Dealing with rudeness

Someone was rude to me today and I am not sure why or that I handled it well. The specifics of the infraction and my response are less important than what I need to learn from the dynamics of rudeness itself and how to handle it going forward.

I have been rude to people knowingly and unknowingly. If I’m having a bad day or have built up resentment against a person or a context, my demeanor, language, and behavior will often not only reflect these truths but also fuel my callousness. I might intentionally press on an issue that I know is sore or dismiss someone’s point of view outright. Usually, I know when this is happening. Other times, I truly have no idea that I’m being perceived as rude. These are the instances that really trouble me. More often than not, the people perceiving rudeness will not address it, but instead bottle it up in resentment or gossip about it, leaving me unaware of the infraction. In these instances, there is little recourse.

When someone is rude to me, however, it is difficult to discern whether it’s intentional or unintentional, so I tend to count the infraction as the same: that is a rude person. As the type who typically challenges rudeness and other interpersonal issues directly, my response is hardly nuanced and can add fuel to the fire. I think I’m learning that I may have a low emotional IQ.

What we all need to learn is that when someone is rude to us, it most likely is not about us. Usually, it’s circumstantial, out of place, or a lack of self awareness on the part of the offender. It is easy to take rudeness personally, but it isn’t smart. It’s a victim’s mindset in which we allow someone else’s behavior to shackle our minds in an emotional prison of what did I do wrong? Stop thinking it’s about you. Even if it is, it isn’t really about you, it’s about someone else’s behavior toward you. They could’ve chosen to be kind, no matter how mad they are at you. You are not responsible for their behavior.

Don’t try to get the parting shot in. This is what I did today and I regret it. It felt good in the moment but it has eaten at me all day. Namely, because it wasn’t fully thought through, didn’t actually communicate what I wanted, and likely failed to improve the situation. Sure, sometimes we want to stand up for ourselves but not all impolite emails are hills worth dying on. Walk away.

I wish this person would not have been rude to me but even more I wish I would have been more compassionate and thoughtful about my feelings and response to it. Learning how to do this better will take work and it begins by doing unto others as I would have done to me. I’ve been the rude person before and I’ve always come around when the subject of my rudeness shows me kindness.

Going forward, instead of being the mirror that reflects the ugly, I’ll be the example of kindness I’m hoping that person will be the next time we meet.


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