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The Subtle Art of Dealing With Rude People

gorgeous young afro american woman with long hair smiling, plants in the background

If you’ve ever been at the grocery store on a Saturday morning, you have probably noticed not only how a place like that can get crowded, but also how tension can easily arise and how rudeness starts spreading.

Picture this: a lady wants to grab a box of cereals for her kids; but there’s a guy in front of the shelf looking at the same box of cereal she wants.

So the lady gets impatient and just grabs a box of the cereal, while at the same time stepping into this guy’s personal bubble — and on his feet.

The guy is clearly bothered, but he doesn’t say anything to avoid conflict. He then goes to the fresh produce aisle.

While he’s picking some red bell peppers, an impatient lady pushes his cart aside with hers. As if he’s in her way. Again, he doesn’t say anything.

He heads to the counter to pay. However, right before he can get there, a young lady runs in front of him to get to the counter first.

The guy explodes. “Seriously? I’m sorry, but there’s a line, I was first.” And he starts to put his things on the counter.

She replies, raising her voice, “Don’t even think about it. I was first.” And they start arguing.

Then, they bring their negative vibes home.

This can happen to virtually anyone because rudeness can be contagious and can easily spread; if you’re a victim of rudeness, you can accumulate so much negative energy, that you can become the one disrespecting other people.

How to Effectively Deal With Rude People

Emotionally intelligent people are the ones who usually deal best with rudeness. However, it’s something you can do too.

Here are a few things you can “steal” from them to better deal with rude people and avoid getting infected by their negative energy.

1. Remember that most of the time it’s not personal

Rude people behave in a certain way not because of you, but because of themselves.

Sometimes their behavior simply stems from having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad month; at other times there are more serious issues behind their behavior.

For example, some people struggle with managing their anger; some people instead have an entitlement mentality — which is considered a narcissistic trait.

Others have no comprehension of respect or bad manners.

Usually this is mainly because they were not educated in ‘social etiquette’ when growing up.

If their parents behaved badly and rudely towards other people, that gave them a ‘green light’ to behave the same way.

Whatever the reason someone is being rude to you, remind yourself it’s very unlikely to be personal.

It will help you let it go, without feeling much resentment for it.

Recommended read: The 7 Habits of Truly Charming People

2. Use the “surrender tactic”

In his book “The 48 Laws of Power”, author Robert Greene includes a rule that, at least in my opinion, everyone should learn and apply.

What I’m referring to is Law 22 in the book:

“Use the surrender tactic, transform weakness into power.”

Most of the time, fighting with certain people is not only useless, but it can also harm you.

Especially if those people are somehow above you — they are your boss for example, or the manager of your boss.

Most people usually overreact when provoked, and this often escalates their problems.

If you surrender instead, the person challenging you won’t see you as a threat and won’t fight against you; this way they won’t harm you.

You can surrender through several different behaviors.

You can use empathy for example, and tell a rude person you’re sorry they felt a certain way and you totally understand their point of view.

Or you can admit a mistake.

Or — and this is even more powerful — you can use kindness. In fact, the best way to respond to rudeness is with kindness, because it’s disarming.

3. Set healthy boundaries

Whenever someone crosses the line with you, for example, they raise their voice and lose their temper, the best thing you can do is assertively set boundaries and healthily communicate how you expect to be treated.

For example, if a difficult client is shouting at you, a good response would be:

“I will have to end this conversation, if you keep yelling at me.”

If you have a partner who disrespects you when you try to communicate your point of view or your feelings, a good way to set healthy boundaries is saying:

“I’m sorry, but I can’t be with someone who [explain their behavior].”

This phrase is powerful, because you are telling them there are things you will no longer accept in the relationship.

In other words, you are telling them that if they keep displaying toxic behaviors, you will eventually walk away.

As Margaret Paul, PhD explains, good boundaries are not about trying to control someone else by telling them what to do.

They are about telling them what you will do in response to their unhealthy behavior.

Recommended read: Self-Esteem in Relationships: How to Become a Truly Confident Partner

4. Ask quality questions

As Stephen Covey said, we should learn to listen with the intent to understand others, not with the intent to reply.

Also, as Tony Robbins said, “Quality questions create a quality life.

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”

Asking quality questions is a clever way to deal with rudeness. It can help you understand what’s behind someone else’s behavior and you can then empathize with them.

It can also help the other person feel understood.

When we figure out why someone is acting in a certain way, it may become easier to resolve conflict with them, because they will feel understood.

It’s easy to react, or overreact, when someone is being rude to us. However, the best thing we can actually do is stop for a moment and ask quality questions.

Recommended read: Conversation Starters That Help You Break The Ice with Virtually Anyone

5. Use humor, laugh at yourself

As I mentioned in another article, one day my friend Elsa was taking a walk in her neighborhood.

She was listening to music.

A guy who was carrying a pallet full of boxes to the pharmacy yelled at her because she was on his way — he was walking behind her.

She removed her earphones and told him, “Oh, I’m so sorry, as always, I was daydreaming.” And then she facepalmed and laughed.

The guy started laughing with Elsa and apparently forgot the frustration he was feeling while my friend was on his way.

Humor can be a powerful way to deal with rudeness because, like kindness, it’s disarming.

Recommended read: Be Unforgettable: 10 Qualities That Make You Memorable to Anyone

Final Thoughts

Many of our actions, and those of others, are not deliberate and calculated. Instead, they are a reaction to how we are feeling at the time.

For example, that young girl who jumped the queue may have been threatened with the sack the day before and was feeling ultra-vulnerable.

On another day, she may have had a trolley load of shopping and invited the person behind her who had just a couple of things in his basket, to go ahead of her, because her boyfriend told her she was the most beautiful person he knew.

As I have said, when rude people provoke us, we shouldn’t take it personally as they would have been rude to anyone stood where we were.

The trick is to understand that person is probably having a really bad day, and we’re not going to let their bad day spoil our good day.

Image: iStock

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Monday 4th of April 2022

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