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When people aren’t very nice…

When people aren’t very nice…

Some ideas on how to stay calm and focussed when your patience is wearing thin


My last blog was all about positive thinking and focussed mainly on the methods that may help to maintain a positive mindset. But sometimes maintaining a positive attitude can be really difficult, especially when you come across rude or obnoxious people.


Some people seemingly just know exactly how to push your buttons and want to try their hardest to provoke a reaction and some people are just obviously having a bad day and taking it out on you.  Then there are those people who are just overly negative or toxic and that is a bit more tricky to deal with because it creeps up on you over time and then there are people that you can’t quite work out what it is they do to annoy you, apart from maybe breathe!  (I know that I probably fall into that last category for a lot of people but hey ho you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea).


I think for me, knowing that I have control over how I react to a situation and that I can choose to stay calm and maintain my cool is the most helpful thing to think about.  People are entitled to their perspective and views whether or not you agree with them and you are entitled to totally ignore them and not let it affect you or your day. If someone is rude, it really is their problem not yours. You don’t have to be drawn into any argument.


I think it’s also helpful to think that we are all human, sometimes we are just having a really bad day. You never know what is going on for someone and so try not to judge or assume that they are necessarily a bad person. Most people are just reacting in the moment, they are just doing their best to cope with what life is throwing at them at that point in time. And I for one, can’t say I have never been rude myself, as much as aspire not to be.


You could try an offer of help if you think someone is struggling, sometimes a friendly smile or a listening ear is all someone needs to turn from rudeness to being grateful for some help. And sometimes you need to rethink your own behaviour, did I inadvertently provoke that reaction?  Do I need to think about explaining something better or change my approach to get a better response?  Meeting rudeness with a kind response is often the best way to break the cycle. It’s a bit like karma as well, if you are rude to someone, most likely you’ll get a rude response.


What if you are dealing with a rude person in the workplace? Sometimes there is a very fine line between what might be perceived as rudeness and bullying behaviour.  Rudeness can damage staff morale and team performance and if you don’t deal with it, it can become embedded in your workplace culture.  Rudeness can mean different things to different people. For some it can be being too sharp or direct and for others it can be making inappropriate remarks or calling people out in front of others.


One of the most important things is never to condone it in the workplace.  If you ignore the behaviour, you are sending out a signal that you accept it. Even if the person is under a lot of stress, you can still ask to discuss it with them. I would always do this somewhere private, making sure that you give the person a chance to explain their reasons for their rudeness but also to point out the impact that their lapse in behaviour had on yourself or on the rest of the team. This needs to be managed in a sensitive way but you need to be really clear that type of bullying or rude behaviour will not be tolerated again.


What if the person being rude is your manager? Personally I don’t think that should make any difference, and in a more flat organisational structure I don’t think it would, however, I do understand that for some people there is a power dynamic at play.  Just as you would with anyone, you can try and find out the reasons for the rude behaviour so that you can deal with it from a place of understanding.


Try to respond differently so you break the cycle of rudeness and keep a positive mindset.  However, if the behaviour continues you may well need to seek help from another manager or HR.  Your organisation has a responsibility to provide everyone with a safe environment to work in and most organisations will have an anti-bullying policy.  ACAS research has found that incivility and low-level rudeness in the workplace can be precursors of bullying.


People can’t push your buttons if you are more aware of them.  If you become aware of what triggers you emotionally then you’ll have more chance of not being dragged into a downward spiral and having your mood impacted.  You’ll be able to spot the signals and know when to put some distance between you and them.  Go and get some fresh air or have a coffee or tea break and give yourself the mental space you need to regain clarity.


This works well if you need to keep your emotions in check also, so that you don’t end up being rude or aggressive in response to a frustrating situation or rude behaviour.  Always calm down before you reply to an email that has wound you up.  Breathe, take a walk, meditate, whatever you need to do to get to a place where you can communicate more effectively and give yourself a chance of putting things into perspective first.  I always think of asking myself the question, will this really matter in five years time? If the answer is yes, which is rare, then it’s worth putting a bit more effort into ensuring that the outcome of the communication is the best it can be. If the answer is no, then you can just choose to ignore it and walk away.


Rudeness is a weak man’s imitation of strength – Edmund Burke