Your friend who treats you with the right amount of tough love is your true friend, according to science. So if you have a friend who’s mean to you it doesn’t mean he/she is acting-out out of malice. They’re just concerned about you and want what’s best for you.
According to a research conducted by the University of Plymouth and published in Psychological Science, “People may try to make someone else feel negative emotions if they think experiencing those emotions will be beneficial in the long run.”
The research consisted of 140 participants whose behavior was studied during hypothetical situations. For example, one situation was the fear of failure to a friend who’s procrastinating instead of studying for an exam. The research showed that when another person’s point of view was taken into account, the participants chose negative emotions and experiences for them if they thought it would be helpful for them.
One of the researchers, scientist Belén López-Pérez said, “We have shown that people can be ‘cruel to be kind’ — that is, they may decide to make someone feel worse if this emotion is beneficial for that other person, even if this does not entail any personal benefit for them.”
López-Pérez further added, “What was surprising was that affect worsening was not random but emotion-specific. In line with previous research, our results have shown that people hold very specific expectations about the effects that certain emotions may have and about which emotions may be better for achieving different goals.”
Essentially, people are not always mean to you because they hate you. Meanness can also come from a place of genuine love, selflessness, and empathy.
The next time your friend is mean to you, thank them for being a true support.