The Perfect 3-Word Response To Someone Who's Rude To You

Crafting the perfect comeback to a rude comment can make you feel powerful, but as your parents and teachers probably told you when you were younger, two wrongs don't make a right. Still, letting a critical or nasty remark slide can sometimes make things worse. An annoying bully at work or jealous frenemy might take your silence as permission to keep being rude. Or, more importantly, a friend or loved one you actually want to keep in your life may never learn that their words made you uncomfortable, unless you confront them directly.

Finding a middle ground between responding aggressively and playing passive is key, according to Sara Jane Ho, an etiquette expert and star of Netflix's "Mind Your Manners." Ho explained how to quickly clap back at rude people in a CNBC Make It article, and her advice is completely genius. Her go-to, three-word response is effective at shutting down negative comments quickly and with a bit of sass, to boot.

Ask rude people this simple question

Being on the receiving end of rude comments about your appearance, personal choices, and other touchy topics can feel awkward and even humiliating. Thankfully, with Sara Jane Ho's advice, you'll always have a nice way to deal with mean people. The response she suggests: Ask, "Are you okay?"

As an etiquette expert, Ho isn't advocating for being rude or sarcastic in response. She explained that the three-word question should be asked in a gentle, friendly manner. "I'm not being offensive back," she noted. "I'm coming from a place of care and that is usually to put the other person in check."

Ho also added that the question may be most appropriate when the person who made the rude comment is a friend or someone you're close with, rather than a stranger or a colleague. In those cases, she said, it's okay to say nothing at all and let them reflect on their behavior in their own time. After all, self-reflection is key to a good relationship.

Why the response works

Asking "Are you okay?" with genuine concern puts you in the safe zone from an etiquette perspective — you're conveying that you won't tolerate the mean remark in a way that doesn't sacrifice your composure. On top of that, the question also gets the stamp of approval from therapists and psychology experts.

In a viral TikTok video, Kimberly Moffit, a relationship therapist, offers a tactic similar to Sara Jane Ho's, calling it the "Tom Cruise Method." She references an incident in 2005 where actor Tom Cruise was squirted with water by a red carpet reporter, to which Cruise responded by repeatedly asking, "Why would you do that?" "Asking questions calls out the behavior and brings attention to how ridiculous it is, making them look stupid," Moffit explains in the TikTok clip. Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist, agrees with this approach. "You can respond with a question of your own that highlights the absurdity or tactlessness of their words," Lurie explained to PsychCentral. "In doing so, you might also just prompt them to consider their intention and the harm caused, even if their intention wasn't to cause harm."

When you turn the tables and start asking questions, it also paves the way for setting clear boundaries in any relationship. After the rude person has had a moment to think, clearly state your expectations and needs going forward. After all, if anything can stop meanness in its tracks, it's self-respect.