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How to Talk to Rude People

Updated on September 18, 2011

An Onslaught of Bad Manners

There are so many potential sources of stress in our lives: our jobs, money, family, politics. Dealing with a rude person nosing into our affairs is usually the last thing we need, and yet it happens so often. Sometimes it feels like everyone is obnoxious. Sometimes it feels like the world is populated by ubiquitous rude jerks, just waiting to pounce on our smallest goof-ups, from a typo on a memo to a forgotten turn signal. There are countless people who are ready and willing to be our judge and executioner, given the opportunity.

Given how many rude people you run into on a daily basis, it's important to take a step back and analyze how best to handle them. You wouldn't go on an exotic hunt without knowing the habits of your prey, nor should you venture out into the wilds of society without knowing the ins and outs of the rude folks who will cross your path. They are a stealthy and formidable foe; without proper training, you'll fall victim to their disregard.

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Recognize the Heart of Rudeness

The one thing that defines all rude people is that they like to ambush. Rude people prefer to pounce when you're unaware that you're even on the radar. Truly rude individuals think things like "I'll show him" just before they circle in for the kill, and the best way to "show you" is to surprise you with an affront. If you think about many of your interactions with rude people, you'll see that it's true. Sure, they'll justify their surprise attacks by figuring that your oblivion is the very reason for their rudeness, but that's not true. The truth is that individuals with poor manners seek out moments when others aren't paying full attention because it reduces the risk of a logical, directed response.

This plays out in a variety of ways. At work, that off-putting woman down the hall loves to suddenly chime in with "I wish I had so much spare time!" right when you click on The Onion; at the grocery store, that nosy neighbor likes to sidle up to your cart and quickly snipe about the Ding Dongs you bought for your kids; even at home, a fellow board member loves to call consistently at dinner time to complain about your lack of devotion and your commitment to the cause. Online forums provide glorious shelter for "gun-and-run" rude people: every site has a handful of posters who only write quick, scathing critiques of former posts, and then disappear when the discussion turns reflective. Sometimes, they'll even use rude emoticons that seem to suggest that their venom is playful. Ambushing others with bad manners is never playful.

No matter where you find them, rude people prefer to go unnoticed until they strike.  This is pervasive enough to be used against them.

Responding to the Ambush

The best defense against those who prefer to ambush you with rudeness isn't to be prepared at every moment. No one can live like this; a 24-hour state of hyper-awareness would go a long way towards turning you into what you despise. No, the first cure for coarse ambushes is to have no reaction. If you are truly caught off-guard by a rude comment, don't respond at all. Don't be frustrated, don't lash out, don't get upset, don't get sad or embarrassed. Carry on as if it didn't happen, because rudeness feeds on emotion of any kind. Don't feed the animal, and the animal will die. Don't even feel anything about not feeling anything. This is counter-intuitive to living in today's society. We're so conditioned to have reactions to everything we encounter; having no reaction feels wrong to some people. It's not. Feeling and showing nothing is the first line of defense against ambush rudeness.

On the other hand, If you see the ambush coming, pounce first. This doesn't mean you should be rude to others before they get the chance to be rude to you. This isn't how you should choose to live (but it's likely the way many rude people began their campaigns). Instead, it means say or ask anything with assertion before the predator gets the chance to size you up properly. We've all had those moments when we know we're being stalked: when a peer is eyeballing our performance, or when a dinner guest is sniffing the appetizers. Before that neighbor at the store can utter a word about the junk food in your cart, ask her how her son is doing at college. Do it quickly and do it with authority. This takes most rude people off of their game plan; it takes the wind out of their sails. Either they'll answer or they won't, but either way, you're no longer the prey.


No Longer the Prey

If you're not prey, a rude person can no longer be a predator.  Redirect and control the energy level of a potentially rude conversation by asking pointed questions before there's any opportunity to be offended.  You may not be all that interested in the answers, but that's all right.  If the person had rude intentions, he won't be interested in the conversation, either.  Chances are your heart-to-heart will be short-lived and he won't bother with you in the future.  Shaking off the role of prey is at the heart of how to talk to rude people.

A Rude Person in Court

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    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      5 years ago from New England

      I understand your points, Beverly. I think, however, that many of us have been fed the idea that we can't actively ignore others. It takes strength and dedication to set boundaries for others without also pacifying them...this isn't a passive pursuit. The best thing you can do to deter rude people from preying on others is to contribute to "teaching" them that they aren't in control of other people's responses to them.

    • profile image

      Beverly 

      5 years ago

      "Rude people tend to need "food"; by not responding, you cut off their food supply and they'll go elsewhere to look for game."

      What you've posted is helpful, though I'm not always in a place to do what you suggest. This quote suggests that when we don't respond, we're not addressing the behavior, we're deflecting. Then the person is likely to go off to prey on someone who may not actually be able to cope well with their predatory behavior.

      I'm in that kind of position, but I'm also looking at finding out what I'm able to do in order to make it a bit more difficult for these people to move on to do this with others. That's my goal, anyway .... passive behavior isn't necessarily better than passive-aggressive behavior, in my experience!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      6 years ago from New England

      Thanks, NateB11. I appreciate your comment.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 

      6 years ago from California, United States of America

      Really good insight into the behavior of predator rude people and how to handle them. I've dealt with them and know that you are very accurate in your observations about them and how to deal with them.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      izettl, I don't think I have a passive-aggressive bone in my body. Then again, maybe I'm just kidding myself! Rude people tend to need "food"; by not responding, you cut off their food supply and they'll go elsewhere to look for game. Thanks for reading.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 

      7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I usually respond with sarcasm of some sort, perhaps a little passive-aggression thrown into the mix. either way, this was a great hub- I read every word and I never thought of not repsonding. Actually I mostly smile as if they just made my day or won idiot of the year award.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Thanks, viveresperando! I'm so glad!

    • viveresperando profile image

      viveresperando 

      7 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

      enjoyed reading this hub!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Thank you, Resilientmindz. I 'm glad to have your support.

    • Resilientmindz profile image

      Resilientmindz 

      7 years ago from Bay Area

      Love this hub! Thanks.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Thanks, mojefballa, that was short and sweet! Much appreciated!

    • mojefballa profile image

      Ikeji Chinweuba 

      7 years ago from Nigeria

      great hub, well written.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Thanks, ejazahmed2609, I appreciate your comments!

    • ejazahmed2609 profile image

      ejazahmed2609 

      7 years ago from Abu Dahbi, UAE

      thank you. great tips from your side. Also I wish more people could act upon these advises

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Montecristo, sometimes it seems as if people feel they must be as rude as others. I don't understand why some people neglect to see that we are the product of our own efforts. if we're rude to others, regardless of whether they're rude first, we become what we detest.

    • montecristo profile image

      Angel Caleb Santos 

      7 years ago from Hampton Roads, Virginia

      Great advice. I wish more people could follow your advice. Voted up!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Wow, LindaDeal, it sounds like you've been having a rough time. You don't want anyone, never mind a rude person, in your head that much. Take a deep breath and be proactive. Either ignore him and let him burn himself out, or take him off guard by greeting him before he greets you. Take care...I'm sorry it's been tough for you.

    • LindaDeal profile image

      Linda Phillips Deal 

      7 years ago from Catoosa, Oklahoma

      I am so glad I saw this hub. Being treated to a rudeness ambush is the worst thing. It happens nearly every day at work. I get so upset and have trouble calming down. This guy has had way to much time in my head. I am relieved to know I don't have to live like that any more. Thank you very much for sharing.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      MartieCoetser, thanks for the great feedback and thanks for the link. I appreciate your support!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent hub about rudeness, and excellent advice: Don’t react at all, or strike first with a kind question that could encourage the rude one to explore and expose the good in him/her.

      I’m sharing this hub with my beloveds, voted UP in all ways and linking it to my own hub about rudeness.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      No problem, Literary Geisha (love your name, by the way!). Yes, getting defensive only feeds other people's poor manners. We have an obligation to ourselves to stay composed.

    • Literary Geisha profile image

      Literary Geisha 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      great hub, very useful advice you got there! sometimes we forget to use our better judgment when dealing with rude people because mostly we get all defensive. thanks for sharing!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Gypsy Willow, I'd give you the same advice if you were on safari. ;) Seriously, it's good advice for any situation.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      I will not be prey. Thanks for the heads up!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Stacie L, I so agree with you. I always try to remember that other people's antagonism is coming from some kind of pain or anxiety. I think teaching has helped me with that. Everyone has a story.

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      7 years ago

      a lot of rude people appear to be bullies and insensitive,but many are suffering from anxiety that exhibits itself in this manner.

      I'm not saying to stand up to them but there's usually an ear behind the attacks

      good hub!;-)

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Thanks, optimus, but change that "u" to an "a"!

    • optimus grimlock profile image

      optimus grimlock 

      7 years ago

      Killem with kindness and be polite rude people hate that! another great hub shogun!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Ashantina, we all have, right? It'd be tough to avoid rude people for this long. Remember: a quick, directed, slightly personal question, right out of the gate.

    • Ashantina profile image

      Ashantina 

      7 years ago

      It sounds like you been there done that..lol.

      I'll give this a try.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Hey, thanks, DIY. As I said above, I do think I need to add a bit to it, but it'll do for now!

      I meant what I said in the forums, too. Congrats on your views...that's a terrific start!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Ah! I guess I never looked close enough. It looks slightly like Grace Kelly, but then again not (cheeks are fuller). Ah, I'm bad at this. Who is it?

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 

      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      I need to copy this and put it on my office wall!

    • ladyjane1 profile image

      ladyjane1 

      7 years ago from Texas

      shogan thank you, its the same lady different picture. Cheers.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Vitamin Monkey, from one ape to another, thank you for reading. Feel free to stop by again sometime!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      ladyjane1, great to see you. I love how you rotate that avatar of yours. I never know who's stopping by to say hello! :)

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      thedutchman, thanks. The heading off at the pass technique works amazingly well. Cheers! :)

    • Vitamin Monkey profile image

      Vitamin Monkey 

      7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      good advice. thanks

    • ladyjane1 profile image

      ladyjane1 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Loved the hub and you made a lot of sense. Sometimes people are just bullies. Thanks for the tips and I happened to have seen this particular Peoples Court and I love when Judge Milian throws people out of her courtroom, it makes my day. Cheers.

    • thedutchman profile image

      thedutchman 

      7 years ago

      This article is nice. I like it. I'm thinking to try it too. Good Job.Keep it up.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Thanks, Ross. Do you run into a lot of rude people as a semi-pro trumpet player? Or did you mean a different job? :) I'd imagine anything to do with customer service must be the worst for running into rude people.

      Thanks for reading, and hope you're safe and sound over in Japan.

    • Ross Harrison profile image

      Ross Harrison 

      7 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I love it! I could have used this advice quite a few times in my previous job. This is awesome stuff! Thanks for posting.

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      DIFH, a perfect quote for the article. This would apply far beyond dealing with rude people, wouldn't it?

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Niki Hampton, thanks for reading! I appreciate your comments.

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 

      7 years ago

      "Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances."

      -Thomas Jefferson

    • Niki Hampton profile image

      Niki Hampton 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      Definitely common sense info, but something we all need to be reminded us. The actions and attitudes of others can greatly affect us. It's so important to handle and remove ourselves from those situations in a positive way. Keep up the great hubbing!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Hey, TinaTango, I hope something here helps. In the future, I might include a more specific section on what to say at given moments. I imagine that you run into more than a handful of rude people working where you do.

    • TinaTango profile image

      TinaTango 

      7 years ago

      very useful article! I work at a pharmacy and it is very nice to learn these few tips!

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Ian, thanks. That clip is a hoot, isn't it?

      My plans include some expansion of this hub. It's ok as is, but I have some ideas for more sections.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Good hub. I really enjoyed it... and then came the courtroom scene. I've only played it twice, but there are several more plays to come.

      Thanks for lightening my day.

      Ian

    • shogan profile imageAUTHOR

      shogan 

      7 years ago from New England

      Thank you, cathylynn99. :)

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 

      7 years ago from northeastern US

      great common sense advice. thanks.

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