Lesson 2 of 7 - learn to communicate effectively

Response Options to
Significant Jealousy or Envy

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

Member NSRC Expert's Council

The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/cx/apps/jealousy.htm

Updated  01-25-2015

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      This is one of a series of brief articles on how to respond effectively to annoying social behavior. An effective response occurs when you get your  primary needs met well enough, and both people feel heard and respected enough.

      This article offers useful responses to the behavior of someone you believe is addicted to something. It assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this Web site and the premises underlying it  

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 and 2

  • basic options for all responses

  • how to give effective feedback to someone

  • effective assertion and empathic listening skills.

  • a perspective on jealousy and envy.


      Recall the last time you felt envious of someone. You longed for something they had - a thing, trait, relationship, asset, talent, or opportunity. Most people outgrow major envy, unless they bear wounds from a low-nurturance childhood.

      Jealousy is envy + entitlement ("I deserved ____!") + frustration ("...but I can't get ______") + resentment ("It's not fair!") + possibly a victim or martyr attitude. Do you agree? Envy and jealousy can range from occasional to constant, and mild to obsessional. "Significant" jealousy can stress the per-son and the people around them.

       Premise - significant envy and jealousy are caused by a dominant ''false self'' - several well-intentioned personality subselves which distrust and disable the wise resident true Self. Typical survivors of a low-nurturance childhood are unaware of false-self dominance and what it means.

      Implication - persuading, requesting, or demanding someone to "stop being so jealous" is useless without the person wanting to free their wise, balanced true Self. Self-improvement Lesson 1 in this nonprofit Website provides an effective way to do this over time. If you are troubled by significant envy or jealousy, learn about reducing false-self wounds.

      If you're stressed by someone else's jealousy, how do you normally respond? Say nothing? Seethe? Pretend? Gossip? Avoid? Hint? Complain? Criticize? Whine? Confront? None of these qualify as an "effective response" (above). Consider these...

Response Options

  • Mentally review the definition of "effective response" above and these response basics  until they become automatic.

  • Consider these options for relating to a wounded person.

  • Stay clear on the difference between the jealousy (a trait) and the person.

  • Use awareness to notice objectively how you feel about the envy or jealousy. Your emotions reliably point to what you need.

  • Identify what you need to accomplish by responding. To vent? Inform? Confront? Set or enforce a limit? Cause change? Maintain your self-respect? Support someone else (like a child)? Something else? Depending on what you need, choose one or more responses like these:

When you're undistracted and your E(motion)-level is "below your ears," ask if the person is open to some personal feedback. If you get "No," you have a different problem to respond to.

"(Name), I experience you as significantly envious / jealous."

"When you let your jealousy rule you, I lose patience with / respect for / you."

"Are you aware you're playing 'poor me!' now?

"I respect / like / enjoy / you more when you acknowledge what you do have, rather than complain about what you don't have."

"(Name), is your glass half-empty or half full?"

"How do you feel about someone who's burdened with significant envy or jealousy?"

"Have you ever met anyone who has intentionally gotten over major jealousy?

"How do you think significant jealousy affects typical relationships and families?"

"How does your jealousy affect / improve / benefit your life?"

"I suspect a false self is controlling your life and relationships, (Name)."

  • Notice the theme of these examples - calm, brief, respectful, honest, and direct. Also notice what's missing: blaming, lecturing, labeling, preaching, apologizing, hinting, threatening, analyzing, bringing up the past, and long explanations. Keep it simple!

  • Consider that not responding proactively enables the other person's problem attitude and behaviors. Would you prefer respectful feedback on your problem behaviors, or pretense and silence?

  • After you respond, expect the other person to  argue, explain, make excuses, deny, avoid, clam up, intellectualize, blame, whine, play helpless, etc. Use empathic listening to acknowledge their "resistances," and then calmly repeat your response until you feel heard well enough or your needs change.

  • Take responsibility for your needs and behavior, and avoid feeling responsible  for the other person's needs and feelings.

      Can you imagine reacting to an excessively envious or jealous person like these examples? If so, how do you think you each would feel? If you can't imagine responding like this, what's in the way?


      This is one of a series of brief articles suggesting effective ways to respond to common social behaviors. This article offers perspective on significant envy and jealousy, and ways to respond effectively to a significantly envious or jealous person. The ways are based on...

  • keeping your true Self in charge,

  • maintaining a mutual-respect attitude,

  • clarity on your feelings, needs, and personal rights, and...

  • fluency in the relationship skills of awareness, assertion, and empathic listening.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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