“He should go to therapy!” – deal with rude people in 5 steps

He shouts at us, my daughter complained. He’s so grumpy with us all the time and he’s rude to us. My daughter was telling me about one of her school bus drivers. I’m not rude but I don’t say thank you to him when I get off the bus; he doesn’t deserve it!

My daughter clearly didn’t feel good about this situation, so I tried to help her reframe it:

Here are 5 steps to dealing with a rude person.

1. Don’t take it personally.

A rude person’s behaviour is not about you. Think about the times when you are rude or grumpy; how are you feeling? You might be having a bad day; you might be feeling hormonal. In the case of the rude bus driver, he may have had a bad life! He may work too hard. He may have been brought up with people being grumpy or rude to him; he may have been deeply hurt or not found what he wanted in life. He may be feeling resentful or angry about things that have nothing to do with you. Don’t feel like it’s your fault, or that it’s even anything to do with you that he’s behaving this way. You have no idea what he’s going through.

2. “Shoulds” are not helpful.

He should know better! Replied my daughter. He shouldn’t take it out on us! Think back to those times when you’ve been grumpy or short with someone, I replied. I bet you knew you were being a bit grumpy. It didn’t make you willing or able to change your behaviour though. He should go to therapy! my daughter replied. I agreed; perhaps he should. I’ll tell him! she proclaimed. I laughed. Do you really think he would listen to you? I asked her. Do you imagine hearing that from you is going to make him feel better, or do you suppose he might just think you are being rude?

Perhaps the bus driver should know better. Perhaps he shouldn’t behave in that way, and perhaps he should go to therapy. But thinking in this way won’t help; it won’t change anything. The facts remain the same.

3. You can choose your reaction.

If someone behaves badly towards you, you have no control over their behaviour. What you do have control over is your own behaviour in response. You can reflect back to them anger and rudeness, or you can choose a different reaction.

I reminded my daughter: You are not someone who doesn’t thank someone who has driven you somewhere. Don’t allow someone else’s behaviour make you become someone who is not polite. Now you’ve considered the rude person is probably having a bad day, you could choose to feel compassion for them and send them some love and appreciation – regardless of their behaviour. It doesn’t make you feel good when you don’t do what you know is right, even if it is in response to someone else’s behaviour. It will make you feel better to say thank you in a situation where you would normally do so, even if you think the person is rude or unkind.

When you come across someone who always seems to be grumpy or mean, it is a natural response to feel hostile. In the case of the bus driver, imagine him going about his day and being rude to people, and all the rude responses he must get in return. It must make him feel even worse, and then (unless he suddenly becomes self-aware) it will become a never-ending cycle of bad days.

Be someone who is strong enough to break the cycle. Know that love is what the person needs to feel better (and perhaps then behave better). Be the person who is strong enough to give it. I reminded my daughter: You have a very good life and plenty of love to spare; perhaps you could share some with the bus driver.

4. Don’t expect anything back.

Some people do say thank you to him and it doesn’t make a difference; he just ignores them, my daughter explained to me.

The way you are most likely to get favourable behaviour from someone is to send them love and demonstrate love. Even when you do this you may still not get the behaviour you are looking for, or it may take some time. You are doing the right thing and being loving not only for them, but because it’s who you are. You are polite and gracious person who likes to do the right thing because it feels good. You are not a rude person. Don’t allow someone else’s bad behaviour turn you into someone you are not.

When someone is rude to us, we often feel bad not because of their behaviour but because of what it provokes in us. Once we understand the person’s behaviour has nothing to do with us, and we’re able to send them love (as we would with someone who has done something for us), we feel a whole lot better. That is the only return we can expect. My daughter may or may not receive the added bonus that the bus driver will begin to reflect her kindness and love back to her – but she shouldn’t expect it, or she may well be disappointed!

5. Peace of mind.

Although my daughter wasn’t traumatised by the bus driver’s behaviour, it was bothering her. She thought it was his behaviour that was upsetting her but it was actually the behaviour he provoked in her that caused the underlying discomfort. My daughter has since been driven by the same bus driver, and she did thank him, and looked him in the eye whilst doing so. She was happy to report that not only did she feel much better about the situation but that she may have detected a small smile in return from the driver.

Regardless of the behaviour of this man, I know that if my daughter bears these points in mind she will feel at ease with the situation. You can’t escape yourself and your own behaviour, and if you know you’ve done the wrong thing, or something that doesn’t line up with who you feel you are, it will affect your self esteem (that’s another blog post!).

As I said above, it doesn’t matter if your actions are provoked or not; you will only be completely at peace when you know you have done the right thing, or the thing that lines up with who you believe yourself to be.

In life you will come across many people who won’t behave towards you as you would like. If you can know that it isn’t personal, that “shoulds” are not helpful, that you can choose how you respond, and without expecting anything back, you will move through life with peace of mind.

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