3 Strategies that Work with Rude People

By | November 10, 2014

Kool Derby

Not a day passes that you don’t experience a rude situation with someone. You might encounter the crazy driver who cuts you off, the cashier who looks at you funny because you have several more items than the 10 allowed in the fast lane, or a co-worker who embarrasses you in a meeting because your report is missing pertinent information.

Of course, you can also be rude. You sometimes ignore others when they ask a question, or complain to the waiter because your chicken fried steak is late in arriving. The pressure of the day takes its toll, and you find it easy to take it out on others. In fact, being rude is so common that you are often surprised when someone is nice to you.

I know a little about rude behavior. You see, for more than 20 years I officiated Div. I men’s collegiate basketball games. The coaches are looking for an edge, and they often try intimidation tactics that hardly work. The fans, who are sometimes intoxicated, scream ridiculous stuff at the referees. Interestingly, I think fans are accustomed to acting rudely, and they often use the same approach in their everyday life.

#1: Keep a polite attitude.

The best thing you can do when someone loses his cool is to remain calm. I understand that it’s tough to do because you want to tell him a thing or two. Recently, an intoxicated passenger became upset when my backpack was directly in front of his First Class seat. There was no overhead space in the immediate area, and I was waiting for passengers to find their seats, allowing me walking room to find space for my bags.

He said, “Come on, man. Move that bag!”

In most cases, I would tell this passenger to go “Fly a kite!” In fact, I would probably raise my voice and tell him to go to H*#L! But, for some reason, I was able to keep my cool this time, and I responded: “Sorry, I’m trying to find a place for my bags.”

The drunk mumbled a few incoherent words, sat down, and ordered a cocktail. I grabbed my backpack, found a place for it, and retreated to my seat. The polite approach calmed the situation, and the rest of the flight was uneventful.

#2: Agree with the rant.

Here are a few Dale Carnegie tactics to managing an irate individual:

  • “I’m so sorry. Did I offend you?”
  • “Please ignore me if I was inconsiderate. That was not my intention.”
  • “I apologize for overlooking that information. It won’t happen again.”
  • “I didn’t see you in line. Let me find my place.”

In some cases, you are wrong, and in some you’re not. Really, though, it’s not worth making a big deal out of it. Appease the person and get back to living.

#3: Try to understand the rude person.

People are under tremendous stress today. That doesn’t give them the right to be rude to you, but you have to be bigger than the situation. I remember the woman who walked into the dry cleaners where I was dropping off my clothes, and said:

“Who left their car on outside?”

“That’s my car, ma’am,” I responded.

“Well, you know that if that car is stolen,you can be cited for contributory negligence.”

“No, ma’am.” I was unaware of that law.

She was trying to feel important. My guess is that she recently heard it on TV, or possibly read it in the newspaper. Regardless, this was her time to shine, and I could tell the five customers in the store were amused with her newfound “legal knowledge.”

Managing rude people requires that you avoid trying to prove them wrong. Instead, you need to remain calm, and look for ways to resolve differences in a non-confrontational manner. You will feel much better by walking away and knowing you were bigger than the situation.

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