By a mom who happens to be a doc with an entrepreneurial spirit

Need strategies to help you deal with rude behavior? Come on over!

Need strategies to help you deal with rude behavior? Come on over!
Manhattan night during fall by Michelle Ramirez

Rude behavior is, unfortunately, very much a part of daily life. Particularly when you live in the city. I don’t think this is a phenomenon specific to city life, I think it’s mostly due to the higher population density that you are just likelier to have these encounters.

I also work in the medical field, which means I have plenty of human interactions on a daily basis. Between patients and colleagues, there are many opportunities for rude behavior to be showcased.

In my mind, there are two types of rude behavior, the conscious and the unconscious ones.

The unconscious rude behavior is usually due to self-absorbed or inconsiderate people. Sometimes it may just be an honest mistake. For example, the person who is walking out of a building and doesn’t look behind them to see someone is right behind and they slam the door right on that person’s face. This one I love: the woman in the public bathroom who splashed the entire toilet seat with urine as she hovered to pee and didn’t bother to wipe it dry. Highly inconsiderate for sure, however, I am not so bothered by those encounters. These are mostly annoyances.

Then, there are those people who are just blatantly and consciously rude.  Now those really makes me nutz!

When my daughter was 3, we were on the bus on our way home and she was sitting on a three seat row with me. She was happily singing twinkle-twinkle little star. The well-dressed young woman (probably late 20’s), sitting next to us, looks straight at me and says: “Could you shut her up, that is annoying.”

My jaw dropped, I was shocked. I stared at her because I could not believe it and thought I heard wrong. She repeated her comment to me. Immediate thought in my head: what the @#%^! I really wanted to slap her 😡😳. First, mother lion instinct came out. Then, pediatrician instinct came out. How could anyone talk in front of a child like this? I understand there are plenty of people who do not like children and although I may not agree, I can respect it. This comment, however, was just over the top.

In my younger years, I would’ve lost it right there and then and started a screaming/rude behavior match in the middle of the bus. However, experience has taught me that this type of response really leads to no good. Plus, I wanted to model good behavior for my girl.

So, with all my restraint I said: “I’m sorry this bothers you, there are plenty of seats up front, perhaps you should move. Nobody else seems bothered and I will not be telling her to be quiet.” Then, I smiled. The woman then said that perhaps we should move. At that moment, the lovely, rather large, stranger in the row in front of us stood up and said: “Actually, I rather enjoy her singing. Perhaps you should just leave the bus altogether. We don’t need people like you here.” Now that shut her up (insert standing ovation going on in my head). My smile grew bigger. Thank you, stranger who likes out of tune singing 😘 Rude behavior: 0 Civility:1

Scenes from the subway – the biggest cespool of rude behavior

Rude behavior

Dear subway rider who is eating an onion filled burger right next to me, dripping mayo on the floor, in a packed subway train during rush hour.  Do you realize nobody can move or breathe now? What makes you think this is ok? My hair smells like onion now and I am nauseous. Thank you.

Self-absorbed/inconsiderate rude behavior example right there. Wish I would have known and I would have avoided that car. The same way you avoid the empty subway car when all the other ones are packed.

The subway gives plenty of ammunition for stories of encounters with rude behavior. These are all just from last week.

Blatant rude here: I am at the turn style, coming out of the subway. Person looks straight at me, runs and decides to swipe and come in at that exact same turn style I am exiting (two other empty ones on either side). Again, in my brain, @#$% and all sorts of other foul language combinations. Start feeling the anger rising. Deep breaths and carry on. I decide not to spend another second thinking about this.

Tips for approaching rudeness

OK, enough venting. It turns out, that the way life has taught me, one punch at the time, to handle rude behavior is pretty much how research suggests we deal with it. It has literally taken me years to develop the self-restraint to bite my tongue and not say anything rude back.

So, let’s see if I can save you a few punches. What are some things we can do to help us in our everyday life rude encounters? FYI, other than the first point, I am not at all implying any of these are easy to achieve.

  1. Consider starting a regular mindfulness practice – Yoga, Tai-chi, meditation. Although this won’t help you in the instant, research suggests that people who have some sort of mindfulness practice have less emotional reactivity overall. So, when you are conftonted  with rude behavior, you will be better able to practice #2.
  2. Keep your cool – control your impulse to react. Count for a few seconds and blank your mind (yep, not easy, I KNOW). Walk away if you have to. There only needs to be one offensive person in the interaction, and it should not be you. Keeping your mind calm is called equanimity. AKA as poise and level-headedness. The minute you give into your anger you lost control and self-control is so important… Not convinced yet? Maybe this will help. Studies suggest that people who are able to practice self-control have:
    • Better grades.
    • Greater self esteem.
    • Better psychological adjustment.
    • Improved family relationships.
    • Higher life satisfaction overall.
  1. Empathy – this one comes from my own experience, when I find out somebody who was rude was going through some terrible personal situation. You have no idea what that person is going through in their personal life. Now, I am not saying that rude behavior is ever justified, BUT. If you are able to put yourself in their shoes (easier if it is someone you know, of course), you will be better able to have a controlled response.
  2. Take the higher road – lead by example. This one has become ever more important (and easier) since having a little person observing and modeling her behavior after mine. If it is something you hope your child would not do, then don’t do it yourself. Also, try killing the rude person with kindness! It is often such an unexpected response it disarms or confuses them 😀.

I hope this gives you a little motivation to practice equanimity and take the higher road on these occasions. What are some of the things that work for you when dealing with rude behavior?



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