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The power of politeness: 10 ways to raise the bar with rude people

May 4, 2022 - 11 min read


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Rudeness vs. bullying

3 ways to respond to rude behavior

How to deal with rude people at work

How to deal with rude people at school

How to deal with rude people at home

Eliminate toxicity

Life would be grand if we all got along. 

Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. You’ll inevitably encounter people who irk you in life, whether they ruffle your feathers or make you downright angry.

Rude people are frustrating when you can’t get away from them. Their negativity might diminish your upbeat attitude and interrupt your everyday life. But with some mindfulness and tact, you can navigate these difficult relationships with ease.

We’ll tell you how to deal with rude people, whether you’re at work, at home, or at school.


Rudeness vs. bullying

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between bullying and rudeness. 

Rudeness isn’t always as explicit as bullying. It often manifests through passive behaviors, such as: 

  • Excluding someone from an important email
  • Not inviting a person to a get-together
  • Ignoring someone’s question or point in a meeting
  • Not praising subordinates 

Bullying, in contrast, is usually intentional and explicit. The perpetrators are repeatedly aggressive towards a person. Their actions create an imbalance of power where the victim feels unsafe to speak up.

Rudeness can teeter into bullying if unresolved tensions grow between individuals. It can also negatively affect your productivity and cloud your decision-making. It also makes you more likely to be rude in return.

That’s why it’s essential to stamp out toxic behavior before it becomes a regular occurrence. Group leaders must foster an environment where people feel safe discouraging rude behavior. 

Rude people can also be active in their tactics. For instance, it’s rude to: 

  • Take credit for a colleague’s work
  • Spread rumors at school
  • Start an “inside joke” at someone’s expense 

Learning how to deal with a mean person at work is tough, especially if their actions aren’t intentionally mean-spirited.

Whether it’s rudeness or bullying, the effect is the same: victims lose confidence and their self-esteem takes a hit. BetterUp can help you overcome this toxicity. They’ll help you learn to stand up for yourself and strengthen your communication skills and improve your overall wellness.

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3 ways to respond to rude behavior

Rude people are everywhere, and your environment gives you different tools for dealing with toxic people. But whether it’s a classmate, colleague, or a rude customer, there are some general guidelines you can follow. You can use these strategies as a starting point to develop your own solutions, too.

1. Try kindness

You can’t prevent other people’s bad behavior, but you can control your reactions. Take a deep breath and be calm instead of snapping back. Later on, try responding with an act of kindness.

Doing so could break the cycle of rudeness by allowing the other person to match your behavior.

If this tactic doesn’t work, you can still be proud you didn’t succumb to negativity. You kept a cool head, stuck to your values, and took the high road. That shows a growth mindset.

2. Remember, it’s not about you

A difficult person’s behavior is precisely that: their behavior. They could have chosen kindness, but they did not. You did nothing to deserve their hostility, so try to deflect the rudeness, and not take it in.

3. Show empathy

Try to imagine things from the rude person’s point of view. Don't assume they’re inherently bad. Maybe they’re simply having a bad day or are struggling with a difficult situation outside of work. Acknowledging their struggles might help ease the burden on your shoulders.


How to deal with rude people at work

Things can get tricky when rude people confront us in a work environment. In most cases, we can define “rude” as toxic behaviors that don’t rise to the level of “bullying” in corporate policies. In this case, either the office culture or the victim is left responsible for stopping rudeness in its tracks.

The key thing to remember is that work cultures start at the top, with people who avoid toxic leadership traits and prevent the formation of hostile work environments

Strong leaders build healthy workplaces where everyone is valued and respected. If someone is constantly rude to you and you aren’t in a leadership position, here are some tactics to try:

1. Avoid escalating the situation

Retaliation is rarely a good idea, especially in the workplace. It only increases toxicity. Before, there was only one rude person, but there will be two if you behave the same way.

Plus, a hostile response normalizes rude behavior. No one wants to work in an environment where rudeness is the accepted way of doing business.

2. Be a role model

Taking the high road is always better than being vengeful. Kindness communicates to your coworkers how you expect them to treat you, assuming you’re in a healthy work environment.


By setting an example, others may start imitating you. Eventually, the bandwagon will be so full of kindness that there won’t be space for any rudeness.

3. Stay away

Sometimes it’s best to walk away. Of course, this isn’t always possible. If you’re in a large office and don’t work with this person regularly, you might be able to minimize your time around them.

We could tell you how to avoid a rude person politely, but the best is to meet their acts of rudeness with kindness and then remove yourself from their presence.

How to deal with rude people at school

Most of the advice above applies at school, too. But here are a couple of tips that can work specifically in these environments.


Use humor. A good joke can help break the tension. Look for a way to laugh about a shared experience. After all, laughter is the best medicine — especially when it comes to rude people.

Call them out. You can confront an individual without being mean. Let them know that they’re being rude and how it makes you feel. It’s possible the person doesn’t realize the impact of their behavior. Give them a chance to apologize and be more polite.

How to deal with rude people at home

Home is our safe space. When we invite people over, we hope they will accept our home as an extension of who we are. But when a guest makes snide comments about our furniture or insults our cooking, it can feel particularly hurtful. 

Here are some things to try if you’re unsure of how to deal with a mean person at home:

Focus on the other guests. Don’t let one rude comment prevent you from enjoying your time with your friends. Focus on kind friends, and not rude guests. Make an effort to have a good time. If the rude person feels excluded, they might come around to being nice.


Have a conversation with the person. If the person won’t stop being rude and your other anti-rudeness tactics fail, talk to the person after the party. Feel free to stop inviting them to your home if they aren’t receptive to your efforts to make peace. You deserve to have more positive people in your space.

Eliminate toxicity

You deserve better than having rude people around you. Now that you know more about how to deal with rude people, you're ready to start eliminating them from your life.

BetterUp can help you navigate these difficult relationships and find more positivity in your life.

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Published May 4, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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