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How to Manage Rude People

by Jill Avery-Stoss

Dealing with rudeness in others is inevitable. You may find it in total strangers, such as the bank teller or the person behind you in line at the coffee shop. You may deal with it regularly from your co-workers or your in-laws. In many cases, being on the receiving end of rudeness is unprovoked. Even in situations where your words or actions caused someone to be upset, rudeness is not a very healthy or productive response. When you encounter people who are rude, you can be prepared with polite, assertive responses in order to minimize as much negativity as possible.

Maintain Your Boundaries

Although you cannot control someone else's behavior, you can set firm limits regarding how you are treated. If you work in customer service, for instance, you may be able to tolerate disgruntled complaints. When a customer shouts at you or calls you names, however, you may opt to end the conversation. Firm boundaries demand respect from others, according to a Johnson State College counseling services resource. In addition to limiting unwanted behavior, boundaries also force others to acknowledge their rude words or actions. You are encouraging change by holding them accountable in this way.

Get to the Point

Rude behavior is often a cover for some type of underlying issue. For instance, if your neighbor suddenly stops greeting you or refuses to make eye contact, there is likely a reason for it. Instead of tiptoeing around your yard, unsure why things have become so tense, you can simply ask what the problem might be. Perhaps your dog has been digging holes in her flower bed, for instance. With straightforward communication, the motive for your neighbor's rudeness may be resolved.

Refrain From Engaging

It can be tempting to respond to nastiness and negativity with some of your own, but this type of bitterness is not likely to reduce any tension. Responding to a rude person cordially, perhaps even with a smile, may encourage him to check his behavior. Furthermore, responding to rudeness with genuine kindness can be empowering, states Christine Carter, Ph.D., in her article titled "How to Deal With Mean People." Instead of participating in another's misery, you can "rise above it" through compassion.

Know It Isn't Personal

Chances are fairly good that the reasons for people being rude around you have nothing to do with you. They are often wounded in some way and in pain, states Carter. They may be overwhelmed with life's stressors and unable to manage them effectively. While the reasons behind rudeness do not excuse it, they can offer some perspective. It is unfortunate to find yourself on the receiving end of such negative behavior, but consider the context before worrying about what you may have done to upset or offend someone.

About the Author

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.

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