Don’t you just love rude people?
I want to share a story about a random rudeness encounter that happened to me recently on the bus – and how I was able to end things on a good note (and how you can too).
It was an overcast afternoon, looking like it was about to rain any second. I sat on a packed west-bound bus, headed to pick up a space heater at Menards, texting with a friend from Portland.
After going back-and-forth for 20 minutes or so, we signed off. I realized the formerly-crowded bus had pretty much cleared out – except for a woman, probably in her 60’s, sitting directly next to me.
Like, uncomfortably close next to me.
Now anyone who regularly takes public trans knows the unspoken rule of “if there’s room to move over, move over” so that you and everyone around you can enjoy a little more space.
My destination was only a few stops away, so thought “Meh, I’ll just sit here and wait it out.”
I started gathering up my stuff, and pulled a brand new umbrella out of my purse. The woman suddenly said “Watch it!” and made motions as if she was cleaning off invisible rain that had just splashed on her from my 100%-dry, still-in-the-package umbrella.
I calmly said “Relax. It’s dry.” She made the non-existent-rain-cleaning-off motion again and scowled at me.
Having zero patience for rude people trying to take their bad day out on others, I rolled my eyes to show her bad mood wasn’t going to affect me.
Enter round 2.
A few seconds later, she turned and said “This seat is priority for the elderly, like me”. I slowly looked around at the other 10+ empty priority seats around us.
“Um, there’s plenty of available seats. You don’t need to be sitting right next to me.”
She muttered something under her breath and the scowl returned.
That’s when I decided to give her a dose of friendly – i.e. the opposite reaction she was hoping to get out of me.
With my most pleasant smile I turned and said “I don’t know why you’re trying to pick a fight. But I hope you start having a much better day.”
That did it. Her face contorted into a mix of surprise, confusion and then anger. I wasn’t going to bite, and she knew it.
She got up out of the seat, still muttering to herself, and got off at the next stop.
Moral(s) of the story?
As soon as I realized the bus was empty yet someone was sitting directly next to me, my gut said something was off. And it was right. Listening to your gut, even if it doesn’t make total sense, is key.
Second, the whole situation of this crabby lady looking to pick a fight had absolutely nothing to do with me. Which I know can be really hard to keep in mind in the moment, but it’s so true.
We never know what someone is going through, and usually any rudeness they throw at you is actually a desperate cry for some sort of acknowledgement.
Which actually makes it a great chance to give them not what they want (a negative reaction, because misery loves company), but what they need (some kindness).
So the next time you find yourself in a situation where you want to yell “Seriously? What’s your PROBLEM!?” just remember there’s much more at play here – and none of it has to do with you.
But, you DO have the power to steer things in a better direction.
Here’s a simple script you can use the next time you get a random dose of cranky:
- Calmly respond to the issue (“Relax. It’s dry.” / “Um, there’s plenty of available seats. You don’t need to be sitting right next to me.”)
- Go a level deeper and name what’s REALLY happening (“I don’t know why you’re trying to pick a fight”)
- Wish them well (“I hope you start having a much better day”)
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