The Inner Bottom Line ® ..where Choices & Values meet

How To Deal With Rude People

July 7th, 2015   •   no comments   

Dear Olive,

I’m so glad we had the chance to meet and discuss this issue. As you know, being on the mortgage side of real estate focused on sales and marketing requires me to call on people I don’t know in the hopes I’ll be able to help them see the value of our services. That can often lead to situations where I am confronted by rude people. I also send out a lot of emails and at times I’m asked to remove people from my list. That can be both surprising and hurtful, too. But when these things happy, I remind myself that I signed up for this, do my best to remain pleasant and as I drive away I remind myself that I get to be me and they have to be them. I imagine you deal with a lot of the same things as a broker and a writer. How do you deal with rude people?  Does it ever hurt you? Are there other things you can point out that might help me understand this dynamic even more? P.

Dear P,
It was my pleasure to meet you. Many thanks for sharing your feelings in such an honest, vulnerable way and for your imaginative and healthy choice of response. It takes an admirable combination of courage and maturity to be able to hold that perspective in the face of rejection or invective and sets a wonderful example for us all.And thanks, too, for asking if it ever hurts me. The answer is yes.

olive gallagher

Life Coach & Ethicist Olive Gallagher

Which begs the question, why is rudeness so hard for many of us to handle? Why do we become speechless in the face of bad behavior, especially if it’s seemingly directed at us? Dealing with rude people is never easy, no matter how skilled we become at deflecting or accurately recognizing that it’s about the other person and not about us.

Why is that?  How is it possible that an unexpected, cold, abrasive or even hostile comment or response can send us back to being three years old again, dissolved in a muddle of confused and painful emotions?

Even when we can intellectually remind ourselves not to take it personally, most of us possess a residual place in our head and hearts where our core wounds still reside and where painful feelings of rejection, inadequacy, abandonment and undesirability live on. So it’s always seemed a bit disingenuous to merely address this issue of rude people superficially by suggesting that learning five easy rules will get us out of jail and keep the hurt away for good. Anyone who was chosen last for every team, not invited to the cool parties, bullied for being too fat or too thin or too this or too that, or even had their beloved stolen away by their best friend knows to what I’m referring.

All it takes is a familiar situation, voice, or comment to trigger these emotions and wham! We’re traveling back in time to that playground, fighting back those tears. And while those residual emotions are carefully hidden away and managed well by the adult part of us, they remain present and spring up at the most inconvenient times.

While cultural or ethnic differences can account for a modicum of difference in what is deemed polite or rude acts or behavior, the differences aren’t so great that verbal assaults or insulting physical gestures are ever acceptable in any language or locale. That’s why understanding the root of the behavior is a good place to start.

Dealing with rude people requires us to not take personally whatever is being attacked, even if it’s being expressed in very personal terms or accusations. On The Inner Bottom Line®, however, if a personal boundary gets crossed or is abused, you’re still absolutely justified to say, “Stop. This is not acceptable.” And then withdraw or leave.

On a good day, when we’re feeling confident and self-assured, it’s not that hard to do, as your wonderful mantra “I remind myself that I get to be me and they have to be them” suggests. But when we’re not at our Personal Best®; when we’re tired, frustrated, hungry, in pain, or just having a bad day, and we suddenly find ourselves bathed in toxic, mean-spirited attitudes or language, it’s easy to be caught off guard, buy into the rudeness, and retaliate verbally or blow a fuse, embarrassing ourselves and everyone around us.

We’re only human; we’re not perfect. We’re all going to have bad moments after which we’ll wish we could take it back. And when that happens, we have to take responsibility for those moments when we haven’t or couldn’t live up to our own standard of conduct and learn from those lapses.  It’s not all right to blame it solely on the person who started it.

Along with using P’s wonderful mantra, there are a few other things we can keep in mind or consider to help us deal more effectively with rude people, such as understanding where and how control and power enter the equation.

Whenever anyone lashes out at us and treats us with rudeness or disrespect, it helps to remember this person is out of control, probably feels reactive, vulnerable and insecure, and needs to blame us because they aren’t able or willing to be responsible for their own power. That’s why they abuse it.

Bottom line on The Inner Bottom Line, there’s no excuse for rudeness, disrespect or abuse. So never make one for someone else, especially a spouse, partner, parent, child or friend. Remember that when someone is coming from a hateful, hurtful, abusive and mean place, there will be nothing you can say or do that will be heard or accepted in that moment. Leave. Remove yourself from harm’s way. Run don’t walk to the nearest exit without feeling like a coward. You’re not weak or ineffective or cowardly. They are.

It’s the coward that uses crude, rude, abusive language or behavior to get the attention they so desperately seek so they can feel in control as well as whole and important. Don’t ever let them make you feel you need to participate in or respond to their dysfunctional pattern of behavior.


The Inner Bottom Line syndicated column is found nationally here on http://www.examiner.comand on the website at where you can submit your questions and ethical dilemmas or book consulting appointments and private or group coaching sessions with Olive.

Olive Gallagher is a life coach, ethicist, national speaker and columnist, and a licensed Oregon realtor and can be reached at You can also find her real estate blog at on

Hard cover, Kindle and audio versions of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life™, are available at on

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