This is part 1 of my series on how to deal with rude people — including strangers, co-workers, associates, and customers.
Dealing with rude people can be a tricky thing. I personally really hate dealing with rude people, and as much as I can, 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 even a frontline personnel you need to talk to get what you need. While you can choose to avoid this person, this decision can make things difficult for yourself. If it’s in a workplace setting and you’re at an entry-level position, being combative can cause you to lose your job and/or ruin advancement opportunities.
A Rude Client
This brings to mind a rude client whom I worked with years ago, whom I’ll refer to as T. T was one of the rudest people I had met. For perspective, I have a very high threshold for what’s considered rude, given that I used to work in a very high-stress environment where exchanges could get very direct, depending on the personalities involved. Even though outsiders (as in, people not from the company) might see these exchanges as rude and stressful, we the employees didn’t. Instead, we learned to objectify any harsh comments and see them as constructive criticism.
Hence, when I say that T was rude, she really was quite rude. When I first met her, I was miffed by her attitude. Details aside, let’s just say she was not the most respectful person in the world. She would raise her voice and lose her temper, was unsupportive with requests, talked to me in a dismissive way, used her authority as a weight to push me around, and didn’t even acknowledge my presence whenever we met in person, even after I smiled and greeted her.
The worst thing was that her rude behavior seemed specifically targeted at me. I had no idea why as her rudeness was evident from Day 1. What’s weird was that she was extremely sweet and friendly—a complete 180 from how she would treat me—to my employee, who happened to be a guy. My most logical guess was that her rudeness might be some form of catty behavior from one woman to another; we’ll never know. Either way, there was no excuse for such bad behavior.
Even though I could have dropped this deal, I chose not to. At that time, I was just starting PE and I valued every opportunity I could get. This was no different. Even if this person was being an ass, even if she was being demeaning, I refused to balk. After all, she was really more like an agent of the organization I was working with—I wasn’t working for her as much as I was serving the organization and the participants of the workshop I was going to conduct. I wasn’t about to let go of a business deal and an opportunity to touch others’ lives over someone like that. Not at all.
In the end, I delivered the workshop successfully, received great feedback, and used this experience to build up my portfolio and seal new opportunities and deals.
How many of you have faced such a situation before? Perhaps not with a client per se, but a situation where you needed to deal with a rude, disrespectful person/co-worker/manager/customer/even stranger, even though you’d rather not?
If yes, I hear you. Many of my clients have shared with me unpleasant encounters with terrible, rude people, so you’re not alone.
Learn to Deal with Rude People
Honestly, I wish there isn’t any rude people in this world. If everyone is kind and helpful to one another, I think the world will be a much better place. One of my goals at PE is to raise the consciousness of the world, to bring people up from lower consciousness levels of hate, anger, and apathy, to higher levels of love, joy, and courage. When that happens, I believe that there’ll be less angry and hateful people, and more caring, empathetic, and supportive souls in this world. I personally am working hard at being a more empathetic soul myself.
However, there is still a long way for us to go. Until we live in a world where everyone is vibrating at the state of joy, we need to learn to deal with rude people as a fact of life. I know people who quit their jobs each time they face a rude manager/co-worker, and guess what? It doesn’t solve the problem. What happens is that they subsequently run into this same situation in their next workplace, after which they do the same thing—quit. In the end, these people become serial job hoppers. Nothing changes as they still have to face rude people, and they back themselves into a career dead end, having burned bridges from their previous jobs and having a shaky track record. This is obviously not the solution.
So how do we deal with rude people? Here are my best tips to do so:
1) Keep calm
The tricky thing about dealing with rude people is that you may feel like beating them or boxing their faces sometimes, especially if the person is being very obnoxious and demeaning.
But I’ve found that while it may be momentarily satisfying to lash out in a moment’s anger, it’s often not worth it. Firstly, when you lose your cool, you lose control of the situation. You may feel like you’re in power, but you are no longer operating at the higher consciousness part of your brain. Next, when you lash out at someone, you may end up saying or doing something that you regret later—something I know I’ve been guilty of. People who are emotional tend to say the wrong things as they are on an adrenaline rush; even if they regret what they did later, it’s too late as what’s said/done can be hard to retract—especially in today’s world where everything can be recorded and tracked/traced.
So no matter how angry you are, get a hold of your anger first. Consider these:
- So what if you lose your temper at this person—what do you accomplish? Note that at the workplace setting, losing your temper—assuming you’re not the big boss—may make you appear unprofessional and cause you to lose respect among your co-workers.
- How will making the other person miserable positively change your life in any way? Chances are, probably not. So, why do it?
- Will anger help this situation? Do you need this person to achieve a particular outcome, aim? (For example in customer service, you may feel like screaming at the rude staff. But perhaps this person is the gatekeeper to something you need. So if you lose your temper, you may not get what you want, or take a longer time to get to what you want.)
Take a deep breath and imagine anger being released as steam from the top of your head. Sounds funny, but it works. 🙂 If it’s an email, hold off on replying first and let it sit in your head for a while. If it’s a phone conversation or an in-person encounter, set aside your anger and reply as rationally and logically as you can. You can vent later when you are with friends and family, but don’t go berserk in front of this person.
Note that there is a difference between consciously losing anger to achieve a strategic aim, which is a strategy often used in business meetings or staff management, and losing anger because you’ve lost conscious control of the situation. The latter is what we want to avoid.
2) Don’t take it personally
When we face rude people, it’s easy to put the blame on ourselves. We may think that there’s something wrong with us, that perhaps there is some unappealing quality about us that triggered such reactions in others. I know I often think this way—when someone is being mean to me, I’ll automatically assume that there’s something wrong with me.
Yet when I take a step back and stop the self-beating cycle, it becomes clear that it’s not about me. Perhaps that person had a bad day. Perhaps the person has an attitude problem. Perhaps the person has anger issues. Even if the person is specifically being rude to you, like T was to me, that person probably has some personal hangups or triggers that got fired off when he/she came into contact with you.
Either way, it’s that person’s personal construct, beliefs, values, conditioning, and past experiences that made him/her act this way toward you. His/her rude behavior is really more about his/her story and personal issues than it is about you. So, do not fault or blame yourself. There is nothing wrong with you so please don’t beat yourself down. ♥
3) Confront if necessary. Otherwise, stay away
Confrontation is a very tricky thing, and I usually avoid it where possible. There are 3 main criteria I use to decide if a confrontation is necessary:
- The person has totally crossed the line in rude behavior (e.g., name calling, abuse, violation of personal boundaries)
- The person is of the same or lower level authority compared to you (e.g., a subordinate or a work peer)
- Calling the person out will achieve more gains than losses, and you are prepared to deal with the losses
Why so? It’s not because I condone rudeness—I don’t. It’s more that there are pros and cons to every action, and while it’s tempting to call out someone on their rudeness and put them in their place, I’ve found that it doesn’t achieve anything sometimes. In fact, sometimes it creates more harm than if you just let it pass.
For example, with my experience with T, I didn’t call her out on her ridiculous behavior because it wasn’t worth it to me. Firstly, she was a very senior ranking staff well in her late 30s. Given her age and rank, she really should have known better. The fact that she acted that way meant that she intentionally wanted to do so, and hence wouldn’t have cared what I had to say. Secondly, we were in a client-provider relationship. As the in charge, she could have dismissed me if I gave her the slightest reason to—and as I mentioned above, the project was important to me. Even if she couldn’t, she probably would have made things even more difficult for me, and I wasn’t interested to get more trouble.
If the situation is one where you have little bargaining power, confronting will not be your best option. Say, if you are a working level employee in a large corporation. Or if you are a frontline staff working in a hotel, restaurant, shop, or call center. Or if you’re an account executive managing client accounts.
This doesn’t mean you should stomach insults or inhumane behavior. If there is someone who gets personal and crosses the line in human behavior, you should escalate it to your managers. Document the incident(s) and let them handle it.
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 others. If you keep hoping that the rude person in question will have a sudden change of heart, you will be disappointed half the time. You can change your actions which may change his/her behavior, but don’t change yourself expecting him/her to change.
For example, in the first few times I interfaced with T, I thought if I was nicer or acted in a different way, she would stop being so rude. However, no matter how I treated her, she would run me over like a lawn mower each time. I would emerge from each conversation feeling really ticked.
When I reflected on the situation, I realized it was because I had altered my behavior when interfacing with her, expecting that she would be nice to me in return. I was also attached to that expectation. Hence, when she continued to treat me poorly, I would feel that it was my fault.
Needless to say, this thinking was not healthy.
While I’m not saying you shouldn’t try different tacts with the rude person, I’m saying that you should not do so expecting to receive a different treatment from him/her. This will make it easier for you to manage the situation. Imagine that this rude person is never going to change his/her behavior, ever. How are you going to handle him/her? What are you going to do about his/her rudeness?
Continue on to Part 2: How to Deal with Rude People – Tips #5 – #10
Image: Finger tips