9 Ways to Deal with Ungrateful People in Your Life

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Ugh, it’s just happened again. I tried to help my friend Sammy earn extra money working for me after she kicked out her abusive boyfriend… but I kept getting message after message saying she’s not available to work. She was either out with someone or dealing with self-inflicted drama… yet she kept asking for help.  

She displays classic signs of an ungrateful person: the world revolves around them and their schedule. 

You probably have someone like this in your life. They seem to be everywhere, right? So how can you deal with ungrateful people to minimize their negative impact on you?

What Does Being Ungrateful Mean?   

In simple terms, being ungrateful equates to a lack of gratitude. Gratitude is an emotion of feeling grateful or thankful for small things, like a flower blooming, and the big things… like the promotion you just got.

But grateful is also a way of seeing the world, where you see and appreciate positive things. Being ungrateful is the opposite of this. 

Many people think ungrateful people are simply those who don’t say “thank you.” However, these people may be grateful, but they struggle to thank someone, or they simply have other ways to show their appreciation.

Still, someone can say “thank you” and not mean it – they simply use it as a way to manipulate others, and this person is actually ungrateful.  

Thus, ungratefulness goes beyond words; it’s how someone acts and sees the world. An ungrateful person isn’t thankful, and they can’t notice or appreciate the positive. 

How to Tell If Someone Is Ungrateful

There are various ways to tell whether someone is being ungrateful, and not every ungrateful person acts the same

Here are the 25 telltale signs of a person who isn’t thankful. Ungrateful people:

  1. Always need help
  2. Want everything nowdemanding much? 
  3. Only have time for you when they need something from you 
  4. Just expect you to be there for them
  5. Think the world revolves around them – it’s all “I, me, and myself” 
  6. Easily turn on you despite everything you’ve done for them 
  7. Always remember and mention that one time you weren’t there for them 
  8. Always want more 
  9. Are envious 
  10. Are resentful 
  11. Play the victim and never take responsibility 
  12. Have everything handed to them  
  13. Are emotionally unstable and have lots of negative thoughts 
  14. Attract others who are ungrateful 
  15. Live in the past and the future 
  16. Never appreciates anything 
  17. Believe nothing is good enough  
  18. Are selfish 
  19. Judge others 
  20. Never want feedback or constructive criticism
  21. Complain a lot 
  22. Never support others 
  23. Never apologize 
  24. Spread negativity and ungratefulness  
  25. Make poor choices 

Why Are People Ungrateful? 

Being grateful is something children learn when they are young. You may think a baby or toddler is completely egocentric, but Barbara Lewis says that babies as young as 15-18 months can begin to understand ideas that lead to gratitude: their mommy and daddy or caretakers do things to make them happy. When your toddler is two or three years old, they express gratitude for material objects, while by the age of four, kids can be thankful for immaterial things like love. 

But if children aren’t taught how to value and appreciate others and what they do for them, it can lead to little emperor syndrome. A person who has little emperor syndrome has a self-centered worldview. They believe everyone is there to satisfy their desires and needs

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Being grateful is something children learn when they are young.

A person can also be ungrateful if they believe that the world owes them something or they are entitled to it. So they think why be grateful when they deserve it.  Another reason people are ungrateful is because they are in too much pain. The struggles they face make it difficult for them to find reasons to be thankful

Lastly, an unthankful person may also always be dissatisfied with everything because nothing makes them happy. They want better; they want more, and nothing is ever good enough, so why be grateful?   

The Effects a Person’s Lack of Gratitude Have on You 

If the ungrateful person is a big part of your life, then it’s likely that their lack of gratitude will have a more significant effect on you than dealing with random people like a taxi driver, the cashier behind the till, or the receptionist at the dentist’s office.  

Chances are you practice gratitude and consider yourself a grateful person if you are here, reading this article. But we are all human, and we all have moments where we aren’t thankful. 

But constantly dealing with ungratefulness can

  • Annoy you 
  • Rub off on you so you also become ungrateful and negative  
  • Emotionally drain you 

9 Steps for Dealing with Ungrateful People 

It isn’t easy to deal with an ungrateful person, and this is even truer when the person is a family member, a good friend, or a colleague. 

Before I get into the steps for dealing with someone who lacks gratitude and appreciation, remember to always be empathic and don’t force the person to accept something they aren’t ready to admit. 

Here are the 9 steps for how you can deal with the ungrateful people in your life:      

1. Identify an Ungrateful Person  

You may be inclined to think that your coworker who seemingly always asks for help is ungrateful, and especially because they never say thank you. But did you notice that they bring you a delicious Starbucks coffee – your exact order, by the way – and a triple choc chip muffin the next day after you’ve helped them? 

Before you decide someone is unthankful, first reflect on what ungrateful means (hint, check out the start of the article) and then see whether the “ungrateful people” in your life match up with the meaning

An ungrateful person will also repeat their thankless behavior, like a music track that’s stuck on repeat. So pay attention to what people do to help you spot these ungrateful individuals.   

2. Create Personal Boundaries 

Always being there for ungrateful people will make you feel used. So take a look inward and decide what your boundaries are. Boundaries are your limits or guidelines to help you identify behaviors you consider to be permissible, reasonable, and safe

Together with deciding what kind of behavior you are okay with, comes how you will deal with behavior that encroaches on your boundaries

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Decide when enough is enough, and put your happiness (and sanity) first. 

Having healthy boundaries in place (and that you enforce) ensures you don’t feel taken advantage of, taken for granted, or emotionally drained because you can detach yourself and let the ungrateful person fend for themselves.    

3. Look at How You React and Revise If Needed 

How you react to those who are ungrateful in your life does – unfortunately and unintentionally – gives these people permission to continue treating you the way they are. For example, if you are nodding your head when someone constantly complains, they have tacit permission to continue complaining. 

Or what about someone who always asks for help? Do you simply show up and help? If you answer yes, then the ungrateful person gets the message that you are okay with helping them – even willing or eager to help them. 

Amending how you react to the behavior of an unthankful person helps you enforce your boundaries and teaches the person what you are and aren’t okay with. Some tips: 

  • It’s okay to say no. So do. 
  • Don’t get attached to anything they say. 
  • Don’t over-explain yourself; be concise and as clear as possible when dealing with them. 
  • Stick to your guns and be consistent with how you treat them.  

4. Have a Chat

If the person plays a big role in your life and it’s important that you get along, you can have a conversation with them about their behavior. 

It won’t be an easy conversation, and it’s better to not have expectations that the chat will open their eyes and they’ll change and be all shiny, new, and grateful thereafter. 

The person may not know that you feel unappreciated, so find a time to sit down with them. Be calm, use specific examples, don’t lay blame, and simply share – honestly, but kindly – how you feel. 

Be prepared that they may get confrontational, accuse you of seeing things, and not apologize, but things can also go the other way. 

5. Don’t Label 

Calling an ungrateful person “ungrateful” isn’t helping anyone. When you have a conversation with the person about their behavior, labeling them will simply make them deny it and they feel even less inclined to hear you out. 

So rather focus how their behavior makes you feel

What do you feel when they always shift blame? When they show up when they need you but are MIA when you need them? When they are always complaining?  

During the conversation, be sure to use “I” statements like “I feel that you don’t appreciate my help when …”    

6. Analyze Your Intent for Doing Something 

Looking at your intent or expectations for why you do what you do gives you a new perspective on ungratefulness. 

We typically do things for people because

  • We have to (like in an employer-employee situation where you earn money for providing a service)
  • We expect something in return: a gift, a “thank you,” or a hug 
  • We want to because it’s morally right 
  • It makes us feel good (Are you a people-pleaser by any chance?) 

If you do something for someone without any expectation, the value of ungratefulness decreases because you aren’t helping to receive gratitude from someone. You are helping because it’s right and you want to. 

So whether someone thanks you is irrelevant. A thank you is still nice and appreciated, but not getting one won’t annoy you or make you feel used.  

7. Be Compassionate 

Put yourself in the unthankful person’s shoes. Maybe you don’t even know what they are going through, but that doesn't mean you can’t be compassionate. 

Your sister may be ungrateful of you babysitting the kids because she just found out her husband is cheating. Or your coworker may seem ungrateful when you show them how to do that Excel formula – again – because their mom just passed away. 

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It isn’t easy to deal with an ungrateful person, and this is even truer when the person is a family member, a good friend, or a colleague. 

People get wrapped up in their struggles and forget to show gratitude, but give them the benefit of the doubt if it isn’t a pattern. 

A toxic person, on the other hand, is ungrateful, period. They don’t know how not to be, whether they are experiencing challenges or not.   

8. Continue Practicing Gratitude 

Just because people in your life are thankless, doesn’t mean their negativity should spread and invade your life. Unfortunately, that can very easily happen. 

One way to prevent becoming like the toxic, ungrateful people in your life is to continuously practice gratitude so you can reap the many positive benefits:

  • Write what you are grateful for in your gratitude journal, or complete gratitude activities or prompts. 
  • Encourage gratitude in your family by letting your kids say what they are grateful for at the dinner table once a week. 
  • Be authentically thankful for the good in your life – from the big to the small things – and for the challenging things (they teach you certain lessons you can learn from).  

9. Put Yourself First and Let Go 

It isn’t easy to say goodbye and let go of someone you are used to having in your life and when they are a big part of it. But you have to prioritize you, and sometimes, that means saying goodbye to the ungrateful person

You can’t make the person change, and continuing to hang around an energy vampire or toxic person only affects you negatively. Decide when enough is enough, and put your happiness (and sanity) first

Final Thoughts on Dealing with Ungrateful People 

No one likes putting up with ungrateful people and feeling like they’re being taken for granted or used all the time. This can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and self-doubt within yourself that are unjustified and counterproductive. 

It may seem challenging to deal with those who are unthankful, but following the steps I’ve outlined above will improve your life as you become more self-aware, do without expectation, set healthy boundaries and let go of toxic people when needed. 

Why not look at these best gratitude journals to continue your gratitude journey and lessen the effect of ungrateful energy vampires?

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9 Ways to Deal with Ungrateful People in Your Life