You know those people who are total pains-in-the-hindquarters? Do you wish you could literally zap them out of existence, a la Red Skull in “Captain America?” The only trouble is, if you did that, half the world’s population might vanish!
Bad jokes aside, it’s an unfortunate fact that rude people are absolutely everywhere. Whether it’s the guy in the next cubicle who brings smelly lunches to work, or the girl next door who blasts loud music ’til the wee hours of the morning, these people can wear you down in no time.
Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with it. You don’t have to stress yourself out because of other people’s shenanigans. Next time you feel your hackles rising around them, take a step back and:
Try to Empathize With the Person
There are a gazillion possible reasons why someone could be rude. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they have anger management issues. Or, maybe they really, really need to go to the bathroom, and you just happened to get in the way.
Regardless of the reason (or the lack thereof), try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume their rudeness has nothing to do with you, unless they say otherwise. That way, it’s easier not to act on your knee-jerk instinct to do something you’ll regret.
Offer to Help
Remember that time you were so frustrated you couldn’t even be bothered to say “Thank you” to the lady at the grocery store? Chances are, Mr./Ms. Rude is going through something similar. When people are under stress, good manners are usually the first to go.
Try testing the waters. Say something like, “You seem to be angry about something. Is there anything I can do to help?” You may be surprised at how receptive they’ll be when you show you care about their feelings, and that you’re sincere about your offer.
Tell Them Off (Politely)
Then again, maybe they’ll tell you to “mind your own business” (or something more colorful) instead. In that case, don’t hesitate to be more assertive.
Take a deep breath and say, “Okay, I understand it’s none of my business. But if I’m being honest, [insert rude act here] really got on my nerves. At the very least, please tell me why you did what you did.” You can also give criticism, but do it kindly and constructively.
Avoid Trying to Change Them
Remember: You can’t change people the way you change your gadgets’ batteries. If someone has had a chip on their shoulder since childhood, it’s not likely they’ll turn into Mr./Ms. Manners overnight.
You can listen to what they have to say — when they’re willing to say something. But as much as possible, let them solve their problems like the adult they are (or should be). Who knows? They might come around, ask for your help and apologize for their rudeness while they’re at it!
Sometimes, no matter what you do, rude people will be rude. If, despite your best efforts, they continue to be less-than-pleasant, or their behavior changes for the worse, you’d probably want to leave them alone. You may feel “weak” for choosing to walk away, but if you value your safety and sanity, it’s the best you can do.
Rude people don’t have to get the best of you. When dealing with them — and other kinds of people who have grating personalities — it helps to remember this Wally Lamb quote: “Change what you can, accept what you can’t, and be smart enough to know the difference.”
Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated tosharing advice on all things career. Follow her on Twitter @SarahLandrum for more great tips!