I rarely deal with rude people in my life. Whenever I encounter someone rude, I shed them away.
However, there are times when you don’t have the luxury of choice. Say, if the person is a co-worker, a manager, a business associate, a customer, or a client. While you can choosenot to work with the person, the decision might jeopardize your livelihood and credentials, something which you may not have the luxury to do.Rude People
There’s this person (a customer, actually) I’ve been interfacing with, whom I’ll refer to as Tiff (not real name). Tiff is possibly the rudest person I’ve ever encountered. For perspective, I have a very high threshold for what’s considered rude or not. I also rarely get angry at people, unless they’re highly unreasonable. Even when others think of a certain behavior as rude, I tend to see it as neutral. Back in my previous workplace, I experienced many communications and exchanges which would easily be regarded by outsiders as “rude”, but I never thought they were rude. I saw them as direct and frank, but no, not rude.
Hence, when I say Tiff is rude, trust that she really is rude. When I first knew her in Day 1, I was slightly miffed by her attitude. Details aside, let’s say she’s not the most respectful person in the world. For example, she would raise her voice and lose her temper, was unsupportive with requests, often used authority as a push factor to get things done (something unnecessary), and was overall disrespectful. What was the most stumping was one of my male colleagues (younger than me) met her, and she was really quite the nice lady to him. We could only guess why. For some reason, Tiff’s special treatment seemed reserved for me (at least from what we’ve seen of her towards others).
Now, some people may just tell me to lose this customer. I see the merit behind such a recommendation, especially being one to recommend others to let go of people who do not fit you (e.g., tip #4 in dealing with dishonest people article, tip #5 in dealing with energy vampires, and in my article on breaking away from K.) However, as a start-up, I value every business opportunity I get, and this is no different. I’m not about to let go of an ongoing business deal over someone like that – it’s not worth it.
How many of you face this similar situation? Not in a business/client relationship per-se, but a situation where you need to deal with a disrespectful/rude co-worker/team member/manager/associate/partner/customer/client even though you’d rather not deal with him/her if you can have your way. In my workshops, many participants have told me they face such an issue in their work.Learn to deal with rude people
You know what? I really empathize with you. You are a good person, it’s not fair, you deserve better, and life is giving you the short end of the stick. However, what’s fair, and what’s not? It’s good to want everything to be peachy and for your co-workers to be nice, but the fact is that’s just not how things are. And it’s not healthy to expect everyone in your life to be like that too. For every 1 rude person you encounter, there are going to be 10,000s out there who are just like the person. You are only going to make yourself incredibly frustrated if you expect everyone in life to be nice and friendly.
I know people who resort to quitting their jobs each time they face a rude manager or rude colleagues/clients. What happens is they run into the same situation in their next workplace, which vexes them even more. It just turns them into serial job hoppers. In the end, nothing has changed, they still have to face such people, and they possibly put themselves in a worse off position having burned bridges from their previous job and having a shaky job history record.
Rude people at work is very real and this situation is not going anywhere. Thus, the question is this – How can we deal with such people better?
Here are my best tips on how to do so:1) Don’t lose your cool
Seriously. It’s one thing to consciously lose your cool so you elicit an intended response from the person. It’s another thing to lose your cool because you’ve really lost your cool. You’ll end up creating a dent in your own image. You are also unable to bring your points coherently and might end up saying something you regret later on. Someone who is emotional usually winds up saying the wrong things.
No matter how angry you are, get a hold of the anger. If it’s an email communication, let it sit in your head first and get back to it at a different time. If it’s a phone conversation or a meeting, deal with it professionally with your anger parked aside. Vent it out later when you are with your friends, but don’t vent it in front of the person. While at work, conduct yourself professionally. It is telling of your ability to handle stress as well. If you can’t conduct yourself appropriately, you’re not going to earn the respect of others.2) Don’t take it personally
When we face rude people, it’s easy for us to put the blame on ourselves. We think it’s something wrong with us, that perhaps there was some unappealing quality about us that triggered such reactions in others. Even though we might react in jest or get all riled up at the person, the person we are really upset with is ourselves.
It’s always great when you have that level of introspection, because that’s the key to growth. And in a way, I agree there’s probably something about you that made the person act that way, especially if the person is behaving that way particularly to you. However, that doesn’t mean it’s something wrong with you. The person chose to take issue with it, and that’s just how he/she is as a person. It’s his/her construct as a person, his/her beliefs, his/her values, his/her conditioning, his/her past experiences that made him/her act that way towards you.His/her rude behavior is really more about his/her story and his/her personal issues than it is about you.
So don’t self-depreciate. There’s nothing the matter with you.
On a similar note, you can also say there’s actually nothing wrong with him/her being rude too. (See Tip #5: Objectify the Situation in part-2) And that’s an accurate interpretation too. Ultimately, the interpretation you take on depends on how conscious you are and whether you are ready to take on that understanding.3) Confront if necessary. Else, refrain from it
This one is sticky, because it depends on the situation. If you are dealing with a rude subordinate, peer, someone of equal standing – basically someone you have similar or higher authority over, it’s okay to call out the issue and bring it to his/her attention. That’s because the ball is your court. If it’s someone who has totally crossed the line in rude behavior (e.g., name calling, abuse, infringing on personal space, etc), by all means call it out regardless of whatever the position or authority the person is in. You owe it to yourself to do that.
The caveat is it might very well burn bridges and be a one-way ticket to the other side. So do it only if you have nothing to lose in the situation and you’re ready to deal with the consequences.
However, if the situation is one where you have little bargaining power, confronting is not going to be your best option. Say, if you are a working level employee in a large corporation, such as MNCs, corporate banks and government institutions. Or you are a front-line service personnel, such as hotel staff, restaurants, cafes, customer service representatives. Or an executive in an agency managing client accounts, such as Advertising firms, PR firms, design houses). Likelihood is, it’s not in your place to confront anyone. Not only would you not solve anything, it’ll put you in a poor light. The rude person, being in a higher position, is unlikely to change his/her approach because there is simply no reason to. He/she will perpetuate the behavior (and might even worsen it) as he/she sees you as a weak link.4) Don’t expect the rude behavior to change
Some people just like to behave in that manner. Maybe they don’t realize how rude and unpleasant their behavior is – it’s their blind spot. Maybe they are aware but they just like to boss others around. Maybe they just enjoy being *ssholes.
Realize you can’t change the person. If you hope he/she will have a sudden change of heart, more than half the times you are going to end up disappointed. You can change your actions which may change their behavior, but don’t -expect- their behavior to change. This will make your future correspondences much easier.
For example, in the first few times I interfaced with Tiff, I thought if I was nicer or acted in a different way, she would stop being so rude. However, every time she ran me over like a lawn mower and I got out of the conversation feeling really ticked. After that, I realized it was because I was doing them and expecting she would be nice. I was also attached to that expectation. Hence, when it didn’t happen, I felt it was my fault. Needless to say, this thinking isn’t healthy.You should do your best but be ready to receive the same rude treatment. It’d make it easier to manage the situation.
Don’t make any decisions or take any actions thinking he/she will change his/her attitude towards you. If it’s your manager that’s making your working life miserable, you shouldn’t stay on your job hoping he/she will be nicer in the future. That’s just going to make you very unhappy when you see no change in the attitude. Learn how to deal with him/her as the rude manager. If it’s your co-worker who’s pissing you off every half a second, don’t reach out expecting him/her to suddenly burst into laughter with you. Learn to manage him/her as the rude co-worker. However rude and incorrigible this person is, assume he/she is going to continue being that way forever. The sooner you do, the faster you can make headway in your communications.5) Objectify the situation
Is the person being really rude? Or could you be misinterpreting the signals? Even if the person is indeed out of the line, could your emotions be making the situation appear worse than it really is?
Sometimes people are rude because that’s how they are. It may be some tough callus they erect to protect them. It could be their results-oriented mentality that leads them to neglect others’ emotions. It could be their way of exerting their worth to others. It’s who they are as people (Tip #2) rather than anything to do with you.
For some, they could very well be unaware they are being rude. For example, a few years ago I was in a company Chinese New Year lunch with a team of about 20 people, including the upper management, managers, people from other functions and working team. Since I was the only vegetarian at the table, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone was sharing the meat dishes while I was going for the vegetables.
One of my co-workers asked me in front of others why I was a vegetarian. I told her I was not interested in consuming sentient beings (ability to feel), and she quipped sarcastically in front of everyone: “Oh so, plants can’t feel? What if there’s research that proves plants have feelings too? What are you going to eat then?” And she burst into laughter.
I was flabbergasted by her lack of tact. While that was clearly not done in good taste, I didn’t think much about it. When I put this incident in perspective with what I know about her from working together, it was clear that incident was more of a blind spot than one of malicious intent.
We have the tendency to aggravate situations, especially when it hurts us. It’s important we don’t see things with a tinted lens and blow them out of proportion. We have to be fair in our judgment of others. Here are some ways to do that:
- Vent out your anger through journaling or talking to a friend. This helps to remove emotional grievances which may cloud your thinking.
- Now, step out of your shoes and analyze the incident as a third party.
- Ask yourself – If it was someone else in your shoes, would the ‘rude’ person have treated him/her the same manner? If it’s a yes, chances are that’s just how the person is.
- Observe how the ‘rude’ person treats others normally. Does he/she treat others the same way too? If it’s a yes, again, chances are that’s just how the person is.
- Talk to a friend about it and listen to his/her analysis added perspective.
There’s no rule that you must respond to rude people. In fact, silence can be a very good treatment, as attested by reader Jerome:
“Personally, I do not talk much with people who are very rude in their speech and deeds. I always maintain a greater silence when people are rude to me or when I encounter with someone at my office who are not capable to explaining things in a positive way.
Sometimes silence is the most appropriate answer. When we also tries to mach our mood with rude people, we will also fall into his/her situation. It is our duty to let the person cool down and then to start sharing our opinions. I think this would be a better way…” – Jerome
If it’s a 1-1 conversation, it might be tough/awkward to ignore someone. My recommendation is to help the rude person learn how to communicate with you through behavioral conditioning. When he/she is rude to you, simply ignore the comments. Don’t respond, give lukewarm replies, or just play deaf. On the other hand, when the person treats you with some decency, respond in kind. Be enthusiastic and earnest in helping. If the person is smart, he/she will start to play by ear and treat you properly.
One of my friends back in school was quite the tactless person. She would make jokes at the expense of others. Some people found her somewhat rude and overbearing. When I was with her, she would make flippant jokes at my expense too. At first I put up with it, but after a while I got tired and just ignored her whenever she did it. While it was awkward at first, after a while she got the idea and stopped doing it.7) Understand why the person is rude
If the person is specifically rude to you, there must be some reasons driving that behavior. While it may seem like the person is all out to get you and make your life miserable, there has to be some trigger for that (subconscious or conscious). Why is the person acting this way to you? Why is this person being such a jerk-face? If you understand why, it will very well help in your future interactions with the person and people similar to him/her.
For example, when I thought about my situation with Tiff, I gathered perhaps she was treating me poorly because:
- a) I’m a female (she was very polite to my male colleague)
- b) I was much younger than her (seniority might be important to her)
- c) I was not important to her (and her goals)
- d) She didn’t respect me (might be due to a) and b) combined)
One of my friends suggested maybe because I was younger and more attractive and she saw me as competition (with guys). While I think that’s quite amusing, I really do not think that’s the case (it’ll be very unprofessional and silly if it is).
When people are rude to others, it’s usually because they deem the person as “less worthy” or of “lower importance”. That’s why we get angry with people who are rude to us. No one likes to be seen as not important. If you don’t care how this person treats you, that’s fine. How about if you work with this person closely and you want this behavior to stop? (see next tip)8 ) …then address those reasons
Since the reasons in Tip #7 are triggers for the rude behavior, addressing them will reverse the rude behavior. Obviously there will be factors you can’t address. For example, in my case I can’t change the fact that I’m female nor that I’m younger (not that I’m not interested to change that either!). Outside of that, you can address the other factors. For me, factors c) and d) are a matter of correcting the perception. These can be fixed through Tip #10 Increasing your importance to them (below).9) Ask the person how you can help
I do believe rude people are rude because they have a lot of angst and negative energy built up in them. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just ask: “Is there anything I can do to help?” or “What can I do to help you?”. You’ll be surprised at how they stop tensing up and become more open.
10) Increase your importance factor
I also use a lot of questions to the person who is being rude. There are two reasons I do this, 1) Whoever is asking questions is in control of the conversation, and 2) I hope that they will see that what they are doing is not necessary.
Rude behavior arises because the person does not respect your authority (see Tip #7 above). If the person really thinks you are good and recognizes your importance, he/she wouldn’t be rude. For example, most cases of rude behavior in organizations are towards junior staff and the rank and file because they are seen as having lower authority.
Increase your importance and the person will have more reason to play nice(r). Some ways to do that:
- Being a valuable asset. Increase the value you offer. Deliver your best performance such that you are an indispensable force. Be consistent in your work. Contribute where you can. Keep finding ways to add more value every time.
- Understand what’s important to the person. What’s important to the person? What does he/she value the most? Focus on them. For example, if the person values effectiveness, being effective will make him/her more appreciative of you. With Tiff, I observe her key value is getting the job done, so rather than be bothered by her lack of tact I focused on that same aim too. This helped our communication to flow better.
- Get to know people of authority. In an organization, aligning yourself with people of higher positions help to increase your leverage. If someone is making life difficult for you where you work, it’s good to get to know more senior people who can help you. Of course I’m not saying to align yourself with them for the sake of this only; you should be genuinely interested in being friends with them, their well-being as people and offering value to the relationship too.
As mentioned in Tip #2 Don’t Take It Personally, no matter what the rude person says, you should never let him/her make you feel any lesser about yourself. Neither should you back down, lower your worth, or self-depreciate in his/her presence. Be sure of who you are and what you stand for. Stick to your values, your integrity and your beliefs. Maintain your personal boundaries and guard it.
If the person ever tries to trample on your boundaries, don’t be afraid to confront (Tip #3 – Confront if need be). You deserve better, and it doesn’t matter how important the job is or how valuable the client/deal is. There’s nothing more valuable than your integrity and it’s up to you to honor that.12) Raise your consciousness where you cannot be affected
I love this quote by Rene Descartes:
“Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.” – Rene Descartes
Rude people vibrate at a certain level of consciousness , namely lower levels like fear, anger and pride. As I mentioned in You are the Average of the 5 People You Spend the Most Time With, your consciousness level is partly affected by the type of people you’re with. When you interface with rude people, it’s normal that their state of consciousness rubs off you and drags you down as a result. The longer you stay in this state, the more negative you’ll feel, and the more likely you’ll descend to similar rude behaviors too (whether in retaliation or not).
If you’re affected by their attitude, that means you’re vibrating in a consciousness state that makes you vulnerable to their offense. An analogy would be the dog whistle. Do you know that dogs can hear a much higher frequency range than humans? Humans can’t hear the sounds produced by the dog whistle because it’s out of our reach. Likewise, when you’re in a totally different conscious level, you won’t even feel the “offense”, if there’s even any.
This is why people who are in lower levels of consciousness constantly feel victimized or undermined. It’s not necessarily because people are victimizing them; it’s just that they’re in the state where they perceive everything to be an attack on them. Similarly, people in high levels of consciousness don’t feel attacked even if people do try to attack them. They’re just in a state where it’s not reachable. That’s why you often hear how Buddha/Jesus/Krishna/enlightened beings remain unaffected no matter who tries to tear them down.
Raise your consciousness and you’ll notice you’ll slowly become immune to the behaviors of rude people, critical people or even energy vampires. In my 781-page book The Personal Excellence Book, I share my best 15 tips to raise your consciousness level in one of my bonus articles: 15 Ways To Raise Your Consciousness.13) Connect with people who can help
Just because you’re going through a tough time doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Seek help from people around you. Even if it’s just having a listening ear, it’s better than bottling it up. Talking to someone will also help you get added perspectives on the situation. Who knows, you might get help where you least expect. Some people whom you can reach out to:
- Friends & Family
- Team members
- Senior managers
If you’ve tried all the tips from tip #1 to tip #13 and none of them work at all (or to little effect), perhaps it’s time to opt out.
The bigger question that leads to the decision of opting out is whether there is a reason to stay or not. Don’t leave just because you face rude people. Leave because there is no reason to stay. Do you like this job? Is the work meaningful? Do you see prospects? Does this job give you opportunities you cannot get elsewhere? If it’s a yes to any of the questions, it’s better to find other ways to deal with the situation than to leave.
As mentioned in the beginning of part-1, rude people are everywhere. If you expect to leave just because of some rude behavior, there’s no telling if you won’t face this elsewhere. What’s more, it reflects poorly on you and how you deal with situations. Conflicts with people happen all the time. It’s more important to learn to handle them than avoid when they happen. Furthermore, people come and go all the time. Most likely you won’t be facing this rude person 1-2 years down the road. If you see long-term prospects in the job you’re doing – prospects which you want, it’s not worth it to leave on a whimsical desire. Learn to deal with it – read over tips #1-13 of this article thoroughly and apply them. These tips have real value in them and they work. And then there’s tip #15, which is the last tip of this article.15) Think about the times when you were rude to others
You know, it’s normal for us to point fingers at others when things happen.
- “Hey this person is so rude. How dare he/she do this to me!”
- “This is unacceptable behavior. I’m going to bring this up to seek redress.”
- “I can’t believe this person is so unreasonable. I hate him/her.”
I like to think that sometimes, what we face in life are an echo to how we’ve been to others. If there’s some rude person bothering you right now, rather than feel angsty towards that person, maybe it’s good to take a step back and think about the people you’ve been rude to in your life. And there will be people you have been / are rude to, even if (a) it was just a one-off incident (b) you felt it was justified (c) you didn’t think it was rude, or (d) you weren’t aware of it. Say that customer service representative you felt peeved at because he/she didn’t handle your request the way you want. Your colleagues, when you got angry at work over something. Your parents / housemates / friends, when you had a bad day at work and you became snappy as a result. Or just anyone you lost your cool at before.
Why were you rude to them? Was your reaction justifiable? Did you ever make it up to them? Are you still taking them for granted or have you changed your behavior? If you haven’t, is it perhaps time to treat them better?
As long as we’re rude to someone, it’s good to reflect on our own behaviors than point fingers at others. We may think our actions are justifiable, but on the receiving end of our attitude is someone who feels that we’re rude. Surely it’s not fair to make someone else feel lesser just because we were not able to manage our emotions ourselves. As in the Golden Rule, we should treat others the way we want to be treated.