Rude people – they’re everywhere, aren’t they? And if you’re working in a rude or hostile environment, there’s bad news for you. Turns out, rudeness in the workplace is contagious. So, if you don’t know how to protect yourself from it, then rest assured that it’s going to affect your behavior as well.
Over time, I’ve come to develop different ways of handling these toxic situations. This article makes use of several perspectives from different philosophies and religions that have stood the test of time. We’ll take a look at what to say when someone is being rude, how to deal with disrespect, and when to walk away.
And before you read further, we understand most things stated in this article are easier said than done. But they’re more than doable if you’re willing to put in some effort.
So, how do you meet rudeness? Here’s a summary of the ideas we’ll discuss:
- You can’t change rude people. You can’t change anyone for that matter unless they are willing to change.
- See the bigger picture. That person probably isn’t born rude. We are all basically good as Dalai Lama puts it. They’re doing what they think suits them, and you ought to act according to your inherent compassionate nature.
- Be Stoic. We’ll discuss in a while how useful this ancient philosophy can be.
- Use Empathy. If they’re being rude, there must be something in their life that’s bothering them, and it’s probably not you. So, don’t take it personally and have some sympathy for them.
- Confront them. They may or may not accept their fault, but it’s the least you can do before you resort to the final option.
- Avoid rude people. There’s no point in being in such a situation if you know it’s not going to change, try to remove yourself from the situation if you can.
Table of Contents
6 Smart Ways to Deal With Rude People
Let’s dive deeper into the points mentioned above, so you can implement them in your life with a little bit of patience and practice.
Nothing better than starting with a healthy dose of pessimism! Seriously though, when it comes to dealing with people (be it anyone), being pessimistic in your expectations of them can go a long way toward keeping your peace.
Here’s the thing: If you try talking to someone who’s constantly showing rude behavior, chances are, they’re not going to change. We do recommend in some cases confronting them and will talk about it in a moment, but just keep in mind that it would be unrealistic to expect them to (suddenly) change their behavior. And it would also be unwise to get annoyed when they don’t.
If they have a stressful life and are rude as a result of it, it has probably become a habit for them. This applies very much in the case of a colleague. So, even if they want to change, they’ll have to work on themselves for it, which takes time.
Pro tip: If they do decide to change, you can share our website with them, so they can also transform themselves 😉
However, generally what happens when you try to talk to them is that they will get defensive because they don’t want to accept that they are being rude and disrespectful. It leads you to shut down any conversation that might result in a solution. There are exceptions, of course, but this is what usually takes place.
For this reason, we’ll start by assuming that they aren’t willing to listen and nothing you do will make them change. Now, let’s think of what we can do to effectively deal with them.
It’s very easy (and tempting, plausible, and seemingly just) to shout or get vexed in response to rudeness. But remember, rudeness is contagious, and why would you want to spread it when there’s another (better) response available?
Rather than reacting instinctively, you can take a step back and realize that they are basically good, just like every other human being. It is their circumstances that have forced them to become this way. They might not realize that they are not acting in accordance with their inherent nature, but you do! And so, you ought to act according to your own inherent nature, which is compassion.
In his article, His Holiness the Dalai Lama says that it is up to us to decide if we want to promote the positive potential in us or make our lives miserable in the long term by strengthening the negative aspects. Practices like meditation help you deepen your compassion and it becomes second nature. I highly recommend you should learn more about the Buddhist conceptions of compassion and how to go about cultivating it. Here’s an excellent resource to start with.
In their confusion, they’re doing what they think is best. But you have the choice to do what you know is best. So, when someone is being rude to you, be mindful. Don’t get swept away by the waves of rudeness. Instead, be compassionate toward them. You probably won’t be able to do it just by reading a blog; it takes practice. But once you form a good habit, compassion will come naturally in the face of rudeness.
Stoicism is a practical philosophy designed to help you move through life more peacefully and freely. It teaches you the art of thriving in a world full of jerks. Can the ancient Greeks teach us how to respond to rude comments?
A perfect stoic response to rude or selfish behavior would be… no response at all. The best revenge is no revenge at all. In my experiences, I’ve found that an “okay” with a smile works better than anything else. Just make sure your smile isn’t too smug. Keep it peaceful and sincere, and you’re good.
Secondly, when a Stoic comes across rudeness, they ask themselves in what way they have been hurt by it. Okay, someone talked to you in a mean tone or called you names. It wasn’t nice. But what result did it really have? If you contemplate, you’ll find that it had no meaning. It’s all in your head. As Epictetus, one of the major Stoic Philosophers would say:
“Another person will not do you harm unless you wish it; you will be harmed at just that time at which you take yourself to be harmed.”
–Epictetus, The Enchiridion
Another Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, can help you realize that kindness is indeed the right response, and compassion alone has the potential to change other people. If someone is persistently rude to you, and you still keep showering them with kindness, it’s going to have an effect on them whether they want it or not. Here’s how he puts it:
“Kindness is invincible, but only when it’s sincere, with no hypocrisy or faking. For what can even the most malicious person do if you keep showing kindness and if given the chance, you gently point out where they went wrong—right as they are trying to harm you?”
–Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Also, this view is held by not only the Stoics. Even the bible says that when you’re calm and compassionate in response to rudeness, you “heap burning coals on his head”, which is the Bible’s way of telling you to kill’em with kindness.
You might not have heard this word before. So, here’s the beautiful definition of sonder from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
And so it is that there can be innumerable causes of rude behavior. Sonder teaches us to show empathy toward other people. You have no idea what the other person is going through. Maybe they’re having a very rough day or something worse than that. Perhaps you could make their day better by responding kindly. It will be a surprise since they will not be expecting it.
Sonder also teaches us to not take things personally. Yes, you getting in their way to their cabin was a small thing, and you didn’t mean to obstruct them. I get it, they could’ve politely asked you to step away. But if you think about it, that situation has little or nothing to do with you. It only shows that they were in a bad mood. Their behavior is an expression of their inner state. So, try not to take it personally, and let it go.
However, sometimes they’re rude on purpose and their rudeness is directed right at you. In that case, you should confront them.
Till now, everything we’ve talked about was aimed at building a strong mindset for yourself. It was all internal work that you didn’t need anyone else for. However, internalizing the above perspectives doesn’t mean you have to keep tolerating rude behavior. If the rude behavior continues, you should go ahead and confront the person. Make sure to keep it polite and direct.
Remember, you can’t change them. So, just ask them if they realize that the things they say or do show a lack of respect for others. They may or may not realize they’re being rude. If they do, awesome. But if they don’t, don’t let that affect you.
If you’ve tried talking to the person and they are being rude anyway, then your last option would be to simply avoid them. If someone is being rude in a conversation, you can simply walk away from the situation. If they’re being rude consistently, you should probably walk from that someone and consider how to limit contact overall.
Removing yourself from hostile or toxic situations is one of the fastest and surest ways to avoid unnecessary trouble in your life. If it’s a stranger, then you won’t have to deal with them ever again. If it’s a friend or a colleague, avoiding them will indicate that their behavior is unacceptable to you. It might even prompt them to be nicer from then on.
Needless to say, every situation is different. I’ve found that 99% of the time, killing them with kindness works flawlessly. But there will be times when walking away is the best thing you can do to save yourself.
I hope that after reading this, you have a better idea of how to deal with disrespect and rude people in general. It can be hard, and again, it is easier said than done. However, with practice, you can learn to handle such situations effectively without losing your cool.