How to Deal With Rude People

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?

Be the reason

Wishing you the very best,

Suzie Carr, novelist

17 replies
  1. Lara
    Lara says:

    If I made a mistake I will own up to it and apologize and walk away to avoid conflict. But when it come from someone who just can not help themselves and feels it is their duty to publicly berate me. It is best to have a blind eye and a deaf ear, but when it follows you the only thing I can do is to avoid eye contact and look for a way out.

    • Suzie Carr
      Suzie Carr says:

      Hi Lara, same here. If I was wrong, I’d apologize. Although, it might take me a few minutes or even days to realize it… Part of me is still fretting about this because here I am still thinking about the guy and hoping he has had time to realize he was wrong. I completely agree, a blind eye and a deaf ear are the safest and smartest ways to respond.

  2. Scott Fornwall
    Scott Fornwall says:

    You did the right thing. The whole family are a pack of inconsiderate assholes.

    Forget about the “rules”… common decency would have had one or more of the family members to move over a little to let a walker going in the opposite direction go by.

    I’m glad you didn’t possibly let things spiral to a place where you might have gotten hurt.

  3. Amy Berger
    Amy Berger says:

    Unfortunately, I am reminded often that many adults haven’t the first clue how to take responsibility for their own shiznit. It’s hard to know if he was having a bad day, or if he was an Alpha. Alpha’s, well, they are so predictable. Personally, I would have knelt down in his path to tie my shoe, making a point without direct confrontation. When Alphas are confronted head on, they can’t resist lashing out. It’s all about winning for them; which makes them easy to bait. To be honest, I recently had a situation at work where by a former manager lashed out at me after having been on the losing end of a “mediated difference of opinion.” I saw it coming, I baited him in such a way that I was able to document his behavior and forward it to the senior director who happens to be a woman. He dug himself into a hole, and I just gave him a shovel. I completely understand fretting about other people’s bad behavior; the sad part is many of them never learn and that is hard to swallow. Personally, after many years of learning emotional intelligence, I try to keep it under control until that limit is reached. Then, I pick my own battles, and if someone truly comes after me, I go for the throat. Ug…..saying that out loud, I am evil. 🙂 Oh, well. I accept me for who I am, and I do try to be the best person I can be each day. May your weekend get better and let’s all accept the jerks for what they are, jerks.

    • Suzie Carr
      Suzie Carr says:

      He totally sounds like an Alpha. OMG I wish I would’ve thought to kneel down and tie my shoe. I will use that next time! (I really hope there isn’t a next time, though!)

  4. Marcey Ruiz
    Marcey Ruiz says:

    I bet the man was having a bad day. Teens in their own world, no family communication. He took it out on you, dwelling on it just passes on negative energy. Wish him good luck. Easier said then done.

  5. Isobel McCauley
    Isobel McCauley says:

    I am sorry that this spoiled your equilibrium, Suzie. In my opinion this ‘plonker’ was angry with someone/something, and was taking his frustration out on you.Folk like this don’t expect to see you again and probably don’t care about your feelings or what you think of them. It is better and safer to walk away from this type of confrontation than to be a victim.
    It is hard not to react, or to get riled up, when we have been treated with such disrespect and it can rankle all day if we let it.
    I am reminded of an incident a few years ago when I was looking for a parking space and time was passing for a course I was attending. I went in circles round the busy car park and eventually saw a woman approaching her car with shopping. I pulled up and indicated that I was going to pull in to the space when she reversed out. The next minute a car came from the other direction, and as she pulled out this guy went right into the spot. He saw me waiting and indicating but did not care, he was having the space. I was incensed to say the least! He and his wife got out of the car laughing at me and off they went. I circled until I eventually found a place, then went promptly back to where he parked. I make no apology for letting the air out of his tyres. I went off to my class feeling great! If I had not taken my ‘revenge’ I would have festered all day. I understood the meaning of the cliche, ‘revenge is sweet’ In my case it certainly was!

    • Suzie Carr
      Suzie Carr says:

      Thanks for sharing that moment Isobel. I smiled when I read about the air release. It was sweet revenge. You didn’t hurt anyone, just taught a lesson without putting yourself at risk. I would’ve likely done the same thing!

  6. Lavit Patricia
    Lavit Patricia says:

    Stay calm and self control is not always easy but it is the wisest and most intelligent attitude to follow! Good advice Suzie:)

    • Suzie Carr
      Suzie Carr says:

      You’re right on that one, Pat. It is not always easy to stay calm and in control. Best to have a plan ahead of time for dealing with moments like this. Like guiding rules to follow… (i.e. when this happens, I will take 5 deep breaths before opening my mouth… or I will instantly think of something that makes me really happy, so the negative moment can’t infiltrate my mind.)


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