I ventured out for a walk at work the other day excited to enjoy a relaxing hour listening to birds chirp and indulging in the warmth of the bright sunshine. Well, what my ears heard and my eyes saw did not excite my senses as I had planned. In fact, the complete opposite happened because of a rude stranger. I think what made me more upset was not so much the rude behavior, but how I let it affect me. 

Rude Awakening

I began my beautiful walk around the university campus loop with a springy stride, swinging my arms and smiling broadly at the greenery and happy families passing me en route to a Lacrosse tournament. As I walked forward on a sidewalk that comfortably fits four people across, a family of four walked towards me. Mom walked on one side, the teens in the center (heads bowed as they thumbed on their cellphones) and the dad on the other side, directly in my path.

Side note: Pedestrian etiquette in America is to follow the rules of the road. Drive on the right-hand side of the road, walk on the right-hand side of the sidewalk. If you’re a large group, don’t hog the entire sidewalk. The person in the direct path of an oncoming pedestrian should move behind their party for safety reasons.

As I walked toward them, I expected the dad to abide by the pedestrian etiquette and move behind his family to allow for me, the oncoming pedestrian, to have room to continue safely on my current path. Well, as we neared each other, he was not moving. Here’s where I get a little stubborn. I didn’t move either. To move, I would’ve had to walk in the street, risking my life. He finally moved over at the last second.  And then, when I traveled a safe enough distance away from them, he yelled, “You could’ve said excuse me!”

Oh?! My inner defenses rose to the surface. As more derogatory words shot out of his mouth, I felt an urgent need to teach this man the rules. I wanted to yell back at him and ask if he’d allow a stranger to treat his daughters as he was treating me. But, even from the distance, I could see the smoldering anger rising from his aura as if he was right and I was completely delusional. In a flash, I envisioned a terrible scene where he launched that anger at me in the form of a fist and a shove into oncoming traffic. 

There would be no talking sense to this rude person.

What really got me was that he believed he was well within his rights to knock a woman into the street to make room for himself.  It boggled my mind. It still does. The clear and simple rule of society tells us to not be rude, yet, not everyone abides by it.

My biggest mistake was that I took his rude behavior personally. I allowed that man to ruin my mood instantly. I gave him that power. I can’t take back that time I lost concerned over the actions of someone outside of myself.

To take a stranger’s actions personally is futile.

What can we do when faced with rude people? Here are a few tips:

Check Yourself

In retrospect, could’ve you done something differently to prevent a person from reacting with rudeness? Perhaps I could’ve stated a friendly warning to alert him I was going to stay in my lane. In the future, I am likely to do this!

Stay Calm

Territorial defenses have an uncanny way of pushing sense out of the way to pave the way for righting a wrong. To prevent a loss of control, create a plan that you must count to five before allowing words to spill out of your mouth in such a situation. Giving yourself those critical seconds can help you be more proactive rather than reactive.

Control Your Actions

Realize that you are not responsible for another person’s actions. Therefore, you cannot control those actions. You can only control your own. You have one hundred percent control over how you react to someone’s actions. There is great power in that notion. You can choose to view the person’s rudeness as his/her problem, instead of yours.

Keep Your Dignity

The fastest way to escalate a situation and put yourself in danger is to give in to the urge to yell at someone who has been rude. Don’t let someone provoke you into a screaming match. Walk away from a rude person, even if he/she is still talking to or screaming at you. Take the high road! 

Stay Friendly

Don’t let someone else’s rude behavior turn you into someone equally as rude. A great way to diffuse an escalating situation is to respond with a kind heart, even if it feels incredibly ridiculous to do so. Sometimes a person may just be having a very bad day and you’re unfortunately in the firing zone. This is a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, perhaps by being friendly, you can help the person calm down and actually help him/her right a wrong.

Over to you. Do you have a strategy that has been successful when dealing with rude people?