Many people just ignore rudeness, perhaps because they’re afraid a minor quarrel could escalate, or because an affront happens so quickly they don’t have a chance to react. As the pace of modern life speeds up, rudeness seems to escalate, too. It’s OK to stand up to rude behavior as long as you don’t respond in kind. Staying cool is the best way to make a point, and perhaps your good manners will be contagious. Here are some guidelines for responding to rude behavior—or not:
Give the offender the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps he’s having a really bad day. Forget about how annoyed you are by imagining what he might be going through—the sting of a recent confrontation, financial troubles, an ill spouse. Or it may just be that he’s completely clueless about the impact his behavior has on the people around him.
Size up your annoyances.
Will it accomplish anything to make a stink about the person who’s using a credit card at the “Cash Only’’ register, or will it just be a waste of your emotional energy?
Set a good example.
Rudeness begets rudeness. If you speak sharply to a bank teller, don’t be surprised if you get the same treatment in return.
Encourage a positive response.
When someone’s behavior makes you angry or causes you difficulty, devise a thoughtful way to engage the person so you can find a solution. Saying, “Mary your nasty perfume gives me a migraine!” probably won’t be as effective as saying something like: “Mary, I’m really sensitive to certain scents, and I’m afraid your perfume is giving me a headache. Would you mind wearing a little bit less to work? Thanks!”
Laugh it off.
Countering the comment, “You look awful!” with a sarcastic retort like “How kind of you to say so!” is preferable to “Well, you don’t look so hot yourself!” If you can’t come up with a friendly joke, just chuckle and change the subject.
Lets see how this works in a few specific instances:
My cube-mate at work talks so loudly on the phone that I can’t concentrate. How can I nicely ask her to tone it down?
It’s all in how you deliver the message. You might want to wait until you’re on the phone, too; then put your own call on hold and say, “Jane, could please lower your voice? I’m having a hard time hearing.” If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to be more direct. Say, “This cubicle setup is tough. I find it hard to concentrate because I can hear your phone conversations. Is it the same for you? We could try lowering our voices and see if that helps.” The next step: use earplugs-or ask if you can transfer to another cubicle.
I can’t stand it when people whisper in a movie theater-it’s distracting and rude. How do I shush them?
There’s nothing impolite about issuing one “Sshhh!” or a calm request of “Could you please keep it down? Thanks!” in a place where quiet is expected. You could also go get the manager, but you’d miss part of the show, and your departure and return might disturb others. Another obvious, if annoying, option: move to another seat, far from the noisemakers.
One of my coworkers doesn’t cover her mouth when she sneezes. Can I ask her to start doing so?
Absolutely. Sneezing into a tissue (or, if there isn’t one available, the inside crook of the elbow) is basic good hygiene, not to mention common courtesy. Next time it happens, hand her a box of tissues and say, “I know you’ve been suffering with a cold, and I’m hoping we can keep it from spreading. Thanks!” If she doesn’t get the hint, add, “Covering your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze will help prevent the spread of germs.”