How to Graciously Deal with Rude People

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Rude woman yelling at another woman. Glow Images, Inc./Getty Images

Rude people are everywhere, so it's essential for gracious, polite people to know how to deal with them. Remember that you don't have to match their rudeness. You can be your kind, mannerly self without allowing them to run all over you.

It seems to me as though more people are making less of an effort to put their best foot forward. I'm not sure if they're lazy or have watched too many meltdowns on reality TV, with people yelling obscenities at each other and ripping them apart.

Even family members call each other names that were once reserved only for the crudest, least polished people in society.

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 rudeness. 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.
  1. Call the person out on his behavior. If someone you can't get away from is consistently rude to you, have a conversation. 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.
  1. Don't give airtime to the rude person. What I'm talking about here is 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.
  2. 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 audience will diffuse the situation. If the rudeness is more of a habit, he might realize it's time to make a chance if everyone is walking a wide berth around him.
  3. 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.