• Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

What Rude People Won't Tell You

When someone is rude to me I sometimes wonder what I've done to provoke the rude behavior. Then I think, "Why am I feeling bad? THEY were rude to ME - and not vice-versa."

Last week I experienced rudeness from a radio host who invited to be interviewed on his show. The show found me because they saw me on FOX 4 Nightly News discussing the recent "SpongeBob SquarePants " research study. By the way, I want to clarify that everyone at FOX 4 is wonderful and is always extremely respectful and great to work with! If you missed the FOX 4 segment, here's the footage:

The radio personality (a nationally known talk radio host that I won't reveal - but if you are on my Facebook page you saw me mention him) was planning to discuss the study on his show and learned that I had appeared on TV discussing it. He invited me for a radio interview and then proceeded to ask me questions and mute my responses. He was rude throughout the interview both on and off the air.

At first I thought I may have been partially responsible. Later I found out he was trying to get a whole different message across using his own children on the air. Then I learned that his staff of 15 has been reduced to 3, which is why I was provided with so little information ahead of time.

It seems like it might be "in" to be rude. Reality TV is full of rude people and people find it entertaining. (Oh, but I do love Survivor!). And some TV sit-coms use funny/rude humor. In reality, being rude means you lack emotional intelligence in the areas of self-awareness and empathy.

Here's what rude people are really telling you:

  • I have a problem that I don't know how to solve. To deal with a rude person, acknowledging his/her problem or point of view is sometimes all that needs to be done. Whether or not you solve the problem, just showing concern and making a goodwill effort to make things better does some good emotionally.

  • I'm not confident in my abilities. This is what we see in bullies. People with high self-awareness are naturally confident. They exude charisma, are likeable and often inspire confidence in those around them. On the flip side, extreme lack of self-confidence can show up as arrogance and rudeness.

  • I'm depressed. When a person is clinically depressed they have an intense inner focus that can cause them to appear selfish. When you see someone being rude because they've "had a bad day" or are "really tired" you may be seeing depression. Depressed people are so focused on how they feel that they are unaware of how their emotions affect others. Watch for warning signs of suicide.

  • I've disengaged from people. It's easier to be rude in an email or on Facebook than face-to-face. When people are rude to you in these mediums hold them accountable for their actions by communicating with them on a higher level. For example, if you receive a rude email pick up the phone and call the person. I just had a patient today tell me how her recently divorced daughter found out that the ex-husband posted atrocious, untrue stuff about her on his Facebook page. Yikes. Some people don't mind being so rude in such a public arena. I say: "DEFRIEND IMMEDIATELY". It's true, Facebook can make you sick.

  • I'm uninformed. Talking loudly on your cell phone around others, strong cologne, disturbing someone who is concentrating at work, and allowing your children to continually misbehave in public are all ways people show rudeness. Many times people are unaware of how their actions are perceived and, quite frankly, they don't know better. When you know better, you do better.

Stay in the Smart Zone by taking the focus off yourself. Acknowledge rude behavior for what the rude person isn't telling you.