11 Ways To Deal With People Who Are Rude To You

Rudeness is nothing new. With the age of the internet, we've even found ways to be rude to people that were previously unheard of. A survey detailed by Harvard Business Review expressed that rudeness is definitely getting worse all over the world. More than half of the respondents said they'd experienced rudeness two or three times per month, and they'd been seeing it in work environments from customers to employees, as well as customers being rude to other customers. If you scroll through the comments on any news site or any news posts on social media, you can get a first-hand look at how awful the rude comments and behaviors of people are becoming.

Clinical social worker and owner of Executive Therapy Solutions Sandra Raichart told KTNV Las Vegas, "The definition of rudeness is being uncivilized. Lack of manners. I think sometimes that, in and of itself, can be contagious." And perhaps it's that contagiousness of rudeness that is making it spread. Then again, smiles and laughter are contagious, so can't we use those in an effort to battle rudeness? When someone is being rude to you, no matter what setting it's happening in, there are multiple things you can do to deal with their behavior, from keeping the right perspective to keeping your cool.

Remember, it's not personal

The first step in dealing with rude people is understanding that it's not about you (even if it is). Even if you are accidentally or intentionally rude to someone else, that's not a reason for them to be rude back. Plus, sometimes someone can be rude to you over something as simple as miscommunication. To best deal with another person's rudeness, no matter the basis for it, understand that it isn't personal because how they feel is a reflection of themselves, not you.

"The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz explains this second agreement of not taking anything personally as a way to better understand ourselves — because how we react to someone's actions towards us speaks volumes, per Growthabit. If you realize that someone's rudeness toward you is about them and not you, you can manage things easier. You can stay calm and figure out what is going on with this person, or simply walk away from the situation. Even if you did do something, like accidentally getting in someone's way, there's no need for insults and anger; a simple "excuse me" from the offended person and an apology from you should be the end of the story.

Don't retaliate with rudeness

When someone is rude to us, sometimes our first thought is to be rude back to them. However, that's not the best way to respond. You may also find yourself wondering how to respond and get caught up worrying about why this person is being so rude to you. Organizational scientist Christopher Rosen said in a 2018 interview (via The Washington Post), "All that thinking lessens your capacity for impulse control. So you become more prone to be rude to others ... People, in a way, 'pay it forward.'" All being rude back does is make things worse and leads you down a path of rudeness all your own. Rather than fighting fire with fire, your first thought should be on staying calm. Then, think of a way you can kill their rudeness with kindness.

Sometimes when people are having a miserable day, they're unkind as a way to bring you down to their level — don't fall for it. There are things you can do that will keep the rudeness from getting out of hand and you may even be able to turn around their abruptness. You don't want to laugh at them inappropriately, but a gentle smile and a kind statement can often help, and will definitely go over better than saying something nasty right back.

De-escalate the situation

Sometimes even kindness isn't enough, and someone who is being rude to you will continue their tirade. If things are getting out of hand, there are things you can do to de-escalate the situation to keep things from getting worse. This is a tactic most of us learned when working in retail jobs, but you can learn it outside of that setting as well. 

Start by listening to what the person is saying — sometimes concern or confusion can come off as rudeness. Let them know you're hearing what they have to say by giving them your undivided attention and looking at them while they talk. Sometimes people just want to know that their concerns are being heard, and if that's the case, the rudeness may go away on its own. Of course, this tactic may not work for every person with a momentary bad attitude, but it will help you express more empathy toward others and even learn to be a better listener. 

The New South Wales Government revealed that you can also use body language to show that you're taking in what the irritated person is saying, such as nodding your head. The website confirms that if someone is being rude due to a moment of intense anger, it isn't likely to last. Practicing de-escalation techniques buys you time as the emotions pass.

Point out that they're being rude

Sometimes people don't even realize they're being rude. Perhaps the simple act of telling them their actions exude rudeness will be enough to help them find a different way to approach their issues. Of course, you want to watch how you bring this up. Just saying, "Hey, that is really rude," could send them into anger territory rather than defusing the situation. 

If it is someone you know and have a lot of experience dealing with, calling them right out about their rudeness could go over well. If it is a customer or someone you don't know well, ease into asking if they understand how they're coming off. Say something like, "I hear what you're saying, but the way you worded it sounds kind of rude — did you mean it to come off that way?" If they say yes, talk about why they wanted to come off as rude. If they say no, you can still continue the conversation to work things out, but perhaps also give them some tips on ways to not sound rude when expressing themselves.

Express your boundaries

Boundaries are important in all aspects of life. Licensed therapist Kati Morton describes boundaries to Byrdie as "limits we place on our relationships about what behavior we will and won't accept from other people." Nicole LePera, Ph.D., added that they are "the walls or clear limits that protect you from what feels inappropriate, unacceptable, and inauthentic," and that's how they protect us. While we may not be able to express our boundaries to strangers on the street, they are something we can portray at work, at school, and at home.

If someone in your life is being rude to you on a regular basis, setting boundaries may help put up that much-needed barrier that tells them their rudeness will no longer be tolerated. Even a rude customer offers you a chance to set boundaries with a simple, "I prefer if you don't speak to me in that tone of voice; can we discuss this in a calm manner?"

At work, share your preferred boundaries with your superiors and your peers, and don't be afraid to express new ones to them when new ones come up. People are always coming up with new boundaries — you can't know all of your boundaries until you experience things that annoy you or stress you out. When someone is rude to you, let them know that's not something you're willing to deal with and help them understand how they can approach you differently to avoid the rudeness.

Try a little humor

Humor is something that can work with some people and not with others. When you're dealing with a stranger, an attempt at humor could come off as being rude right back to them, whereas humor with a friend or romantic partner could quickly turn things around. You always want to individually judge each situation and use a tactic that feels right. 

The thing is, humor sometimes has a way of easing tense situations and dealing with a rude person can be tense, per HelpGuide.org. In fact, according to a 2021 study published in Current Research in Physiology, laughter can reduce stress and improve the overall quality of a person's life. The humor may help you feel better, as the person who just had someone being rude to them, and it could help change the day of the person in the rude mood as well. Most importantly, but sure that your act of humor isn't rude itself. Make light of the situation without making fun of the person themselves. The wrong joke could make things even worse, while making fun of yourself in this situation could have a better effect.

Find out if there's a misunderstanding

Sometimes rudeness comes from a place of misunderstanding. Someone may be rude to you because you didn't do something the same way they would have or they think you're taking too long to complete a project that they assumed would have only taken half that time. This can come from bosses, co-workers, clients, and even your significant other. They may be being rude, or they may not understand the process you're going through to get things done — so, communication is everything.

Start your conversation by asking them if they can explain to you what's aggravating them. This opens up the lines so that you can explain yourself, letting them know your process and how it is going to help them in the long run. Sometimes our rudeness shows when we're feeling impatient and when we don't understand why something is taking longer than we'd hoped it would. When you can tell and show the person where you're at and what the holdup is, they will often back off. If not, it could just be that they're more used to having control in their lives and this issue is making them feel less in control. It's not your fault, so your best bet is to just keep doing what you need to do to get done and then get out of their way.

Recognize your own rude behaviors

Just like we mentioned earlier, sometimes people are being rude without even knowing it, and it could be your own rudeness that sparked that rude reaction from someone else you encountered. It's time to check yourself and determine if perhaps some of your own rude behaviors are spurring rudeness around you. But how do you tell if you're being rude and not even realizing it?

While there are numerous things people see as being rude, some that are common in today's world include talking on your phone when you're in a public place or at work, and being on your phone nearly 24/7 no matter where you are. If your significant other points out that you spend more time looking at your phone than them, you may have a rudeness issue. An older one from before the days of smartphones is not looking at people when they're talking to you. This is a sign that you're paying attention and invested in the conversation, so if you're looking elsewhere, it's kind of rude. And if someone is talking to you, be careful not to interrupt them. Simple things like body language can make people think you're being rude as well. Crossing your arms, for example, can be interpreted as defensive, and physically closing yourself off from what they have to say, per PsychMechanics. Ask someone you talk to often to point out any of these, or other behaviors, they think are rude that you do. It'll be an eye opener!

Evaluate the situation

Now that you know some of the things that many deem to be rude behaviors, you should step back a moment and figure out if that person is really being rude, or did you perceive it differently than it was meant to come off? Before you speak up, ask yourself what it was that made you think they were being rude. Was it the look they gave you or the tone of their voice? We've all heard of resting b**** face, right? Well, some people also have resting b**** voice, and their tone can sound mean and rude when it's not really intended to be, per Urban Dictionary.

And now it's time for another lesson for Ruiz's "The Four Agreements:" Never assume. If you think that someone is being rude to you, ask them if they are. Assuming is doing no good for either of you. While it may seem weird to inquire if a stranger is being rude to you, it's the only way to know for sure. Of course, you can always choose to simply walk away and not worry about whether they were really being rude or not. What does it matter anyway? Unless it's someone you're dealing with regularly, rudeness easily comes and goes. When it's someone at work or at home, you can also choose to ignore it, or you can talk about it. Talking opens up the lines of communication where you can also start setting those boundaries!

You could always avoid them

While avoiding your problems doesn't really solve them at the core, it can be a good tactic to save your sanity when it comes to rude folks who just don't get it. If there is someone who is always rude to you or is causing a scene in a public place, even, you have the choice to just walk away and not even respond to them. If it's a customer, ask someone else on the team to handle it or talk to your manager before doing anything else. If it's a friend or family member, they too can be cut from your life — you are never obligated to keep someone in your life no matter what kind of bond you have, friendship or blood. If they are toxic rude people, get rid of them. It may not be easy at first, but it can help to improve your mental health (via Blunovus).

If it's a stranger that's being rude, perhaps someone you bumped into at the grocery store, it's even easier to walk away and ignore the situation altogether. Once again, especially in situations with strangers, you're under no obligation to hang around and take the abuse. If this is a case where you can't leave, say you got into a fender bender and the other person is being rude whether you're at fault or not, you can step away from them and let the authorities handle it.

Be sure to be empathetic

We've mentioned communicating with the person or people whom you perceive as being rude to you, but we also want to point out the importance of empathy in this situation. While some people are being rude just for the sake of it, others are doing it because of something else that's going on in their lives — often something they just haven't quite figured out how to deal with yet, and their confusion comes out as rudeness. Remember, you never know what someone is going through — their rudeness could have something to do with how their day is going. 

Take some time to get to know what the issue really is if it's more than just plain, everyday rudeness. To do this, we suggest a three-word response: "Are you okay?" While this can be a close-ended question that allows the person to simply say yes or no, it still opens up the line of communication and gives you a chance to get deeper into what is going on with this person. Even if it's a stranger being rude to you, these words could be enough for them to let loose of the things that have been bottled up inside them that they may not have had anyone else to talk to about. Or, at the very least, it will give them something to think about before they act rudely to the next person. Of course, when you ask this question, be ready to listen to the answer!