question a few times will help you understand the other person’s perspective very well, and it will also make the other person feel incredibly heard and validated – without it meaning that you have to agree with them.

Because only when you really understand where they are coming from and can relate to them on a human-to-human level can you start to see the full picture of what was happening and where the solution could be.

  • You can then share what was happening for you; how you noticed you were triggered by what happened earlier.
  • You can share what is important about that for you; you can tell your non-negotiable boundaries.
  • You can share what you would like to have happened next, and you can ask what they would like to have happened next.

The chances are high that you will find that both of you had different expectations or are valuing different things without realizing what that means to the other person.

To give you an example: last time I asked my husband to put something on our digital shopping list, he asked me with some clear judgment in his voice when I’d done that myself lately. For him, I was ungrateful for asking him and not just taking the time to do it myself.

At that moment, I was in our family’s morning routine, making breakfast for our daughter, making tea, feeding the dog, and mentally preparing the other things that needed to happen before I could start my day. He was getting ready to make his coffee after having had breakfast. I felt unseen and over asked.

Some thunder and lightning happened as a result. After the dust settled, we could be curious and share what happened for each of us.

Both perspectives were ‘true.’ We could easily see what mattered about this for both of us. And that was it. We could be grateful for each other’s contribution to the mechanics of running a family in lockdown. We tapped into our huge gratitude for being able to do life together.

This is a micro example. The same dynamics can happen in any interaction where expectations vary, where personal preferences vary, where personalities act in very different ways.

The key thing to remember is that even though it can feel like it, this dynamic itself isn’t personal. It doesn’t have to mean anything about you, about the other person, or about the relationship. It’s messy humanness in action.

However, it’s up to you to take responsibility to honor yourself and your boundaries and to show up with vulnerability to tend to the relationships that matter to you.

This is how the magic happens in connection and mutual growth.

There will always be situations where you may feel someone is ungrateful; that’s life. And when you don’t have the skill set to navigate that, there will be a lot of drama that will continue to unfold in your life.

So I invite you to learn to be in the storm and stay present without abandoning yourself or the people who matter to you.

Jennifer Jane Young

Jennifer Jane Young

Intuitive Business & Leadership Advisor

Show up with a curious mind and give them space to express what they are feeling

The extent to which someone is grateful or not is extremely variable and completely out of our control. As human beings, we experience a wide variety of emotions and experiences that can highly impact how grateful we are in each moment.

Some of us are capable of experiencing gratitude at very deep levels, and others struggle to feel satisfaction at all.

What I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that my responsibility is to show up at my very best in every moment. My very best doesn’t look the same every day because I, too, am impacted by the full spectrum of my human experience.

So how can we navigate the awkwardness of being faced with someone who is ungrateful?

I think the first thing we need to do is detach ourselves from the other person’s experience so that we don’t take their feeling of ungratefulness as a reflection of our own worth. They are two separate and unique experiences.

I could offer the exact same experience to a different client who would be over the moon satisfied with my support when the client in front of me receiving the same thing is completely ungrateful.

Our expectations are directly in line with our values, past experiences, and sometimes traumas.

When I’m faced with someone who seems ungrateful or disappointed, I like to show up with a curious mind and give them space to express what they are feeling (and maybe even learn something along the way).

Oftentimes there is something much deeper than the ungrateful reaction we see on the surface. I prefer to ask questions to see if the person across from me can tell me more about why they are feeling ungrateful.

What were their expectations? Can I help them experience my service in a way that could be more impactful to them based on their constitution as human beings?

I’m not changing anything in terms of what I offer but simply opening up the possibility to serve it on a different plate. For me, this is always an opportunity to show up as a leader and walk my client through healing and transformation.

I used to be the queen peacemaker. Having experienced some really challenging experiences as a child, I quickly learned to avoid conflict and keep the peace by doing everything in my power to steer clear of uncomfortable situations with other human beings.

I learned the hard way by exhausting myself and putting my needs aside to the extent of making myself sick. I learned that we couldn’t please everyone, nor can we fix anyone. We’re all here trying to navigate this beautiful and sometimes messy human experience as best as we can.

I once heard a quote that really helped me embody this. It said, “What other people think of you is none of your business.”

It’s so true. What other people think of you is always and only about their own inner struggles and past events. It’s not a reflection of you but rather a reflection of what they are feeling inside of themselves.

I like to show up, do my best and give others grace, knowing that they too are doing theirs.

Michelle Devani

Michelle Devani

Relationship Expert | Founder, lovedevani

Helping someone is fulfilling. However, not everyone knows that it is morally right to reciprocate the help given to you by merely appreciating them for their efforts or helping them as well whenever they need it.

As a relationship expert, ungratefulness sometimes damages a relationship. It creates the feeling of being unappreciated and inequality on the person who always helps.

Nevertheless, here are my tips on dealing with ungrateful people:

Confront them

They will never know what they are doing unless you tell them so. They think that everything is okay or it is your obligation to help them, so speaking up will make them realize that it is not your obligation to help, but you choose to help them, and they should be grateful for that.

Set limitations

Doing so will let both of you be aware of the boundaries to avoid exerting so much effort and not be appreciated at all.

Sonka Braunová

Sonka Braunová

Registered Nutritional Therapist | NLP Practitioner | TimeLine Therapy Practitioner

There are few ways I try to deal with it, and the way I choose very much depends on the state of my mind and the energy I feel from the “ungrateful” person.

Firstly, I think there are no ungrateful people, only people who cannot see all the opportunities around them and may require someone to open their eyes and mind to see all around them.

With this in mind, here’s how I deal with these individuals:

Accept and move on

This happens in two cases. One, if I know the person or sense that this is not the usual approach. It was triggered by something or someone else. It’s momentarily, and maybe it’s the best to leave them alone for a while.

Two, when I have very brief dealings with the person, I don’t know her/him.

Chipping shield away

I love this approach. This is when I don’t know the person in my life well, and it’s obvious he/she was living in this kind of mindset for a long time, so it became a habit.

I wouldn’t try to convince them or try to highlight the bright side, yet. Most likely, the response would be: “Who are you to talk about gratefulness? Do you know what is going on in my life?”

The truth is, I don’t, and therefore I would come back to build rapport and try to learn more before trying to chip grumpy shield away.

How do I chip the shield away? By being genuinely interested in the person’s life, asking common conversational questions about their family, where they live, etc.

People are suspicious at first, but I would keep going because I want everyone to be as happy as possible. I build trust and relationships to the point that I can be heard. (No point trying until I am sure they are willing to hear me).

From that point, I can be bringing little subtle comments about the sunshine, nice walks, wishing good day, pointing out all sorts of nice things around to be grateful for.

This takes time, but it has never failed. They eventually come around and find out that there is a more joyful way to be; It’s way too attractive once that comfort zone is chipped.

We are all seeking fun and joy. Sometimes we need that one person who sees through our old habit and gives us the courage to step out and give it a go.

Charlotte Howard

Charlotte Howard

Author | Award-Winning Business Breakthrough Strategist

Set boundaries – When dealing with ungrateful clients, it can be very overwhelming. Some clients are harder than others, but you have to set boundaries on what you would do and wouldn’t do.

If you let a client treat you any way they want, they won’t respect you or your time as a person. You are the expert; they came to you, so it is up to you to guide them and tell them what is best for them. Draw a line and stick to it.

Know your worth – In the many years of your career, you may come across a client who may try to say you charge too much or don’t see your value. Do not downplay your services or expertise.

Make it clear the price is final for the services they wish to have fulfilled by you.

Kill them with kindness – Do not ruin your reputation. If a business relationship does not work out with an ungrateful client, be cordial and not afraid to part ways if it does not work out as planned. Part ways and wish them the best in their future endeavors.

Think positively – Turn the negative situations with ungrateful clients you have dealt with and turn them into something positive.

Instead of thinking, “why did they act this way” making you discouraged, think positively and say:

“I will face some challenges with clients, but I will come up with solutions and get better suitable clients for my business that will have good results for all parties involved.”

Related: What are the Benefits of Positive Thinking?

Value your time and effort first then others will value you

Dealing with ungrateful people has two sides to it — them and you. When you let the thought that someone has been ungrateful linger in your mind, it steals your energy. It makes you resentful, makes you less helpful and generous in the future.

Be vigilant, do not let someone else’s shortcomings undermine you.

Let’s understand the other side. Some people are not ungrateful; they just do not know how to express gratitude. They may be dealing with their issues; your help may not have gone unnoticed, the timing may not be right for them to acknowledge your help.

So, seek to understand and give them the benefit of the doubt.

If you know someone who has a chronic habit of taking advantage, then it may be time to have a discussion with them, or if you think it will make no difference, then learn to maintain a distance from them.

Sometimes, the problem is not others; it is us. We are unable to stop ourselves from contributing even when others do not ask for it, do not expect it, and do not want it.

We contribute, and we expect gratitude in return, but the other person was not interested in our help. Value yourself. Offer your help when someone asks for it and welcomes it. If you give unsolicited help, then make sure it is needed and wanted.

Learn to value your time and effort first, and then others will value you.

Of course, the highest form of help is selfless help. Where you help, but you expect nothing in return, not even gratitude from the person you have helped. You help, not as an imposition, not to feed your ego, not to feed your sense of goodness; you help just for the sake of helping.

Fire burns not because it wants to provide heat to you or cook your food; it burns because it must fulfill its own nature. But remember, fire is helpful when invited and needed. Uninvited and unneeded fire causes destruction.

Just because you are in a position to help, do not develop a sense of superiority or nobility. Fire does not have an ego; it just does its work.

Selfless, self-nature-driven help is the best help. It is the ultimate type of help. You help, and you move on. Then, you have the ultimate freedom.

You are not a slave to the thought of receiving an acknowledgment. If you are able to reach that stage, you will live in peace and harmony. You would be blessed, and you would be a blessing to others around you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common signs of ungrateful behavior?

Ungrateful people may exhibit a range of behaviors, including:

• Failing to acknowledge or appreciate your efforts
• Criticizing or nitpicking your work without giving constructive feedback
• Taking credit for your work or ideas
• Demanding more than what you have already provided
• Acting entitled or dismissive of your contributions

What if the ungrateful person is a family member or close friend?

Dealing with ungrateful behavior from someone close to you can be especially difficult. Here are some additional tips for dealing with such situations:

Recognize that you cannot change the other person’s behavior. The only behavior you can control is ultimately your own.

Be clear about your own needs and boundaries. Let your loved one know how their behavior affects you and what you need from them to feel appreciated and respected.

Practice forgiveness. Holding on to your resentment or anger will only hurt you in the long run. Let go of needing the other person to change and focus on cultivating compassion and kindness within yourself.

Seek outside support. Consider seeing a therapist or counselor who can help you manage your feelings and develop strategies for dealing with ungrateful behavior.

What if I find myself in a situation where I can’t avoid dealing with ungrateful people?

In some cases, you may find yourself in a situation where you can’t easily avoid dealing with ungrateful people. This may be due to a work commitment or a family situation you can’t easily change. Here are some tips on how to deal with such situations:

Practice detachment. Try to see the ungrateful person’s behavior as a reflection of their problems, not your worth or value.

Look for small wins. Even if the ungrateful person doesn’t come out and say it, watch for small signs that your efforts are making a difference. This might be a positive comment from another person or a feeling of satisfaction over a job well done.

Focus on the big picture. Remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, and try to focus on the larger goals or values that drive your efforts.

Build a support network. Seek out colleagues, friends, or family members who can encourage and validate you. A supportive network can greatly affect how you perceive and handle ungrateful behavior.

What if I’m the ungrateful one?

Recognizing your role in a difficult situation can be challenging, but it’s an important step in making positive changes. Here are some tips on how you can deal with ungrateful tendencies:

Practice mindfulness. Try to stay present and aware of your thoughts and feelings.

Identify negative patterns. Notice when you feel ungrateful or negative and consider why you feel that way.

Cultivate positivity. Look for positives in your experiences and find ways to be grateful for what you have.

Apologize and make amends. If you have hurt someone with your ungrateful behavior, apologize sincerely and try to make things right.

How can I avoid holding grudges against ungrateful people?

When faced with difficult situations, it’s natural to feel angry or bitter. Here are some tips to help you deal with negative feelings and stay positive:

Practice gratitude. Take time each day to think about what you’re grateful for, even when circumstances are difficult.

Re-frame the situation. Try to see the other person’s behavior as an expression of their own difficulties, not as a personal attack on you.

Communicate honestly. Be open and honest about how the other person’s behavior affects you, and seek a solution respectfully.

Take care of yourself. Remember to put your own needs and well-being first and seek support from others as needed.

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