The Most Gracious Responses To Common (And Rude) Situations

03/30/2015 12:00 am ET | Updated Apr 23, 2015

Whether you live in the nation’s most polite state or its rudest, boorish people are all around. No matter what you do, you likely will find yourself in a position every now and then where someone does something so obscenely impolite that you are at a loss for how to respond.

Thankfully, gracious people exist, as well, and you are probably one of them. According to Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette coach and author of the book Let Crazy Be Crazy, there are a number of ways to respond when you find yourself confronted with an uncomfortable situation.

Brought to you in partnership with American Greetings, check out the expert’s advice on how to deal with these eight common, and painfully rude, situations. Feel free to let us know how you’ve dealt with these duds in the past.

1. When A Stranger Catcalls You

man smiling at walking woman

Best Response: Ignore it. And if you are feeling threatened, report it immediately.

According to the expert: “Let crazy be crazy,” Swann says. “A catcall from a stranger is not a serious request for a date. Just … leave them alone. The moment you open up that opportunity for them to respond, you’re opening yourself up for more [rude comments].”

2. When Someone Makes An Unsolicited Remark About Your Appearance


Best Response: Turn the comment on its head.

According to the expert: “Turn a stupid question into a new conversation and [then] change the subject. You can give a very brief answer without going into a lot of detail. Just last week someone came up to me and said, ‘Are you tired? You look tired.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not tired. I had a great day! Speaking of, how’s your day been going?’ I just changed the subject.”

3. When A Friend Publicly Reveals Private Information

woman telling secret

Best Response: Put on a brave face in the moment, but for the sake of your friendship, don’t just let it go.

According to the expert: “You need to do two things: Number one, try to be very brief and steer the conversation in another direction. Number two is to follow up with that individual. When you have a moment, remind them that the information should have remained private. Soften the blow by saying, ‘I’m not quite sure if you remember, but the information you just shared is something I would have preferred to leave private.’ Try not to make a big thing about it, and make sure [your aside is] out of earshot of others.”

4. When A Customer Or Client Treats You Badly


Best Response: Think about your business.

According to the expert: “Show grace under pressure. Give the client an opportunity to vent. People are rude because they either don’t care how you feel, or just because they are trying to get their point across. Allow them to do the latter, and then steer the conversation toward a resolution.”

5. When A Roommate Or Co-worker Crosses Boundaries

angry roommates

Best Response: Call him or her on it, as directly as possible.

According to the expert: “Pull the person to the side, and stick to the point. Address them directly: ‘I’m not quite sure if you’re aware of this or not, but the lunch you’ve been eating is [mine.]’ And ask them to stop.”

6. When Someone Says, ‘Where Are You From? ... I Mean, Originally.’

angry asian man

Best Response: Ask to clarify the question.

According to the expert: “Ask them, ‘Do you want to know where I’m from, or are you asking me about my nationality?’ When you respond to that sort of question, it’s all about your tone. Mind your tone, and you will not start a fight.”

7. When Someone Touches You, Your Pet, Or Your Child

protecting child

Best Response: Reclaim your space.

According to the expert: “Move [the pet or child] away. Bring them closer to you. Use your body language and stake your territory by keeping your hands on them. And distract [the person] with conversation.”

8. When Your Companion Can't Put Down The Phone

cellphone dinner

Best Response: Be kind but firm. And remember what you love about them.

According to the expert: “Stop them and say, ‘Why don’t we just spend a little time together? Why don’t we focus on what it is we’re doing?’ Especially if it’s a close friend, tell them their behavior bothers you. Otherwise, your frustration will build until you explode, and when you do mention it, [the anger is] not going to be about the issue at hand.”

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Note: Language originally in this article that seemed to make light of the serious issue of catcalling as a form of sexual harassment has been amended.

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