A friend shared a story of rudeness that really impacted her. She was holding the door for an elderly man at a gas station when he made a comment that working women, like her, are what’s wrong with our society, and she should be home taking care of her kids. He continued by saying that a certain president-elect was going to put women like her back in their proper place. She was understandably taken aback, and really had no response to the unsolicited, unbelievably inappropriate comment. To her credit she chose the high road and didn’t respond to him at all.
Now you may not run into someone who has a distinct opinion on this election and its outcome, but the holiday season is upon us. Perhaps we are dreading questions from relatives or friends when attending the holiday get together. Questions about when are you getting married/divorced, having kids, buying a house, how you are raising your kids, can all be up for discussion by people who probably don’t realize the boundary they have just crossed. Maybe they do – there is a response for that as well. I thought it may be a good idea to arm you with some strategies for dealing with someone that inadvertently crossed the line, or maybe they are just plain old rude. Prepare yourself and you won’t engage in something you may regret.
Before responding, pause, and take several deep breaths. “Check in with your body and assess what you are feeling.”
This involves separating yourself from the other person rather than reacting to their words or energy, she said.
For instance, imagine an invisible shield made out of Plexiglas between you and them. “Any negative energy cannot penetrate you.”
Marter (therapist Joyce Marter, LCPC) also cited Ross Rosenberg’s technique of emotionally distancing yourself from others called “Observe, Don’t Absorb!”
Advocate for yourself.
“[A]dvocate for yourself in a way that is protective and caring, while remaining respectful and diplomatic,” said Marter, who also pens the Psych Central blogs The Psychology of Success and First Comes Love.
For instance, one client received an email from her childless bachelor brother criticizing her and her husband’s parenting after attending their daughter’s birthday party. In the email, he also copied their entire extended family.
The client responded by thanking her brother for his concern, letting him know that they didn’t want his input unless it’s solicited and expressing confidence in their parenting skills.
“Their daughter is a normal, darling child with normal toddler behavior. In time, [her brother] realized this was the case and that my client and her husband we responsible and caring parents.”
Another client was approached by a stranger on the street, who said: “You know, in order to wear your hair that short you really need to have a stunningly gorgeous face…” She responded by saying: “You know, in order to walk up to a stranger and say that is stunningly rude. Namaste.’” Then, she walked away.
Be clear about what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
For instance, you might say: “It is not OK for you to comment on my food, my weight, my exercise or my body.” Marter suggested checking out Cloud and Townsend’s work on setting boundaries.
Communicate your discomfort.
Sometimes, when faced with an inappropriate remark, Marter responds with “Wow,” and then succinctly communicates that the person’s comment crossed the line.
Don’t disclose if you don’t want to.
“Don’t share information you do not want to share,” Marter said. For instance, you can say: “I’m so sorry, I am really not comfortable talking about that right now.”
Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words. According to Marter, silence can be “an effective mirror for somebody to gain insight about their inappropriate behavior.” One example is when someone is catcalling or making sexual remarks, she said…