strangers being rude

Defining rudeness

Rudeness is an impolite or offensive behaviour that can show up in many different ways. It can be as simple as interrupting someone who is talking or ignoring a person who is trying to get your attention. Sometimes folks use a condescending tone or make derogatory comments, which can also be considered rude and insulting.

What may be considered rude can differ from person to person. It is also often subjective and may vary depending on someone’s culture or their upbringing. Your personal beliefs also affect how you perceive rudeness or a slight.

Ahmet’s communication style was considered rude in Japan

rude communication style

Ahmet was a Turkish businessman who traveled to Japan for a business meeting. During the meeting, he noticed that his Japanese counterpart did not make direct eye contact with him and spoke in a soft tone. Ahmet was used to making eye contact and speaking in a direct and assertive manner, and he felt like his counterpart was not taking him seriously. He perceived the behavior as rude and unprofessional, and he was tempted to speak up and confront him.


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After the meeting, Ahmet’s Japanese colleague explained that in Japanese culture, making direct eye contact and speaking in a loud or assertive tone is considered impolite and aggressive. He assured Ahmet that he respected him and his opinions, but he preferred to communicate in a more indirect and respectful way. 

Ahmet realized that his cultural background had influenced his perception of social norms and interactions, and that he needed to adapt to the new environment. He learned to listen carefully and observe the nonverbal cues of his Japanese counterparts, and to adjust his communication style accordingly.

Strangers and rudeness

Strangers can appear rude because of a poor first impression. You might catch someone on a bad day, when they are stressed out of their mind about a job loss or health worries. It is important to remember that a stranger’s rudeness is not always a reflection of their true self. 

Samantha was on a train ride home from work when she noticed a man with three young children sitting across from her. The children were being loud and rambunctious, running up and down the aisle and disturbing other passengers. Samantha felt annoyed and judgmental, thinking that the father should control his kids and teach them better manners.

But as the train ride went on, Samantha overheard the dad talking to the oldest child in hushed tones. She realized that they were on their way home from the hospital where the children’s mother had just passed away. Samantha felt a pang of guilt and empathy, realizing that the children were probably acting out because they were upset and confused about their mother’s death.

We can meet people on an off day and perceive the person as rude or insensitive, but that may not be who they really are. We all have bad days where we don’t show up as our best selves, and we need to remember that before casting judgement on other people.

Cultural differences can be perceived as rudeness

One’s culture also affects how one perceives a stranger’s seemingly rude behaviour. For example, speech differs from culture to culture.

In Latino and Arab cultures, speaking loudly and expressively is considered polite behaviour, while  some people from East Asian and American Indian cultures use softer tones. Many cultures perceive interruptions when speaking as a norm, while others consider this incredibly rude.

Being aware of these cultural differences may help avoid unpleasant interactions with strangers. It also prevents you from appearing offensive to others too.

Maria and her friends were on the Canadian subway, listening to loud Spanish music and singing along. They were having a good time and didn’t think anything of it until they noticed that the other passengers were giving them nasty looks. Maria and her friends were confused and didn’t understand why people were reacting that way.

After the subway ride, Maria asked a Canadian friend why people were so upset about their Spanish music. Her friend explained that in Canadian culture, it is considered rude to play loud music or make noise in public places like subways and buses. Maria was surprised, as in her home country, it was common to listen to music on the bus, and no one had ever complained.

Understanding the social rules of a culture will also help avoid conflicts and misunderstandings, especially when dealing with strangers.

Personal experiences

Is someone being rude to you? Sometimes, you may feel this when interacting with others, yet you cannot pinpoint why you feel and think this way. It may just be a gut reaction that something is off.

We may feel offended by another person’s seemingly rude actions for several reasons, and our personal experiences are part of them.

feeling offended by others

Sometimes, we perceive some words and non-verbal cues as offensive because we are having a bad day. Even a coworker’s silence may appear dismissive of you, even though their intention isn’t to offend you.

The person you are dealing  with may be having a tough time or have a tight work deadline. They may not acknowledge your presence or make eye contact, which can come off  as rude to you. When this happens, the rude behaviour is generally not an intentional action nor directed towards you, in particular.

Impact of past experiences

Our past experiences also affect how we perceive rudeness and react to it.

Victims of bullying and harassment are more sensitive to perceived rude behaviour. They become on high alert when meeting strangers due to their past experience. Often, this perception leads to a cycle of negative interactions as these people may unintentionally act rude or hostile as a coping mechanism.

A person’s mental and emotional health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, affect how they view rudeness. People suffering negative emotions are often likelier to see neutral behaviour like silence and impartialness as rude. It can cause people to become more withdrawn and less likely to form positive connections with strangers. This also leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

effects of anxiety and depression

Our personal experience greatly affects our perception and reaction to the behaviour of strangers. Unfortunately, changing perceptions, especially those affected by our upbringings, experiences, and culture, is not easy thing to do.  But becoming aware of them may help us become more open when interacting with new people.

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Coping strategies with rude people

We cannot change how others behave, even if it offends us. But we can change how we react to difficult situations. 

Emotional management

Dealing with rude behaviour is emotionally exhausting, especially from someone we don’t know. Usually, treating rude with strangers with kindness  can stop things from escalating.

So, when dealing with rude strangers, try these emotional management strategies:

  • The first step is to remain calm and not let the rude behaviour affect you. Take a deep breath and process the interaction.
  • Next, try to view the situation from a different and positive angle. For example, if someone cuts in front of you, pause and take this as an opportunity to practice your patience.
  • Finally, remove yourself from the situation if possible and try not ruminate on what happened or let it ruin your day.

Communication skills

Besides managing our emotions, we can also practice effective communication when dealing with rude behaviour. Some helpful tips to consider:

dealing with rude behaviour
  • Use “I” statements to communicate your feelings towards the rude behaviour. You may say, “I feel disrespected when you speak to me in that sharp tone.”
  • Learn how to set clear boundaries and how to assert them. You may say, “I’m uncomfortable with how you talk to me. Please stop.”
  • Respond with kindness and empathy to avoid escalating the rude encounter. You may say, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day. Can I help you in any way?”

These coping strategies are healthy methods of dealing with rude behaviors from strangers. By managing our own emotions and communicating effectively, we’ll also have less risk of misunderstandings and more positive interactions with the people we encounter daily.

Why Are Strangers Rude To Me

Got any comments, questions or tips for dealing with a rude stranger? Share them in the comments below.

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