How do you deal with rude people?
February 27, 2015 3:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm really sick of dealing with rude people. Its like everywhere I go people are terribly rude and mean. Like people who are supposed to be doing their jobs and greeting you and being polite. I respect and treat people good but they are rude and condescending and it makes me so angry because I don't understand why they talk to me in such a way when I haven't done anything wrong.

Sometimes they would get angry at me out of the blue and for I don't know what reason??? This makes me want to punch them or tell them off as they were being ridiculously angry at me. How can I deal with it and not be boiling with rage? No wonder, I am becoming such an angry person.
When this happens to me, i don't know where to put this anger and annoyance. Like why am I wronged for something I did not do. Sometimes I internalize this anger and it stresses me a lot and gives me a lot of bitterness and annoyance for life. I do not know how to control that anger that was put on me and it affects me mentally and physically.
I know that rude people are everywhere and I will certainly come across them again but how do I learn how to live with as these rude people are not going to change.
I am tired of those rude and condescending people who don't treat me well. It takes a lot of energy and i constantly think about them and how i should have talked to them and even if i know it is not worth it, I waste too much fighting the injustices that can't be fought.

If it was a rude person who I meet only once, then I can ignore it but when there is someone who is rude to me at work, then it stresses me and makes me unhappy. Last year, I had a conflict with my supervisor and because she did not like me and got annoyed at me, we had an argument and I ended up losing my job. This makes me quite afraid of applying for jobs again as I keep thinking that I might encounter such mean people again. I know that there are mean people everywhere but I do not know how to react next time in a way that will help me to get along without conflicts.

Any advice is most welcome. Thank you.
posted by home to Human Relations (46 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
What are some day-to-day examples of the rudeness you're referring to?
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:27 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, rude people are everywhere, but they're the exception, not the rule. Although you had a conflict at work and I'm sure you've run across rude people, you need some help reframing your thinking.

I've dragged this out before, but I think this adaptation of David Foster Wallace's "This is Water" commencement address can be very useful when considering how we choose to view those around us. Sometimes we need to recognize that all we're thinking is how do others affect us, how they inconvenience (and are rude to) us, and when we're stuck in these views, it's impossible to recognize that most people are just doing their best, dealing with their own shit, and they're not out to be rude or horrible. Everyone has stuff. Watch the video, see if it helps. I watch it every now and again when I need an attitude adjustment.
posted by kinetic at 3:37 AM on February 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.
"What sort of people live in the next town?" asked the stranger.

"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

"They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I'm happy to be leaving the scoundrels."

"Is that so?" replied the old farmer. "Well, I'm afraid that you'll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. "What sort of people live in the next town?" he asked.

"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer once again.

"They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I'm sorry to be leaving them."

"Fear not," said the farmer. "You'll find the same sort in the next town."
Please believe that I mean this with empathy, because I've been there too. And I know from experience that if you assume bad intentions in people and are short with them, they'll do the same for you. But if you treat them with patience and don't assume the worst, they'll be a lot more pleasant. As the saying goes, if you meet five assholes in a day, odds are you're the asshole.

There's a lot of frustration in your post, and I'm guessing it's currently pre-loaded into the way you see the world. Most people don't want to punch other people, or get fired for yelling at bosses - and we're all in the same world and deal with the same types of people.

This is affecting your quality of life, and you should strongly consider therapy and anger management classes. Good luck.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:40 AM on February 27, 2015 [132 favorites]


I mean this in the nicest way possible, but are you sure you're not the one putting out the rude vibe? I know I have some days where it seems like everyone's a rude jerk, but, as the saying goes - you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole; you run into assholes all day, you're the asshole. On these days, I find taking a deep breath and recognizing that everyone's the protagonist of their own story and has their own problems going on can help; I try to give everyone a break and kill 'em with kindness. You might also benefit from therapy to deal with your internal feelings of anger and develop coping strategies.
posted by melissasaurus at 3:43 AM on February 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


All people everywhere are not rude to all other people all of the time. They just aren't. So first I would try to work out why this is your experience recently. You haven't given any examples, so I'll have a few guesses.

Do you live in a different culture, where you perceive normal interactions as ruder than they actually are? (I used to live in Russia, and goodness Russians can come across as abrupt to a British person! But then they find us circuitous and prissy, it's just different cultural expression)

Are you sensitive to people being rude to you, and now see it when it isn't intended? Not applying for jobs in case your new boss is rude does seem like you are over-reacting slightly.

Are you coming across as defensive/rude first, and triggering this response in other people? The fact that you "want to punch people in the face" suggests that might be an issue. Maybe this is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy - you expect people to be rude so you are defensive, they have no idea why you are doing this so read it as aggression, and so are abrupt.

Why does it matter to you if peole are rude to you? Why does it make you so angry? Their poor manners are not your problem. Do you have low self-esteem or depression or some other reason why it matters so much if some guy in a shop is having a bad day and takes it out on you? That doesn't reflect on you, he's a total stranger. It reflects badly on him. Don't be a doormat, but you don't need to lose your temper either. You can just roll your eyes, or leave the shop.

Have a think and see if any of these might apply. Regardless of the reason, if you want to try to avoid getting into so many arguments, you just have to remember that you can't control other people's reactions but you can control your own. With your boss, if they had been rude and you had ignored it, you would still have a job. It takes two people to have a fight. You can choose not to response, or even to be pleasant (after all, it is possible the person does not mean to be rude). There is no loss of face in being more relaxed, and your days will probably go more smoothly.
posted by tinkletown at 3:44 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


I suppose the classic therapy-esque response is that you can't control other people, you can only control your reaction to them. Lots of people are going to suggest therapy of some kind, so I'm going to suggest meditation.
posted by Leon at 3:45 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


How do you deal with rude people?

I give them the benefit of the doubt. In my mind, I may imagine something terrible happened in their morning. I feel sorry that they are sad enough inside to be that rude. I write about my feelings. I count and let time pass and try to measure things that truly matter. I kill them with kindness, because I have had my own rude and mean moments. I remember that we often hold others to higher standards than we hold ourselves (since we have a deeper understanding of our own motivations and make excuses for our own 'justified' actions). I try to see myself in the person's shoes, and often remember that I can't fully do that. I move on as quickly as possible. I make mistakes all the time and when I find myself being rude, I try to stop as soon as possible.
posted by maya at 3:51 AM on February 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


Man, these people sure are taking up a lot of space in your head; rent free.
Are these people minimum wage or service industry workers?
Maybe they're stressed out because they can't make a living or provide for themselves and their family on those wages.

I also always remember that everyone is going through a battle that I know nothing about.

If you go into a situation assuming rudeness, then that's what you will probably get.
I always go into a situation assuming kindness and that's what I give, no matter what I get.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 4:03 AM on February 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


I am you sometimes.

I try to understand that if the other person is rude, either they are having a bad day, or I am being over-sensitive - or both. If the rudeness is designed to "dominate" me or "put me in my place" - I either get very direct, or abruptly walk away. Usually I walk away. Sometimes my mouth gets the better of me, but rarely does that work out well, so I try very very hard not to speak up and look stupid or escalate anything.

Some people are really subtle, deft, and come from strength when navigating these situations. I often do not feel like I embody these characteristics, so my best response 99% of the time is to keep my big mouth shut.

But. My sense of self esteem or confidence is not rattled when someone is rude. It's annoying to me, absolutely, but it won't make me feel badly about myself.

When someone is rude, I recognize the are they asshole and try mightily not to jump down into that hole with them. Does that help?
posted by jbenben at 4:07 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


One tactic to deal with rude people is to view them as karmic challenges. Why, in the grand scheme of the fabric of things, was this particular rude person put in your particular path at this particular time? Meditate carefully for a moment on the lessons you are being taught. The classic response that somebody in this category might have is to shock the rude person with a display of genuine warmth and friendliness.

This is not at all easy to do - and if you have any problems with anger management then you will need to sort those out first.
posted by rongorongo at 4:23 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Like why am I wronged for something I did not do.

This, my friend, is life. Some people's version of this is beyond the scope of your imagination. So, I begin with that.

If I had a dollar for every time I have dealt with rude people, I'd be a wealthy woman.

For some, the tiny little bit of power they have over you in the circumstance is all the power they feel they have in life. They can be rude, and choose to do so. It's not personal towards you. It's not about you.

The end goal is to get what you want, so let that rudeness slide off your back, eat their crap for a brief moment, get your deed done, and get out. Go forth having built your character up by not punching someone in the face or being nasty yourself.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 4:38 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


No offense, but your anger response seems extreme. Even when someone is rude to me, I never jump to wanting to punch them. I can count on one hand the number of people in my life that I have wanted to punch.

Look, I don't know what your interactions with these people are like, but I am not open and friendly with most people. Even when I worked in the service industry, I was professional, to-the-point, and curt. Mostly people didn't care, but some people got really offended that I got right to the point and didn't pad my speech with a lot of social niceties - I would come up to them, ask "How can I help you?", and them direct them to the product, and people would tell me, "You don't have to be RUDE about it!" People also find me condescending when I tell them where they can find what they need, as if me having the information that they do not makes me think I am better than they are (it doesn't make me feel that way), and they respond with hostility. Might this be happening with you?

But honestly, I think if I had to interact with someone who responded with anger and a desire to punch me to my no-nonsense greeting, I might get angry too (or scared. Actually probably scared).
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:00 AM on February 27, 2015 [20 favorites]


They are working the job to get paid, not to be nice to you. They might even have conflicting goals from you. They may have sales quotas to meet that their job judges them on instead of how helpful they are to you.

Unless you are dealing with tipped employees, you don't pay them. Customer service isn't most peoples life long dream, they're just there to make money and do enough not to get fired. And they have to deal with customers all day, thats enough to get many people testy.

Interact with some bartenders/etc. They're really nice if you pay them to be nice.
posted by TheAdamist at 5:01 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Based on your ask, I agree with the other posters that it's an attitude that you're projecting.

I did my time in the service industry and as a service rep, I resolved to be the ray of sunshine in someone's interactions with the phone company. The more I did it, the happier I became in my job. It works that way.

I carried that attitude over to my life. I always greet the cashier and ask about her day. I smile at people,.I offer unsolicited advice if people seem perplexed about the difference between Hebrew National and Nathan's hot dogs. (Natural casings on Nathans.) I emit happy rays. Oddly enough I think I must live in the nicest place in the world because everyone is so nice and friendly to me.

So, rather than get upset by rudeness, try being nice, smiling, and understanding. If someone is rude to you, they don't mean it personally, it's just who they are.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:12 AM on February 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


Do you get this angry if you go out on a sunny day without a coat, and then it suddenly rains? Does that make you feel "wronged"? Does it make you want to punch somebody?

If not, then maybe you can try and see your communication mismatches as something like the rain, like a thing that happens and you deal with it, not like a personal slight.

Or you could see it as a game that you can play. See whether you can alter your own approach to customer service people, in order to get different results. Science experiment!
posted by emilyw at 5:12 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I assume the rude people I meet just really need to poop. Someone is short and impatient with me? Well of course they are, they have to poop and can't go because they have to talk to me. That's the worst feeling, needing to poop but not being able to, and thinking about it that way lets me have a bit more compassion and give folks the benefit of the doubt.

You can't change other people's behavior. You can only change how your respond to it.
posted by phunniemee at 5:16 AM on February 27, 2015 [39 favorites]


I must agree with the "when you expect the worst of people..." view. The only time I want to (nearly, and sometimes literally) punch people these days is when I'm on my bike. Why? Because I "know" everyone in this country hates cyclists. Thus everyone will clearly be horrible to me. And by GOD they are! *lol* (It's actually happened once or twice that someone shouted something at me and I gave them the finger, and turns out they were shouting something nice or helpful. Oops!)

(And yeah, your posts sounds inordinately aggressive. Try being overly nice and smiley one day, even if it feels fake. You might be surprised!)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 5:17 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also:

Last year, I had a conflict with my supervisor and because she did not like me and got annoyed at me, we had an argument and I ended up losing my job.

That's a losing game. Never argue with a supervisor unless there will be extreme physical or ethical consequences.

But mostly, yeah, if you get angry when people "doing their jobs" aren't "greeting" you, that's really your problem.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


When I was depressed, it seemed like everyone else was a rude and incompetent asshole, sometimes to the point of rage. That feeling was far more prevalent than overwhelming sadness.

(I also felt like that when I was extremely hyperthyroid so see if any of the other symptoms match...unlikely but it's worth 30 seconds of consideration.)
posted by barnone at 5:23 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'll also note that in college I knew someone who every day used to come into my dorm room to talk to my roommate to list the various ways she had been wronged and aggrieved throughout the day. How mean everyone was. How they were so rude and inconsiderate. Everyone! Every day!

She's probably the meanest, nastiest person I've ever known. Complete disregard for other people's feelings, and if you tried to have a constructive discussion with her she'd just bring it back around to the ways that other people affected her. It was always someone else's fault, always.

It's been nearly ten years since I had anything to do with this person, but every once in a while because of mutual friends I'll see a comment of hers pop up on facebook. Someone else's status update is an invitation for her to drop in and dump vitriol about everyone else. 10 years of adulthood later and everyone she meets, all day every day, mistreats her.

How exhausting.

If that sounds like it could be you, please strongly consider seeing a therapist to develop some coping skills for relating to others in the world.
posted by phunniemee at 5:26 AM on February 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
posted by akk2014 at 5:53 AM on February 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


This is an easier fix than you might think. Instead of having to change the world, you only have to change yourself, and not a lot, either, just a little, and you don't have to do it alone. Find a counselor in your area who can help you with anger management strategies. It will change your life. What you are describing is really pretty common. You sound frustrated and unable to hide your frustration. People are reacting to it. Once you work through your frustrations, you will be calmer and people will react to you in a more positive way.
posted by myselfasme at 6:03 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Your question reminds me of a friend of mine. She could have written this.

She and I have wildly divergent ideas about the service industry and how customers and service people should interact. From her perspective every service employee she meets isn't doing their job and is either being rude or wasting her time. Like Phunniemee wrote, it must be exhausting.

I'll tell you the same thing I tell her: If it is universal in your interactions, it is you and not them that is the problem.

“...how do I learn how to live with as these rude people are not going to change?"
You smile and move on through your day with placidity and without confrontation because your assumption that they are being rude is probably just that. It is something that you are creating that isn't real.

If it helps at all, as far as the service industry goes, one of the things I do when I feel like the waiter (or whoever) is actually being rude is keep this in mind:
A cultured and civilized person is judged by how they treat those working for them. To respond with rudeness or negativity to someone working for you (waiters, store clerks, &c) is vulgar regardless of the slight or oversight.
This, for me, puts my feelings and my reaction under my own control. It takes the power away from them.

As far as work and your supervisors go, I would take the Stoic tack. You are there to do a job. Do it to the best of your ability and let the rest fall away. It takes practice and thought to develop self-control like that. You aren’t there to question people who are hired to manage you and you aren’t there to have opinions or emotions. That sounds stronger and a little more classist than I mean it to, but it has helped me through a number of corporate gigs in my life. I have to add that it is also about 60% of the reason I run my own business now. Hard to feel slighted if your the one running the show.

And, yes: Therapy to learn how to cope with other people. If my friendship with the woman I mentioned can be of any example, start by asking what the common denominator is in all of your interactions. You don’t want to end up like my friend above. I love her for any number of reasons, but I am also the person all of her friends go to to sound off about all of the constant complaining she does. It is, indeed, exhausting.
posted by Tchad at 6:05 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


I get more of my life lessons from Seinfeld than is probably wise, but this is one that helps me a lot: there's an episode where someone steals Jerry's car, and Jerry calls his car phone and the thief picks up. Their exchange (at 1:00 in the linked video) is as follows:

Jerry: Did you steal my car?

Car thief: Yes I did.

Jerry: You did?!

Car thief: I did.

Jerry: That's my car!

Car thief: I didn't know it was yours.

I play this clip in my head any time someone I don't know is rude to me. Someone cuts me off in traffic? Well, surely they just didn't know it was me! A customer service rep is unfriendly? Bet they would've acted differently if they knew it was me. To me, there's something just silly enough about framing things this way that it helps me remember that most of this stuff is truly not personal, and that in turn helps me let it go. We're all just props in someone else's life and if they sometimes accidentally bump up against us, it really doesn't have anything to do with who we are as individuals.

And +1 to Ruthless Bunny's suggestion to emit happy rays, if you're up for that. The positive feedback loop you get when you make a point of treating people like the human beings they are - even if it's just making eye contact and being friendly to cashiers or waitstaff, for instance - really does feel great.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:05 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


No one is going to get punch in real life. I am not a violent person. I am saying this because to describe the extent of my frustration when I am wronged.

This is what happened at work with my supervisor:

I worked with her for less than 1 year and I treated her with respect.
One day, I received an email from a client and I couldn’t resolve it as I didn’t know the answer and I asked my supervisor and she didn’t like the fact that I asked her again. I told her that this is a new query that I have not gone through before and I cannot reply to the client if I don’t know the answer myself, while it is my responsibility to help the client. Since she couldn’t find the answer, she had to go and ask a colleague what to do with the query and eventually, got the answer and told me what to do. However, the next day, when I got to work, she got all angry at me and made those gestures with her hand and telling me that I wasted her time asking her the same question again and that I knew it already.
I believe that is it unfair - if she really knew the answer which means that I would have already have asked her this question before, then why is it that she had to ask the other colleague what to do with the accounts?
Also, last time she was telling me that it is okay to put in the records any urgent issues should we not be able to achieve our daily targets as long as we have a reason. I believe that this was a time when I needed help and even if her targets were lower on that day, she could have put less numbers and explained to the team leader why it was lower if she were to be asked. Moreover, I asked her for help as I thought it would be better to work it out and to confirm with her first as I was having doubts about the email. As she told me that I asked the same question again and should I ever forget or be unsure again, does that mean that I cannot ask her anymore and just proceed with the email on my own?
I also told her that if we couldn't reach an agreement, that it was better to either talk to the team leader or the manager as I could see that she was getting angry. I felt attacked and under the pressure at that time especially because it was unexpected and in the public. I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt. It did.
Another example is the time when I felt uncomfortable was when I was trying to compliment her and said that she looked good and asked if she went on a date during her weekend and she told me "no you're crazy!". It did not feel nice for me to hear and I thought maybe I should not say anything next time?
I told this to my manager and we had a discussion and because I was a contractor, my agent told me that it was better to start over as the work environment was becoming inappropriate. Thus, I was made redundant.
posted by home at 6:19 AM on February 27, 2015


Your narrative there is a lot of information that you've been holding onto for a long time. Here is a thing you need to learn and internalize: LIFE IS NOT FAIR. Seriously, if you have an expectation that it is, you will always feel inappropriately bad about how you're treated. This is not serving you well.

Some times you work with bad bosses. It happens. You learn to manage them because you need the job and that's how life works.

So if she started in on you, you could have just as easily said, "I really didn't know the answer, how should I handle this in the future?" What you did was escalate. Challenging, denying and annoying the fuck out of her. You were dispensable and you were dispensed with. Lesson learned. Don't do that again.

Now, why are you still letting this upset you? How long ago did this happen? It's a thing that happened, and now you need to move on from it. Hopefully you've learned that you need to be deferential and respectful to managers. Hopefully you've learned that if someone doesn't like you very much that trying to butter them up with compliments just comes off as creepy. I hope you've learned that as a contractor the most important thing is that you do the job and that you keep your head down.

Hanging onto bad feelings is unhealthy. It raises your blood pressure.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:37 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I know tone and context matter, but your "no you're crazy!" example sounds a little like you may be misinterpreting things. I'm not going to get into whether or not it was appropriate for you to ask her about dating in the first place (some people are going to find that intrusive, some will assume it's just small talk), but I think it's possible to interpret her response as "alack and alas, I never have a date, woe is me!" more than "what a jerk you are for asking."

So maybe it's worth stepping back for a moment when you feel that someone is being rude to you, and considering whether there are other possible interpretations of their behavior. I think most people do generally try to be decent human beings most of the time, and if you expect them to behave that way - as others have suggested upthread - you're more likely to interpret what they do in a less hurtful light.

And I keep wondering if there's an element of power dynamic at play here, too. Someone who gets angry enough to want to punch people (even if, per your update, you won't really do so) sounds to me like someone who feels like a) the behavior they've been exposed to is damaging them and b) they have no legitimate way of responding/managing this behavior. I think it would help to question both parts of this. Are there ways to distance yourself from what you perceive as rude behavior so that it doesn't hurt you? There are a lot of suggestions upthread for this; I think that reminding yourself that rude behavior is almost completely a reflection of the rude person and has nothing to do with you personally really helps here. Maybe look for resources on "detachment with love" - I think the "detachment" part would be useful to you. And as far as options for responding to rude behavior - well, take a moment and consider what you can do before you act, and I think you'll find that you have more options than are immediately apparent. It's often hugely helpful to me to remember that I don't have to respond right away. Sometimes after you've had a moment to think, you'll realize that the behavior truly doesn't affect you, and choose to let it go. If it's a customer service situation and someone truly is being hostile to you, you can document the incident and contact a manager. If it's your boss, you can pull back to assess the situation, figure out exactly what you need, and try again when everyone's had time to calm down. These are just a few examples but my point is that you do have options, and the more you practice effective responses to rudeness, the more manageable any rudeness you encounter will start to seem.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:41 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


You really need to go to therapy to learn how to deal with all this rage inside you. This sounds like a serious problem you have that no stranger will really be able to help you with over the internet. Most people don't walk around bubbling over with rage at every slight. Sure some people in stores are rude, but most aren't. You meet one once in awhile, you leave a bad Yelp review and move on with your life. It's not something that happens every day to most people.

Re: complimenting your supervisor's appearance and commenting on her love life: they were right that this was inappropriate of you to do, even though you meant well. You have now learned this is a thing one should never, ever do. Be grateful that you learned this lesson as a contractor and it was easily fixed by your agency, instead of being angry.
posted by bleep at 6:43 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


That update helps clarify a little and feels similar to situations I used to find myself in.

In corporate situations, I've found that it is best to just keep it to a bare minimum. "Good morning!" "Ready for the day?!" and so on. Asking a supervisor if they were going on a date is a bad idea because you don't know where they are in their head. "No, you're crazy!" could have been their response for any number of reasons:

  • They are permanently single.
  • They are having trouble with someone they are seeing.
  • They feel unloveable or have some emotional thing going on.
  • They feel that asking them itself is a violation.
  • They may be thinking that your asking suggests they look bad the rest of the time.
  • Anything else you can possibly imagine; you get the picture.


  • She may have been just as upset at you as she ended up making you. Keep it polite and removed.

    Then, Ruthless Bunny has it. Learn to let it go and learn to manage bad managers.
    Or get promoted.
    posted by Tchad at 6:43 AM on February 27, 2015


    I held off on answering your letter because you really didn't provide enough information. In a question such as yours, it really helps to have specific examples of the rude behavior you are encountering, and the circumstances. Otherwise, really, everyone who responds is just guessing.

    Having read your example of your go-around with your boss ... yes, it sounds like she's a jerk, and that she unjustly accused you of the crime of asking her the same question twice *rolls eyes at your boss*. Still ... There are so many subtleties in how this situation went down that it is difficult to offer any really solid advice or pithy observations to you.

    And for that reason, I'm going to suggest that you seek counseling. Please understand why I say this: I don't think you are bad, or wrong. I think that you are finding yourself in a situation - call it "I see rude people" - where, if you really want to get to the bottom of it, you need to spend some time interactively discussing the matter with someone who can attempt to constructively, objectively work with you to analyze what is going on. My guess is that no, it's not always you who is being the "problem" - but sometimes it might be, and you may not even be aware of it. And other times, you're dealing with someone who is a jackass. Your therapist may be able to help you develop effective coping strategies for these kinds of situations.

    I hope this helps at least a bit.
    posted by doctor tough love at 6:52 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


    One more thing: I'm not sure if this will help you or not, but I can speak from the perspective of a manager who was definitely rude to her team members once upon a time. This was back on the first project for which I was a team lead, and oh my god did I feel unprepared for that role, and super afraid that everyone else knew it. As a result, once I settled on an approach to something, woe betide anybody who tried to push back. I remember some protracted battles where I was incredibly angry that I couldn't get the person I was interacting with to just stop arguing and do what I was saying, and at the time I lacked the tools to manage this situation with anything other than stubbornness and outright attempts at shutting down this person. In retrospect, this person was absolutely right and I admire them immensely for continuing to push despite my rude responses (and, er, this was a long time ago - I've put a lot of effort into becoming an open and flexible lead since then and like to think, at least, that I'm better at it now).

    At any rate, in the situation you describe with your ex-boss it sounds like there could have been at least some of this kind of insecurity on her part going on, or if not insecurity, something else that had nothing to do with you. Maybe she's feeling overwhelmed by her own work load and you asked your question at just the wrong time. Maybe something is going on at home that's interfering with her work life. Maybe her boss just came down on her for something. My point is that - again - you really don't need to take another person's rudeness as a reflection on you or what you're doing; very often it stems from something ugly churning around inside them. If your immediate reflex is to assume their hostility is because of you, stop and question that. Yes, it absolutely sucks to have to deal with people behaving rudely, but the more you can just let them own their own negativity and focus on doing what you need to do, the happier you'll be.
    posted by DingoMutt at 7:03 AM on February 27, 2015


    I didn’t know the answer and I asked my supervisor and she didn’t like the fact that I asked her again. I told her that this is a new query

    So, either she was mistaken about you having asked before, or she knew you had asked before and was deliberately gaslighting you. The former is the more charitable explanation. You seem to have jumped directly to the "gaslighting" explanation. When someone's motivations are unclear, try to assume the most charitable explanation. (Plus, it's possible to suggest to a supervisor that they're mistaken about something in a suitably deferential and polite way.)

    if she really knew the answer which means that I would have already have asked her this question before, then why is it that she had to ask the other colleague what to do with the accounts?

    Most charitable explanation: she remembered you asking before, but didn't remember what the answer to the question was. That's really not an unreasonable explanation. Happens to me quite a bit. ("Oh, I know I've gotten that question before, but I don't remember what the answer is...I'll have to look it up and get back to you.") She still handled it badly, but that doesn't mean she's gaslighting you.

    As she told me that I asked the same question again and should I ever forget or be unsure again, does that mean that I cannot ask her anymore and just proceed with the email on my own?

    Really? She's attempting to provide constructive criticism — even if she's not doing a very good job of it — and your response is to snark back at her? And you think this is an acceptable response???
    posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I believe that is it unfair - if she really knew the answer which means that I would have already have asked her this question before, then why is it that she had to ask the other colleague what to do with the accounts?

    Maybe it's unfair; maybe it's not. But this sounds like something you could try getting to the bottom of rather than ruminating over it in a circular way. It seems as if there was some kind of misunderstanding going on; your superior may have communicated poorly but it's possible that you did too. See if you can learn anything from that event. Identifying your own responsibility can be empowering. Even if you conclude that you behaved perfectly in this situation, say if she was simply a toxic boss who engaged in browbeating, you can at least identify this type of person and figure out how to proceed with them in the future.

    I would suggest you mentally separate this kind of situation at work, which has an ongoing effect on your life, with random one-time encounters. None of these encounters matter so much, except in the sense that you appear to be coming in with a chip on your shoulder, and getting the kind of service you expect. People who serve you can spot that type of customer and they will alter their behavior in order to be less vulnerable. That's quite likely what you are perceiving as rudeness.
    posted by BibiRose at 7:23 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


    “...there are three musts that hold us back: ‘I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.’ ” -- psychologist Albert Ellis, as quoted in Psychology Today, Jan./Feb. 2001.
    posted by akk2014 at 7:54 AM on February 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


    None of your examples are of people being rude to you. You need to recalibrate your workplace expectations, or your definition of "rude."
    posted by DarlingBri at 8:39 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I think you genuinely believe you are treating people with respect and that your desire to do so is sincerely felt. I also suspect there are some disconnects between how you think you are treating people, how you actually behave and how other's interpret your behavior.

    Take your compliment to your supervisor. It may seem nice and respectful to compliment her on her appearance and ask about her dating life, but such statements are inappropriate in a workplace setting. I (and many others) would perceive it as a boundary violation and a little creepy. I might report it to HR, I might say Woah! What the fuck? If I was feeling patient and otherwise liked the person enough, I might pull them a side and walk them through why it's inappropriate and how it could jeopardize their job and reputation.

    I also told her that if we couldn't reach an agreement, that it was better to either talk to the team leader or the manager as I could see that she was getting angry. I felt attacked and under the pressure at that time especially because it was unexpected and in the public. I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt. It did.

    It's both unwise and inappropriate to tell your supervisor, in public, that she is getting angry and to suggest, publicly, going above her head. It doesn't matter how badly a supervisor behaves, you just don't do that. Not if you want to stay employed.

    That you did these things and don’t seem able to connect them to you losing your job suggests that people respond poorly to you because of how you act.

    What you've described seems like basic social skills stuff. I think the therapy suggestion is excellent. It's usually a safe, private place to process these feelings and learn more effective skills for dealing with people. Etiquette books and columns like Miss Manner’s and Emily Post are often terrific wells of practical suggestions for interacting with other humans. A close friend or relative might be able to give you some outside perspective on how you're coming off – but you must be prepared to listen to that feedback without getting defensive.
    posted by space_cookie at 8:56 AM on February 27, 2015 [19 favorites]


    For the last few months, I've been experimenting with being over-the-top, effusively, crazy polite and complimentary and positive with every stranger/acquaintance I come into contact with, especially at work. I smile broadly and say an enthusiastic hello to anyone I recognize and anyone I'm about to initiate a conversation with. I ask how people's weekends were, even when I don't care. I compliment people (in appropriate ways, such as telling a colleague how helpful I found her TPS report, or thanking a grocery store clerk for separating my cleaning supplies from my food when bagging my groceries, because now I don't have to be paranoid that my apples will get bleach on them). I make little jokes about the weather or a local sports team or gosh this line is so long you'd think they were giving away free puppies at the end!

    At first, it felt really fake and hokey. And it was hard. Really, really hard. But I'll be honest with you: it really works. I get amazing customer service most of the time, and when I don't, I'm able to deal with it by saying something like, "I know this probably isn't your fault because there's probably some policy that you have to follow or some other problem causing it, but how can we work together to fix this?" with a big smile on my face, and it almost always works. I've been told at my job that I have a reputation for being easy to work with and helpful, and it means that when I ask people for special favors or when I really need something, I can often get it from them where other people have been turned down. It's made my life so, so much easier, and once I got used to doing it, it became second nature.

    I still have anger when people are being jerks, or when I don't get my own, way, or when something is unfair. I send a lot of snarky emails to people I really trust making fun of people for being crazy or mean or whatever, even as I'm being polite to those people to their faces. But it's a lot less than it used to be. Acting nice has, I think, actually made me nicer. But even when it hasn't, even when I'm still angry or defensive or upset, acting nice gets results in a way that acting offended or mad doesn't. It really, really works.
    posted by decathecting at 9:27 AM on February 27, 2015 [38 favorites]


    I'm sorry you're getting so many comments that blame you entirely for this phenomenon. I can't imagine they are all that helpful, even though I'm sure most of them are well-intentioned. I sometimes feel the way you seem to, and I think there is a lot you can do to help yourself here, actually.


    For what I think of as "one-off" rudeness - the snide email from a coworker, or the eye roll from a cashier, or (this actually happened to me this AM) the clump of ice kicked at you by some dude in a suit on his way to his Important Job - I allow myself about 1 minute to reflect on what the other person's justification for their behavior might be.

    The coworker is probably stressed, and maybe has difficult personal stuff going on that you don't know about. The cashier is underpaid and likely struggling to make ends meet. And the suit guy might be afraid that if he doesn't get to the office ASAP for the big client meeting, he'll be fired. Now, those things don't excuse bad behavior, but they do help explain it and provide some context, which tends to help me chill out. And if my quick reflection doesn't work, I gently remind myself that I am sometimes unintentionally rude when I am feeling stressed, overworked/underpaid, or rushed. (And you, too, are sometimes unintentionally rude - everyone is.)

    For more systemic rudeness - the colleague who is always too aggressive with you, or the neighbor who seems to go out of his/her way to inconvenience you - I take a different approach. I first ask trusted friends/colleagues if my version of events is totally accurate - I call this a "sanity check." If I hear that I'm correct, I try to address the source of the problem in a variety of ways, usually some combination of killing-with-kindness, avoiding the person when possible, and casually confronting the situation. If I hear that I'm off-base, I try to fix my own behaviors and attitudes. (For example, sometimes I come off as much more abrasive than I mean to, and that can make other people react poorly.)


    Finally, the biggest thing that helps me is actively relaxing. Things like Pilates, candlelight yoga, pedicures, reading, and Netflix'ing all put me in a good mood and help me forget the day's irritations. Find your active relaxants and put them to use!
    posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


    I'm a fan of introducing frameworks that allow people to make decisions for themselves. I think it's quite loaded to really blame it all on you - even if you do take responsibility for your own behavior, it doesn't actually solve the problem of how to heal from it. Life is really, really, really rough, and you probably are responding to not only what is happening in the moment, but everything that has happened before.

    For me, re-discovering my locus of control was a helpful framework from me to transition from learning to not feel victimized, to feeling like a boss ass b*tch because I knew I stuck to my core values of doing sanity checks and really practicing compassionate kindness to myself and others. You never know what is going on, but you will always know what you will do. Best of luck my dear! Putting a link here for a locus of control quiz that Psychology Today provides.
    http://psychologytoday.tests.psychtests.com/take_test.php?idRegTest=1317
    posted by yueliang at 11:17 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Generalized rudeness is a real thing that can happen towards members of disadvantaged groups. So, I am trying to guess which group you might fit into here.

    My first guess is that you are a non-native English speaker somewhere in the US. (I am basing this on a few awkward turns of phrase in your question and update). If this is true, at least some of what you feel isn't in your head; many people get frustrated when trying to communicate with non-native speakers (even if you are perfectly fluent-- just having an accent can trouble some people).

    Also if that's true you might be experiencing some culture clash issues too-- e.g. most Americans think it is inappropriate to comment on someone's looks or dating life at work. If you are often running in to trouble with women specifically, then I would suggest you get a trusted female friend to tell you how to behave more in line with the society you are living in.

    If I am wrong and you are a native English speaker, perhaps you're living in a new culture (this is me). Where I am right now there are some different expectations regarding interactions with service personnel that I just can't seem to get right; I have to remind myself that living in a new culture is a learning experience and that people are just thrown because I am not following the usual cultural script.

    The last possibility I though of is that you are a native English speaker, living in the same general area where you grew up. In this case the awkward turns of phrase indicate (to me) that you might be having some class conflict issues; either that or you are so angry it comes through in your grammar. I don't have anything to add to other comments in either of these cases.
    posted by nat at 11:21 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Nthing that if you are having this problem all the time with so many people then the problem is probably more on your end than theirs. There must be something that you are doing, however unconsciously, that is offending or otherwise alienating people. They are perceiving YOU as being rude to THEM first and then responding in kind.

    I would ask your trusted friends and family members for honest feedback on whether your body language, tone of voice, etc. comes across as hostile or condescending. Listen to them, don't get mad or defensive, and honestly try to change your demeanor to be more friendly and respectful.
    posted by Jacqueline at 11:51 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Amy Alkon, Good Manners for Nice People who Sometimes Say F*ck

    With rude people:
    1. Stand up to rudeness
    2. Call out rudeness even when not directed to you
    3. Treat everyone as a neighbor

    Great book, really. Worth the read.
    posted by Slap Factory at 6:43 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I can kinda relate to this. Politeness and graciousness are things I value very highly, and I can get pretty frustrated when people don't live up to my standards regarding social niceties. I manage my frustration by reminding myself that people who strike me as rude probably prioritize different virtues; if I made a list of my top priorities, it would go something like "politeness, positivity, agreeableness", but someone else might have a list more like "honesty, directness, authenticity", and those things aren't inherently less good than what I value.

    I'm also picking up on the "culture clash" signifiers that nat mentioned. If you are indeed living in a different culture from the one where you were raised, particularly if there is a language barrier, I think that would explain a lot of the difficulties you're encountering. I also get a feeling that you might be from a culture where there is a large class distinction between the service industry and their customers. It's definitely ideal to get pleasant service at the places you visit, but it helps to remember that people who are making minimum wage are often working multiple jobs to keep themselves afloat, and might (by virtue of the lifestyle their jobs require) be sacrificing adequate sleep, food, and time with their loved ones. So while being pleasant/polite might be part of their job descriptions, they sometimes not running on all cylinders and literally don't have the resources to always be as polite as you might like.
    posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 8:55 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Thank you all for your advices.

    I agree that I have to go through some therapy to find ways to cope should such situation happen again and try some relaxation techniques.


    I realise that there are some things I should not have done, for instance, complimenting her appearance; confronting her and bringing the issue to the manager.

    What had happened at work is something I cannot forget and yes, it is still bothering me. Thus, the reason why I am posting this. What I understand from some posters is that I should not stand for myself but remain quiet, say sorry and keep on doing my work. I wish it was that simple but it was not like this. During the time I worked with her, I had to sort of beg for answers because she didn't want to explain to me. I could already see that she didn't want to help me and I was getting nervous asking her as she might get angry anytime. I had to find the right time when to ask her and see if she's in an ok mood, so that she doesn't tell me off. There was this time when she told me to go to another train station after work because there was someone who committed suicide at the train station where we both take the same train line and she said: "why did this person have to die at this hour and this place, when it's time to go home?" To me, that sounded so cruel as someone just committed suicide and all she had to say was this comment. Also, I would not have confronted her had she not told me to spit it out the day after we had this argument. I did my best to remain calm and told her that I really didn't know the answer and she was insisting in saying that I knew the answer. Maybe I should have said "sorry I was wrong" but that was not the case and all I could remember was that the manager once said to the team to report to him any incident that we encounter and that's what I told her to do because I didn't know how to solve this conflict. And I needed her to continue on helping me in my work email queries as she is the only one who knows the information, so if I were to have said sorry it is my fault, then that would mean that she was right and then, I would have to be very on my guard and cautious about everything I say and do to her and probably, not ask her anymore questions, that would have made me stressed out and miserable.


    On a side note, I do get hurt and offended easily and it takes me quite a while before I can be back to my normal self. What I mean is that when someone snaps at me or is angry at me for something that I did not do anything wrong... just that person getting angry at me, I can feel it and this will linger in my mind for hours, sometimes days.
    posted by home at 1:01 AM on February 28, 2015


    Hey, I understand that feeling. It's frustrating and irritating when people don't act the way they're supposed to act. Since others have already pointed out that maybe you're contributing to the rude behavior you're encountering, I'm going to operate on the assumption that the people you encounter really are rude.

    One reason why I understand where you're coming from because the concept of justice is important to me. In a just world people are polite, when they're not it's obvious that the rude people are being unjust. A pet peeve of mine is people who skip in front of me. They're so obviously in the wrong! I'll never forget when I was standing at a sandwich counter, it wasn't even crowded, and these two guys come up AFTER me and get the counter person to actually take their order BEFORE mine. So I pointed this out to the two guys. Hey I was first? And one of them actually told me off like I was the one with the problem. OMG was I fuming inside. Are you the kind of person who, when waiting for your turn at the counter, is extremely vigilant about catching the eye of the counter person because you sure aren't gonna let anyone skip in front of you?

    So here's my advice: For ONE MONTH tell yourself EVERY MORNING, "I acknowledge beyond a shadow of a doubt that at least one person is going to be EXTREMELY RUDE TO ME, I mean RUDE BEYOND BELIEF! However, for this month, I will be, in response to one person a day (and only one), EXTREMELY NICE, I mean NICE BEYOND BELIEF! right back to that person. So nice it practically kills me! I mean put yourself on an imaginary improv stage in your head and EXAGGERATE THAT NICENESS SO MUCH IT MAKES YOU LAUGH INSIDE! Imagine the APPLAUSE you receive from all the other just, kind people in the world! Then, for the rest of the day, for everyone else who is rude to you let yourself feel whatever you want.

    Okay, here's the thing. After that month you'll be feeling a little different about all the rude people in your life. So differently that the following month you'll be ready to increase that to TWO RUDE PEOPLE. In essence this is a way of inuring yourself against rude people with the only medicine that works: HUMOR and KINDNESS

    Now, this should not apply to all situations involving rude people. For instance, if you're in an emergency room with internal bleeding and someone with a cough tries to skip in front of you, you have every right to get upset and put your foot down. For help understanding the difference between sandwich counters and emergency rooms (ie, rude behaviors that you need to let roll off of you and those that you need to react to) I recommend talking to a therapist or someone in your life who can made sure you're assessing situations in the best way possible for you and the world at large--because the fact is we're all in this world together and we're all just trying to get through this life as best we know how.

    One thing that's helped me deal with rude people came from a self help book whose title I forget: Imagine everyone is wearing a pair of angel wings, that's right, angel wings, see those white wings fluttering in the breeze, see the light reflected off of the feathers. I swear this works. It's a way of shifting your paradigm from seeing yourself at the center of the universe (which is what you're currently doing) and expanding it to include everyone around you. Instant empathy. It's also a short cut to the David Foster Wallace commencement speech mentioned above (which should be required reading).
    posted by lillian.elmtree at 6:38 AM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


    So, having a superior who doesn't answer questions and/or does so begrudgingly is a common problem. Sadly, some people seem to think you just need to quit when you get one of these.

    I totally get the feeling of unfairness. I have been treated that way, and have watched the same person go on to treat others that way, after I had essentially seen to my own training. I am pretty sure everyone knew how bad she was at training, but no one else wanted to do it and they were willing to let her burn through a few new employees to avoid making a different arrangement.

    But I think you need to somehow put this to bed. In all likelihood, that supervisor let you down and was not doing a proper job of training you. So, what are you going to do if something like this happens? Maybe approach that superior and ask what would be the best format for asking questions? I think the best way to stop fretting about this is to beak down what happened and promise yourself that you are never going to let it get to that point in the future.

    Or maybe, you just won't be in that position again. I hope not, because it sucks.
    posted by BibiRose at 7:27 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


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