The boss raises his voice and loses his temper. A coworker is unsupportive of your requests. A client uses her authority as a push factor to get things done. A manager is continually disrespectful. These are tough situations. How should you handle them?
Why Are People Rude?
First, let’s look at some of the reasons why people are rude. It’s much easier for people to be rude over the phone, on the Internet or over email. Why? Because rude people often feel disconnected from others. That’s why they lose it over petty things that won’t matter in the next hour. Because they feel disconnected, in their minds, they have no reason to change that feeling. And when they are face-to-face with you, they have no idea why they should behave differently. While the golden rule should always apply, it often doesn’t.
People often are rude because they are having a bad day, and misery loves company. Always remember that it is not your fault. Sometimes you can divert that bad mood by remaining calm and joking about something small. This often brings out the rude person’s need to vent, and in that case, you should just listen. This means overlooking the rudeness and just talking to them. Perhaps they don’t have anyone else they can talk to, and you might just leave them feeling better.
Some people want to intimidate you into submission to appear stronger. It’s the bully syndrome. Bullies are weak on the inside but don’t want to show it. These are disconnected people. If you face them head-on, they often back down. This doesn’t mean you become the bully, but rather that you face their behavior with them. The method is to “State, Inform and Request.”
Famous people like Simon Cowell have built their celebrity on being rude. Watching rude celebrities has become a national pastime. Again, these people are not connected with other people and only have an inflated sense of self. If we stop supporting the rude behavior of celebrities, they’ll get the message. The same goes for people at work or in business who are chronic about rudeness. Stop enabling them.
4 Keys to Handling a Rude Co-worker
1. Don’t lose your cool and don’t take it personally.
2. At the first occurrence, give the benefit of the doubt – try to cheer them up or be a good listener.
3 Take it away from others; suggest grabbing a cup of coffee to discuss the issue privately to clear the air. If the person refuses to take it out of the workplace, say, “I can only imagine how frustrated you must be with this situation. Would you be willing to speak to me about it so I know how better to fulfill your expectations?” When you give angry people empathy, you take away their armor. You infer that their rude behavior is not who they truly are.
4 If your authority or position is challenged, take the opportunity to privately get to the bottom of the issue. Say, “I can see you are terribly upset. Would you be willing to share with me what is bothering you so I can understand more fully how I might help you?
What if It Is the Boss?
If the boss explodes at you, remain calm and respectful. Always give him the benefit of the doubt. Look him or her in the eye and request a meeting to discuss the issue. When you meet, ask the same question addressed in Point #4 above. Consider this hypothetical situation. You ask the question, and your boss confides that his wife is pregnant and is having extreme morning sickness every day. This makes him late. When he arrives, you are having a cup of coffee and chatting with co-workers. It irritates him. Once you have this knowledge, you will understand that his rudeness has nothing to do with you, but you can do something that will improve his mood. An example would be to buy a sweet roll and put it on his desk when he arrives while saying, “I hope this gives you a sweeter day.” This will take the wind out of his sails.
I have used these techniques, and they have worked extremely well for me.
John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. To learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara, go to www.thekeyclass.com. To get John’s book, click The Key Class.