Several days ago, at a community club I frequent, I met a young lady. I thought she was new, so I smiled at her warmly and greeted her with a crisp “Good morning!”, hoping she would feel more at ease with the place. She responded with an enthusiastic nod and an equally warm greeting.
When we met again at the reception counter a while later, to my surprise, she said, “Thank you for returning my card to the counter.”
It took me a while to register what she was saying. Then it dawned upon me, because I was pleasant to her when she first arrived, she assumed I was the one who found her membership card. So I said, “It wasn’t me who found your card, but I am glad you got it back anyway.”
Point is, it is easy to be nice and polite to people who are nice and polite. What do you do when you are treated differently? How do you respond if someone throws a caustic remark at you unprovoked?
Overheard at a community cleaning event at my neighbourhood, organised by the Residents Association:
Volunteer to male resident: “Would you like to join us clean up the place, sir?” [smiles]
Male resident: “What?! I have better things to do. For that matter, do you pay my rent?” [promptly walks away]
To begin with, I find it strange that anyone would think his life is his and his alone, that he has nothing to do with the men, women and children around him.
Here are some tips you may consider if you cross paths with such a person:
1. Be above the fray. You will get to nowhere if you stoop to their level. Stay calm and walk away. Their words may make you uncomfortable; just imagine those hurtful words to be like water sliding off a duck’s back.
2. Don’t take it personally. It is possible that the person has a habit of being rude to others. It has little to do with you, especially if it’s your first encounter with them.
3. Acknowledge that you can’t change a person. If you are a highly caring person, you might feel the urge to change him or her. Let go. Truth is, people change only when they want to, not because someone else wants them to.
4. Continue to do good anyway. Don’t let the rudeness of one person push you into becoming an insensitive person, especially if the rude person belongs to a different ethnic or religious group. Continue to be kind anyway. Even if the rude person doesn’t get it, his children, family members or others watching you might.
5. Silent treatment might be best. Some rude people might feel validated and encouraged to continue spewing rude remarks if you respond to them. It adds fuel to their negativity. It makes sense to kill it off – simply by ignoring them.
6. Be assertive. If your job doesn’t allow you to walk away and requires you to deal with them face-to-face, for example at the checkout counter, firmly ask, “How can I help you?” in a firm tone. Remember: The other person’s rudeness in no way reduces who you are. Rather, it negatively impacts what others think of him or her.
7. Make the conversation short and to the point. This applies when your job requires you to deal with the rude person regularly.
8.Talk about it in your own family. Raise it as a topic of conversation in your family. Children, especially young ones, must be taught that rudeness is never welcome, no matter how upset they are. Habits set in in early childhood. Make it a “teachable moment” for the little ones. Discuss it in an even and matter-of-fact tone. It proves to the children that staying calm and collected is a choice we make, no matter how others treat us.
Dealing with rude people might be an exception more than the norm for most of us. Still, when it happens, be conscious of the fact that it’s not your fault. Equally important, if the rude person is in a position of authority or power over you, for instance, s/he is your boss, you have the option of leaving it at your workplace.
While it is quite natural for you to feel intimidated, bringing it home in the form of an emotional spillover is not a wise choice. Your parents, spouse and children deserve the best of you. The moment you step in the door of your home, put on a bright smile. As the saying goes, “A smile is a curve that sets things straight.” Allahu a’lam.[ends]
This article was published in page 20 of the April 2015 edition of Alwasat, a bilingual Australian newspaper based in Melbourne. Read it online at http://issuu.com/alwasat2011/docs/al_wasat_april_2015