How to Graciously Deal with Rude People

Teenagers using cellphones over coffee
Ignoring the person you are with is rude. Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

Rude people are everywhere, so it's essential for gracious, polite people to know how to deal with them. However, it's often difficult to maintain your own manners when someone else is disrespectful.

While it would be nice to avoid them altogether, it's impossible in some situations. So you need to figure out a strategy of how to behave around them. There are quite a few different ways to handle these people.

An Eye for an Eye

You can always be rude right back, right? But think about it. That will get you nowhere and is likely to create unnecessary drama.

Remember that you don't have to match the person's rudeness. You can be your kind, mannerly self without allowing them to run all over you. It takes some self-restraint and practice, but taking the high road is almost always the best thing to do.

Why There's More Rudeness Now

It seems as though more people are making less of an effort to put their best foot forward. It may be because they're lazy or have watched too many meltdowns on reality TV, with people yelling obscenities at each other and ripping people apart. Even family members call each other names that were once reserved only for the crudest, least polished people in society.

Another form of rudeness is ignoring the person you're with or leaving them out of the conversation. Cell phones have overtaken personal interaction and can render someone rude if they text or take calls when they should be enjoying they person they're with.

How to Deal with Rudeness

When you encounter rude people, do your best to maintain your dignity. That might make them madder, but only you have control over your own behavior and how you deal with them. Never blame yourself for other people's lack of respect for people.

No matter how you act around others, they own their behavior just as much as you own yours. And whatever you do, never let the other person's bad behavior provoke you into acting out or throwing your own temper tantrum.

Here are some ways you can try to deal with them:

  1. Show empathy and sympathy. This requires understanding why the person is being rude. For example, if someone hollers at someone else in public (even you), you might mention that you've had rough days too, and you totally understand how he's feeling. Chances are, that won't calm down someone who is rude to the core, but if it's a momentary lapse in manners, he'll probably apologize. Accept it and move on. If he gets angrier, let it go. There's nothing you can do to stop him or make him behave.
  2. Call the person out on his behavior. If someone you can't get away from is consistently rude to you, have a conversation and address the issue. Ask him if he realizes that the things he says or does show a lack of respect for others. He might not realize he's being rude. If he cares, he'll apologize and try to be more polite. If he doesn't, then you need to avoid this person. If he's a coworker or next-door neighbor, it's difficult to completely stay away from him, but you can limit your contact as much as possible.
  3. Don't give airtime to the rude person. This means discussing his behavior to others. Chances are, nothing you say will change things, and it might even come across as gossip, which is also rude. If someone comes to you to talk about Mr. Rudeness, say that you understand and sympathize, and then try to change the subject. Discussing his behavior with other people might make matters worse and blow the situation out of proportion.
  4. Avoid the rude person. Sometimes it's best to just walk away. If the person is still saying impolite things or acting out, his lack of an audience will diffuse the situation. If the rudeness is more of a habit, he might realize it's time to make a change if everyone is walking a wide berth around him.
  5. Offer extra kindness. This might be difficult or even impossible if the rudeness is more than you can bear. However, if you are able to keep your head up and set an example, sometimes the other person will eventually calm down and follow your lead. Don't count on this happening, but it might be worth a shot if you don't have a choice but to be around him. Rarely can one person change another unless the second one is open and willing to be objective about his own actions.

Rudeness Doesn't Pay

Even though it often seems as though the rudest people get what they want, in the long run, they suffer. Rudeness at work might cost them a promotion or even their job. Friends will eventually quit calling. And family members might "forget" to send that person an invitation to the next big event