Displaying bad manners is never good for your reputation or your business, but when a vendor or client is rude, impolite, or discourteous, it can help you decide how – or if – you want to proceed with that relationship. After all, choosing to sever ties with a rude person might save you a lot of headaches.
As a case in point, not long ago I observed bad manners in a potential vendor, and it made me decide not to do business with that person. The situation was a business lunch. Even though the restaurant’s menu had a large variety from which to choose, nothing seemed to work for this person. The person acted very disgruntled and begrudgingly asked for the chef to make something that was not on the menu.
When the dish arrived, the person became the ultimate prima donna, pushing the plate back toward the server as if it contained a flesh-eating, carcinogenic bile. That action was accompanied by a snide comment, “Can you take that back and have them fix that? That’s not what I ordered.” I cringed in embarrassment at the condescending and snobbish behavior of this person.
I had noted a few previous sideways statements from this person that had raised my eyebrows a few times, but I was hoping that those were anomalies. Maybe the person was just having a bad day or was experiencing a lot of stress at home. Thankfully, the restaurant incident went over the line, and I realized what I needed to do.
An old maxim played loudly in my head: A person who is nice to you, but not nice to the server, is not a nice person.
I knew that if I entered a business relationship with this person, I would eventually receive the same treatment, so later that day I informed this individual I would be choosing a different vendor.
When bad manners deteriorate your workplace
The situation is different if you’re an employee and don’t have much control over your company’s vendors or who your company hires. Therefore, what follows are a few suggestions for when clients, vendors or coworkers are rude and you are required to deal with them:
- Remain objective. Making sideways or insulting comments toward a rude person may bring you temporary enjoyment, but professionalism wins in the end. I recall a vendor pressing a point with me that I thought was unreasonable. The conversation could have easily turned into an insult contest, but I held to the main points and kept it objective, not personal. I talked about the issues and didn’t make any negative comments about his perspective. Ten minutes later the issue was resolved to both of our satisfaction, after which the vendor told me, “You know, I really appreciate the way you handled that.”
- Get help if necessary. Whether your trouble is with a client, vendor or coworker, sometimes you’re better off talking with your manager about someone else’s bad manners. Your manager might offer a bit of sage advice, or maybe even step in to change the environment. I believe it’s better to iron out the wrinkles in a strained relationship than it is to separate two parties without even trying. That said, if total separation is the best solution, so be it.
- Exercise compassion. This can be difficult to do, especially if the rude person is making personal comments about you or attacking your integrity. However, if people are rude for no apparent reason, it is possible such people are unhappy about something in their life, or something tragic has happened, and they’re just taking it out on you. It could also be a self-esteem issue, or perhaps a personal problem is weighing them down.
- The key is to remember when dealing with rude people is that it’s their problem, not yours. You are free to mentally reject any “stuff” they try to lay on you. A quote that’s often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt (although there’s no proof she actually said it) is, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” In other words, you would have to care about what someone says or thinks for it to bother you.
The social media phenomenon
For some reason, people feel freer to be sarcastic and insulting on social media platforms than they are in real life. If you’re on any of these platforms, you’ve probably seen it. One practice I recommend is not engaging in conversations where someone is obviously baiting an argument. Social media is not the place to iron out differences of opinion, so just keep scrolling when someone gets snippy.
The saying used to be that Facebook is a place best reserved for cat pictures. With that in mind, if someone starts getting rude or insulting with me, I will sometimes just post a picture of a cat and then stop participating in the conversation. But mostly I just keep scrolling.
By doing your what you were hired to do to the best of your ability and truly assisting such people, even when they’re rude, know that you are pouring kindness all over them – and that’s a good thing. If you think about it, not only could you be the only person that treats such people with respect that day, it’s possible that the light you shine into their life might begin to melt their hardening heart.
Bottom line, no “one-size-fits-all” answer exists, but if you observe someone displaying bad manners, do be aware that they may eventually get turned on you. And if that happens, one choice might be to avoid doing business with that person altogether.
If that’s not possible or realistic, stay objective and get help if necessary. And, you might even choose to take pity on such people and cover them with compassion.
The idea is that when you are on the receiving end of bad manners, you can either let it put a stain on your day, or you can respond in a way that won’t sully your own reputation.
Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. For more than 30 years he’s been working with teams and individuals (1:1 coaching) to help them achieve excellence. He was also teaching Emotional Intelligence since before it was a thing. Reach him on his office phone at 208-375-7606 or through his website at www.MyWorkplaceExcellence.com.