It seems that rude people are everywhere. You see them during rush-hour traffic or in a crowded store. Do you work in a rude or hostile environment? Rudeness in the workplace is a contagious behavior that spreads, if nothing is done to break the vicious cycle of incivility.
When confronted with toxic behavior, whether it’s coming from a crotchety stranger, a grouchy coworker or a snappish friend, here are some tried and true methods that smart people use to effectively handle rude people.
10. Show empathy and sympathy.
Don’t take rudeness personally; maybe the person is just having a bad day and taking it out on the world. Often you can break the cycle of rudeness by empathizing with the root of someone’s cantankerous behavior as a sign that he or she is unhappy, and be kind.
Showing empathy requires you to try and understand why the person is being rude. Perhaps that person is dealing with a difficult situation in their personal life, or is feeling overwhelmed by deadlines that are piling up at work. If you can find a way to show that you understand and care about them and what they are going through, they will feel more connected and less alone in their struggles.
If you know someone is having a difficult time, let them know that you understand. Don’t judge them for having a bad day or for snapping at others. You might find a way to mention that you’ve had rough days too, and you can relate to how the person is feeling.
9. Do not escalate.
When someone annoys you, your first instinct may be to lash back. But remember, you always (and only) have control over yourself. Choose not to give in to drama. No matter how another person acts, you own your behavior, just as they will have to own theirs.
Keep your cool. Take a deep breath and give yourself space to calm down if someone has upset you. Remember, you don’t have to stoop to their level, and doing so will probably only make matters worse. Maintain your dignity and rise above the fray.
8. Be a good role model.
Rudeness begets rudeness and is contagious. If you speak rudely to a waiter, don’t be surprised if you get the same treatment in return. People have all kinds of ulterior motives for acting as they do. Recognize that some people use rude behavior as a way of showing dominance or displaying power. They may be trying to provoke a reaction and make you look bad. Don’t let them have the satisfaction of seeing you get angry.
By being a good role model and treating everyone with fairness, kindness and empathy, you are displaying the kind of behavior you expect from those around you. If they can’t show you the same level of civility in return, it may be time to enlist the help of others.
7. Don’t take it personally.
When someone’s rude – especially if they’re making personal comments about you – it’s easy to get upset. But you have a choice about how you react. Take the power out of their rudeness by choosing to treat it as their problem, not your problem.
6. React with kindness.
Don’t let rudeness make you respond with more of the same. The best way to defuse rude behavior is to stay friendly and helpful, giving the other person a chance to calm down and adjust their behavior to match yours.
5. Use humor to diffuse it.
A rude and difficult person can create tension and anxiety in themselves and everyone around them. Remember, they are probably being rude because they’re angry or upset about something that they’re going through. Humor can create a diversion and break the tension, allowing everyone to laugh it off.
You can do this by finding a way to laugh about a common situation or by joking about a shared experience you can all relate to. Self-deprecating humor can also be disarming. Finding a way to insert a little levity when someone is feeling out of sorts may be just the thing to help everyone hit the reset button and begin again on a better note.
4. Call the rude person out.
Another tactic to stop the spiral of rudeness is to simply call them out on their behavior and ask them to stop. If someone you can’t get away from is consistently rude to you, you need to address the issue directly. There is no need for you to take ongoing abuse from anyone. You should never allow anyone to treat you in a disrespectful way.
Have a conversation about what is going on. Does the person realize how hurtful his or her actions are to you? Perhaps the person doesn’t realize how rude he or she is being. By making the person aware, it gives him or her a chance to apologize and try to be more polite.
3. Walk away.
When all else fails, keep in mind that sometimes it’s best to just walk away. Rudeness is hurtful, but removing yourself from the situation is the fastest and surest way to avoid more rude behavior from the same person. Walk away, even if they’re still talking to you! If they’re a stranger, you’ll never have to deal with them again. If they’re a friend or colleague, they’ll soon learn that being rude to you gets them exactly nowhere (and maybe that will prompt them to be nicer next time).
2. Avoid the rude person.
If you have done all you can to make the person aware of his or her actions and you have tried to show kindness and empathy, it may be that this person is just incapable of treating you (and others) with politeness and good manners.
By avoiding habitually rude people, you take away their audience and give them fewer targets to lash out at. A lack of an audience will also defuse the situation. If everyone around them begins giving them a wide berth, perhaps it will be a wake-up call. And if not, it will at least help everyone else have a better day.
1. Remember, sometimes it’s you.
“I’ve tried all these things, and my environment is still dominated by rudeness.” Have you considered that you might be the source? Yes, it’s tough to admit. But sometimes you are the culprit rather than everyone around you. Maybe not today, but there’ve been times when you were rude. And you’re not a bad person. So next time somebody is rude to you, remember that they’re human just like you, and rudeness alone doesn’t mean they’re a bad person either.