How to Stop Being Offended By the Badly Behaved: It's not You, it's Them

The badly behaved. They are everywhere. They appear suddenly and refuse to leave until they've demolished all the emotional goodwill in the room. But are their poignant insults really about you? Or is it all about them?

I’d like to start with some questions for the brain to chew on—so that we can go a bit deeper and not have our mind interrupt us. Take a deep breath and ask yourself the following questions.

Awareness raising questions

  •         What does it mean about me when someone acts rude, ignores or dismisses me?
  •         Can I be ok with myself no matter what someone says to me?
  •         Is my reaction about me or is it about them?

Now back to our close encounters of the third kind. The rude kind is more like it. I’m talking about the person who pushes in front of us in line and gives us an earful if we say anything. Or the person who talks over you in conversation and proceeds to tell you that you’re misinformed—on everything. Or the person who promptly decides that they want to unleash their ten year sabbatical on emotions directly onto your face.

What the badly behaved all have in common is that they have no comprehension of the effect they have on people. They are just walking around vomiting inappropriate comments, emotions and behaviors; the result is a mess but they don’t happen to get any of it on them. This is where we can change things!

I’m going to give you some tips that will help you through these ordeals in the same way that carrying around a barf proof umbrella would help.

1.       Get logical about it: Does this person know you? If they don’t know anything about you, how can their insults be true? This analysis can be done after the fact—to get us over the hump if the irritation is sticking or what they said is stinging.

2.      Cool your jets: We might want to yell at the person and tell them where to go but I have another suggestion. When you feel your blood starting to boil, find your anchor. For me I visualize a daisy. The daisy is my special symbol from the Universe that brings me peace. Find something you really connect with. Maybe it’s a flower, a crystal, a color or an animal. Visualize this symbol in your mind and “hold” onto it. This becomes your anchor to stay grounded and separate from the chaos that the other person is trying to create. This technique will allow you to respond in the moment with a greater calmness and centred perspective. You may find what they are saying is also bouncing off you.

3.      Call their bluff: From my many years in customer service I employed this technique; I repeat what the person said to me word for word in a completely calm voice. “What you’re saying is, I’m a complete idiot and you think I should go jump off the nearest bridge? Did I get that right?” You’ll find that the person is dumbfounded by hearing their own words coming back to them. Also they have nowhere to go after that. The trick is to say it without the sarcasm and just as if you’re stating the facts. Essentially you are standing up to someone who thinks that their words will destroy you somehow. By repeating after them, you are telling them that it is just a sentence and you’re going to let them hear it. The results are usually quite surprising.

I’d like to end with a profound story that all took place unexpectedly at a clothing store. I was browsing through the skirts; the saleslady was making her rounds around the store, smiling pleasantly at people and chatting to them. I thought she seemed very nice. As the saleslady walked past the door a customer walked in. The customer said hi to the saleslady as she had already started to turn her back and walk away. The customer thought this was unacceptably rude; she stomped over to the saleslady yelling at her back, “Oh, what, you don’t say hi to people as they come in the door? Is that it?!” She continued to yell until the saleslady turned around and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you. I’m hard of hearing.”

You could hear a pin drop at this point. All the customers in the room stared at the woman. She said, “You have absolutely no reason to apologize.” And she left the store.

The beautiful thing about this story is that the saleslady was so calm and comfortable within herself to tell the customer that she was hard of hearing. She was not ashamed—she was merely stating a fact. The customer left there as a visibly different woman—it was as if something had dropped off her. Think about this story the next time you feel the urge to tell someone off or get offended. The imagined slight might have nothing to do with you.