Carola is a mental health advocate and a freelance writer who focuses on mental health, mental illness, and cognitive conditions.
When I browse the latest news about mental health, I often see the term “entitlement” bandied about. The media labels a lot of bad behavior out there as “feelings of entitlement.” Videos keep popping up on my social media of people raging and threatening to call the police, often over trivial things.
The term “Karen” has popped up recently on social media, describing entitled middle-aged, mostly white women carrying on because they did not get something they wanted.
Entitlement is obviously a bad thing, but what does it really mean? Is being entitled always wrong?
The Difference Between Human Rights and Entitlement
All of us have certain rights. Here are some of them:
- To be treated with respect
- To be valued as special
- To have their emotional and physical needs met such as love, food, shelter, education, employment, etc.
- To be dealt with fairly
- To have our boundaries respected
People who feel entitled do not respect other people's rights. They become a problem when their expectations are unreasonable and interfere with the rights of others.
Some individuals feel entitled because they did not get what they needed from others or were mistreated. They may go overboard in their demands as a result. Others may have been brought up believing that they deserve to get everything they want, such as the best seats in restaurants and other venues.
If their demands are not met, entitled individuals rage and demand to see authority figures such as store managers. When they are late for a doctor’s appointment, they expect to be seen immediately. They are frustrated if they do not get what they desire and make the people around them miserable with their anger, outrage, and temper tantrums.
Some people feel they have the right to police the world around them. They go ballistic if someone seems to be breaking the rules such as parking in the wrong spot or walking on their property. They often start yelling and may call the police. Some make racist comments. The anger of some individuals may escalate to the point that they assault others and destroy property.
How Entitled People Manipulate Us
Some people base their demands on a distorted sense of entitlement. They use excuses to justify verbally or physically abusing their family members or taking advantage of others. They exploit us to get what they want. Sometimes, they use our emotions to control us.
Here are some examples:
A jobless man in his thirties feels he has the right to live at his parents’ house rent-free without contributing to food and household expenses. His parents tolerate his behavior because they fear the consequences of him being broke and homeless.
In another situation, family members provide money and pay for accommodation for someone addicted to drugs or alcohol because they are afraid the addicts will suffer withdrawal or end up on the streets. Enablers feel that they could not handle their emotions if the manipulators overdosed or died.
Guilt and Shame
In some cases, parents may feel guilt for neglecting or mistreating their children. They try to make up for past mistakes such as substance abuse by giving in to their adult children’s unreasonable demands.
An aversion to conflict
Some people give in to entitled people because they hate arguing and dissent. They fear confrontation.
Tips For Dealing with People Who Feel Entitled
Recognize Signs of Entitled Thinking
Some signs are:
- People think that they are more important or better than others
- Narcissistic traits
- They are selfish and do not care about other people’s rights or feelings
- They have unrealistic expectations of others
- They have double standards – they do not care if they inconvenience others or demand something at another person’s expense, but are in a snit if they are treated the same way
- They accept favors as something they deserve but do not return them
- They are not fair to others but demand fairness from them
- They complain that people are unfair to them
- They are not team players and struggle with following rules
- They expect people to follow their rules, no matter how ridiculous or wrong they are
- They will not negotiate or compromise
- They are controlling and manipulative to get what they want
- They are unhappy and frustrated most of the time
When these people do not get what they want, they get angry and bluster with righteous indignation. People who feel thwarted say or do hurtful things.
We need to deescalate the situation for our mental and physical safety, if possible. For example, we can be polite and listen to entitled people rant. Anything we say other than: “OK” or “I hear you” is likely to escalate their anger. They do not want to hear other people’s opinions and could care less about how others feel.
If we are dealing with customers, we can offer to accommodate them in some cases by replacing a defective product or offering another meal. In professional settings, we may refer them to a manager or supervisor.
In other situations, we may have to walk away. Some people should be avoided if possible for the sake of our sanity. Some individuals can be dangerous when they feel they have been provoked.
Do Not Be Manipulated into Giving in To Their Demands
The entitled will use every method in their toolbox to get what they want such as lying, using guilt, yelling, exploitation, flaunting their power, and manipulation. We need to know our rights in legal tangles, store rules, government regulations, and other policies.
We need to set limits on other people’s behavior. For example, our adult children may expect us to babysit at the last minute, rescue or bail them out when they get in trouble with the law or fork out money just because we are their parents. We are not obligated to fulfill their unreasonable demands.
We can make our own expectations clear while offering alternatives such as saying we are willing to babysit with more notice. When they whine and try to manipulate to get their way, we can respond by explaining that limits and rules are there to benefit everyone and should not be taken personally.
Educate them, if possible
When we say “no” to people, we are teaching them that the real world does not revolve around them. They need to learn that people cannot always get what they want. The entitled may be less likely to take “nos” personally if they understand the reasons behind them. Not everyone will listen, but those who do may learn something.
Allow The Entitled to Suffer the Consequences of Their Actions
People who feel entitled should not be rescued from the results of their bad decisions. If they are late for an appointment, they should not expect medical or other professionals to see them after hours.
People who feel entitled can frustrate and infuriate us. They drive us crazy with their unreasonable and ridiculous demands. In the end, though, we should feel sorry for them. They are often miserable because they did not get their own way. Their demands put a strain on their personal and work relationships.
We cannot fix them, but we can survive their drama. People do surprise us and change now and then, so we should hope for the best.
How the ‘Karen Meme’ Confronts the Violent History of White Womanhood, Time, Cady Lang
What Makes Some People Feel Entitled to Special Treatment?, Psychology Today, F. Diane Barth
5 Ways to Deal with Entitled People, Quick and Dirty Tips, Jade Wu
Entitled People - What to Expect and How to Deal With Them, SPSP
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Carola Finch
RTalloni on January 21, 2019:
This topic is something we need to think through, for sure. Recent news highlights organizations that believe they are entitled. A man representing native Americans stunningly said some students should have gone away when approached by protesters. It was a laughable statement but the seriousness of the situation is rooted in an entitlement mindset. Being as kind as possible to entitlement-minded people does not diminish the truth that allowing them to make us their doormats not only hurts us but it harms them. Kind, but firm is indeed the need.
Leland Johnson from Midland MI on January 21, 2019:
Carola- I like the way you approached this topic. Sensitive, yet not overly sensitive, insightful, real, but not hard. Not angry. I recently had to take a class where in I studied Maslow's theory of heirarchy which deals with necessary, reasonable expectations. I even question the idea of having the right to be respected because if someone chooses not to, what can I do? Fall apart? Beg them to respect me? I think I can still be respectable and respectful even if others fail to reciprocate. Thanks for the enlightening article and for making me think. Leland
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 27, 2018:
Your message comes through clearly in your suggestions and illustrations. Nobody gains when we subscribe to the sense of entitlement in people with faulty thinking. Thanks fro dealing with this topic.