Posted by: Deborah Drezon Carroll | April 20, 2010

How Rude!

I’ve been thinking lately about how we raise girls who are polite but strong advocates for themselves. After all, besides death and taxes, life has one other certainty — nasty, obnoxious, and rude people will come your way.

Once, Shira and I were shopping and, long story short, there was this very cute Nicole Miller dress which said $42.00 on the tag, but when I tried to pay for it, they wanted to charge me twice as much because they said the tag was wrong. “What a shame,” said I politely, “but the tag rules, and that is the price I’m going to pay, and you will accept.” Well, I said something of that nature to the sales girl who was, shall we say, less than polite. But, she took the tag away and went off to seek the manager who came over to say they would not accept the tagged price. “Well,” politely said I, “give me the tag, then and I’ll write to the CEO of the company to see how he or she feels about this.” They said they had thrown the tag away and destroyed it. “Well,” politely, said I, “I don’t think so. Hand me the tag.”

This went on for a while between me and the very rude, very wrong manager. In the end I paid $42 for a very cute dress for Shira. (Which I later inherited, lucky for me.)

Shira, however, was mortified by the whole experience. She thought I was less than polite and that I almost made the sales girl cry. I explained that I was advocating for the rights of all consumers to avoid the bait and switch scam, among other injustices. And, I wanted that dress for $42.

Shira didn’t see it my way. Still doesn’t. I’m sure she’ll comment later.

In another adventure in rude… one of my teacher daughters who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, recently encountered a very rude parent who chose the wrong place and wrong time to discuss her child’s progress. (The right place and time, fyi for all you parents of school-age children, is at a private appointment that you have requested with your child’s teacher, or in an email or phone call. The wrong place is any public spot where you accost the teacher without notice and try to discuss your child’s progress in front of everyone.)

I thought my teacher daughter handled the rude parent well but that doesn’t mean she didn’t feel like crying then and later about it.

So, how do we raise girls to handle the rude folks coming their way? I say be firm, be polite, but state your opinion and stick to it. Profanity isn’t usually necessary, even though it might feel good. I think that when the language deteriorates, so does the discourse. But, I am aware that, occasionally, when dealing with the extremely rude, you just cannot avoid it and language be damned!

Interestingly enough, Tamra doesn’t seem to encounter rude people so much. Maybe she gives off a vibe that says — “I take no crap!”–  I don’t know but dealing with the rude is not one of her regular issues.

My dad always said that there were two kinds of people in the world — those that got walked on and those that walked on others. He said I needed to ask myself which did I want to be? He said he’d prefer to be walked on. I knew I couldn’t be the walker and I’d prefer to be walked on if those were my only two choices. But, I’m hoping for my girls, there’s a third choice — there’s the doormat and the feet on the doormat, so can’t there also be perhaps the threshold? That would be the open and welcoming spot that the feet step over without actually imprinting a foot. So, we don’t get stepped on, but if we’re about to, we can always politely close the door in the rude person’s face.

How do you handle the rude among us?

Tamra Writes:

I like to handle the rude people by laughing at them, making fun of them, or loudly and sarcastically talking about them so they can hear how ridiculous they sound. People are rude. I find that I encounter rude people all the time. I talk about them, complain about them, and then move on. You certainly don’t have to be rude to avoid being a doormat. There are ways to be honest without being rude. It’s called being tactful. Sometimes I think people need you to be rude to them in order for you to get what you need or to get what’s right. When you’re having an experience with an exceptionally rude person, sometimes the only way to get your point across is to give them a dose of their own medicine. There is nothing wrong with closing the door on a rude person’s face.

It can also help to be the opposite. Sometimes a big dose of kindness snaps rude people into shape. You’d be surprised how many times I run into rude people and by cracking a joke or laughing a little, they lighten up. And if they don’t, then clearly they have no sense of humor and that’s their problem.

What do I say to rude people? “You’re rude, enjoy your spaghetti”.

Alexis Writes:

A great man once said “Enjoy your spaghetti, you’re very rude.” That man was comedian Dane Cook and he is a genius. I like to handle rude people with humor. It also gives me pleasure to deal with them in a sweet way, hiding my sarcasm-type voice. My father likes to say that you should kill people with kindness. It makes me feel good when I hear someone spout out a negative comment and then I come up with a positive response. We all know how we feel physically when we’re focusing on the negative — we feel bad. I like to be sweet to people when they are being nasty. They’re expecting you to lash out at them. They want to make you react. It’s empowering to know that you’re not giving them what they want. It means you’re in control. It’s all in your tone, even saying the phrase “You’re absolutely right,” can be coated with the feelings I choose.

The bottom line is that rude people are often unhappy, if you react the same way, you are staining your life with the same negative feelings. Keep everything positive. Usually rude people will be jealous of the positivity anyway, and I think that’s the best way to react to them — annoy them back.

Shira writes:

I usually find myself trying to be friendly to the people I encounter, because that’s how I’d want them to treat me. I know what it’s like to be the waitress who would rather be doing anything else than bringing annoyed vacationers chicken fingers, but cranky people don’t get very good tips. I always ask store clerks how they are and smile, and most of the time I get a fairly positive response. I think people are surprised.

This past weekend, Tamra and I went into the Sprint store about 7 minutes before it was supposed to close and it was obvious that the people working there wanted to go home very soon. But in true Carroll fashion, Tamra and I started cracking jokes with the sales girl and talking about a shared love of Target, and she seemed much less annoyed to keep the store open a few minutes later than scheduled.

As for the Nicole Miller dress, I didn’t think Mom was being rude. I thought she was being a little insane and paranoid to think that the 16-year-old sales girl at the Neiman Marcus outlet could put that much effort into ripping her off.



  1. I handle “rude” pretty much the way your Mom handled it. She knew she was right. I like how she stuck to her “guns”.

    I have also handled rudeness by doing exactly the opposite of what I think the offender expected me to do. Disarming for them. So if I get cut off in traffic, I might drive by and wave and smile.

    On the other hand, I have been known to give the finger, something my husband says I must not do anymore, given the fact that the person may have a shotgun sitting on his/her lap.

    I love talking to strangers and I’m always pleasantly surprised when encountering surly people in line or when they are checking me out in market or store how quickly their mood changes when I say ” I love the pin you are wearing.” or “Love your hair”.
    Wow, can that change a mood.

    Checking my attitude is the best way to be an example. I’ve lost my cool when with either children or grandchildren; directed at them or someone else and an apology goes a long way to
    fixing the rudeness and showing the progeny that even Bubbe can fix her attitude when needed.

  2. I have not considered the “wave and smile” method of dealing with annoying drivers but I’m going to start using it rather than the honk and scowl I now use, which may engender the same reaction as the finger I am tempted to let fly. You are also so right about how a small compliment often buys big dividends. I think some people get so used to their routine that they don’t even think anyone’s paying attention to them personally. When they feel that you are “seeing” them, they perk up. Good point. And, I think it’s a great example for kids to see as well.

  3. Love your blog, and love your girls! My grandmother always said to me that “if you lay down like a doormat you’re going to get walked on”. She was a fun and feisty lady!

    Thanks for making me think of her today!

  4. Thanks for your sweet words. Bet your grannie had lots of smart words of wisdom. Please come back and share anytime. And, send us your friends!

  5. I enjoyed this post very much. When I was younger I would let people walk on me…probably because I was not taught otherwise, but not that I am a mama bear, actually it started when I was a wedding planner and had to advocate for my clients, I will stand up for what I believe to be right…in a polite manner…and if someone else wants to be the rude and obnoxious one, let them have at it.

    Thanks for stopping by on my SITS Day!

    504 Main

  6. OK, I am back to subscribe! I did enjoy you post earlier and have been thinking about it all day. I just love when I find people who react (with what I consider to be) grace and reason…and teach their kids that!

  7. Yay! Thanks for subscribing. We love that!

  8. I have 3 kinds of daughters: one rude, one is a doormat and one is sweet and kind but will stand up for herself when needed. For example: she is a 29-year-old high school golf coach. She has had to stand up to very rude parents for 3 years. However, this year, even her boy’s team was rude… even sending rude texts! But she stood firm, said all the right things, and she came out the winner! I’d like to say she got that from me, but then I’d have to say the same thing for the other two, wouldn’t I?

  9. HA! Yep, they all come from the same upbringing. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? A real argument for nature vs. nurture. Or, maybe it’s birth order. Sometimes I wonder how the heck any of them of to be who they are and what I should have/could have done differently. Guess I’ll try it out on my grandchildren. (Not that I’m having those any time soon!)

  10. I know how Shira feels. I would have felt the same way at her age. But as you get older, you begin to see that there are two things we deal with: treating people kindly while making sure others do not walk all over us. Some people would have timidly set the dress down and walked away but is that any way to live life? One thing that REALLY changes as you get older is your concern over what others think. You become more comfortable with who YOU are and you learn to make sure other people respect your boundaries. When you’re younger, it’s more about keeping the peace and making sure people like us but over time, after being (unfortunately) hurt by people who take advantage of people who are too kind, you learn to stand up for yourself and not let people do that. Maybe, in a way, that leads to a cynical nature, but I don’t think so. I think it’s all about being a strong woman who speaks up for herself.

    That’s my take on it anyway.

    • I’m thinking that maybe I am more cynical than I once was. And, I’m sure you’re right, too, that when I was younger, I probably would have meekly given up and walked away. I agree that learning how to be a stronger woman who speaks up is something we learn with time. I’m hoping I set a good, rather than rude, example. Thanks for sharing you’re thoughts. They made me think!

  11. I try to be above the rude. You have to be forthright and steadfast with your opinions, but there are times when the battle is not worth fighting. Even a quick jab at times, isn’t worth it. I usually ask myself if I want to continue the conversation, if I want to garner further communication with the offender.

    Most recently, I failed at being above it all when I purposely out snarked my class mom. I was just tired of smiling and nodding at her as she talked herself up all the time. I love sharing parental notes, but please don’t continually speak over me to boast about how great your habits with your children are. Constantly cutting me off is belittling and shows no interest in what I have to say. So, I finally did the same back in a series of short and fast cuts to the throat. When I was done, I walked away, not proud of my actions.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    I would like to interject; although you were right about the sales price of the dress and the sales people should not have been so defensive over it, they are most likely bombarded with people trying to get discounts when they shouldn’t. In college, I worked as a sales person and it was tiring to constantly deal with customers who would try every way possible to “trick” you into giving them a discount. People aren’t always tactful when doing this and I think it messes up their perspective on the matter. That said, I’m not excusing their behavior.

  12. I’m with you at “trying” to be above the rude. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Guess it depends on my mood and the situation. Thanks for reminding me, though, about the need to put myself in the place of the working person, though. I was a salesclerk once myself and you’re right, people can be nasty sometimes.

  13. Thanks for your recent comment on my blog! Your daughters are GORGEOUS!

    I enjoyed this post and I think it’s an interesting analogy to have a third option: to be the threshold!

    I try to deal with rude behavior by being tactfully assertive. So far, it’s served me well!

  14. Tactfully assertive… I love that! Thanks for checking us out, thanks for your kind words and thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  15. I think you have been successful in raising three amazing, strong women. Congratulations.

    I, too, like to use humour and to call people on their behaviour.

    Stopping by from SITS.


    • Thanks for checking us out. I love people who love humor!

  16. I love this post and this blog – what a great concept! I’m glad I found you on SITS today!

    As for assertiveness, it’s something I need to work on. I wouldn’t say I’m a doormat but I’m waaaay too quick to see the other guy’s side of things, so I let things slide too easily. If I were in your situation I would have said “forget it” and left the dress there. I wouldn’t have paid, but I wouldn’t have asserted my point either.

    When it comes to rudeness, having been a waitress for a few years definitely taught me the value of kindness and how you’re way more likely to get what you want if you say it with a smile 🙂 And that has helped me in my “unique” living situation – I’m living with my f-in-law, who has dementia, and if you’re not careful you can fall into the neverending pit of arguments with him. It’s much easier to put him to rest with a smile – even if what I’m saying is contradictory to what he believes, which is all the time, he’s more receptive because my tone is lighthearted and positive while at the same time firm. It works much better!

    PS – gorgeous girls! I’m so jealous!!

  17. You’re probably just really an empathetic person and that’s not a bad thing. My oldest, Alexis, has that gift and curse and it is both of those. Probably helps you, as you say, in your unique situation. I know it’s hard b/c my aunt has dementia and there is no way I could live with her. I have trouble even visiting, although I do it because I am her only family. I can’t imagine living with her. You are partially a saint, I think. 🙂

  18. Thanks for sharing. You have raised some great gals and should be proud! I wish I had a mother that wasn’t afraid to teach me to speak up and be assertive and not be walked on.

    Stopping by from blogfrog.


  19. We appreciate your stopping by. Yes, mothers do matter. Mine did not teach me to stand up for myself and I suspect that’s why I’m adamant about my girls doing so for themselves. Or, maybe times for women have changed. Either way, I think it’s important. And, keep in mind… it’s never to late to begin being your own advocate!

  20. Great post! I’m grateful for the Follow because now I can follow you (on Twitter).

    Why do retailers grapple with rule number one to this day? The Customer Is Always Right.

  21. Yes, they are. Okay, I admit, sometimes the customer is crabby but, still, service should be the goal, right? Thanks for checking us out.

  22. oh this is a fun blog. I have three daughters and we are in early stages of all this fun, 11 yrs old, 5 yrs old, and 3 yrs old. I’m going to have to keep coming back-
    Oh and good job with the dress. The sales girl may not have known what to do but the manager most certainly should have handled it differently, as in, “our mistake” and here is the dress for $42 or whatever it was-

  23. i stopped in from SITS and love this blog! i have 4 girlies…and i can see that we are a bit alike. hmmmm…happy monday to you.

  24. Thanks for stopping by. Yow, 4 girls… that’s way more than three! I’m headed over to check your blog out now. I suspect we do have a lot in common.

  25. Boy, do I still struggle with this! I try to rise above, to be gracious, to use humor, to laugh, to ignore…. but sometimes I just run out of steam! To top it off, I am married to a wonderful person who is able to ‘just let it go.’

    I think that part that ‘bugs’ me the most is the idea that people who try to be honest and kind seem to bear the brunt of the consequences created when companies are unwilling to honor their posted sales prices or people think that traffic laws apply to ‘everyone else.’

    Do we stay quiet (and condone the behavior)? Or do we speak up and get identified as “the problem.”

    I thought that when I added you to my blogroll I also subscribed. Off to fix that — I don’t want to miss anything else.

  26. Thanks so much for subscribing! We’re happy to have you. And, yes, I’m willing to sometimes be “the problem.”

  27. So nice to know I’m not alone. Thanks so much for dropping by my discussion over at blogfrog and adding your two cents. Appreciated.

  28. You are very welcome. Hey, not everyone enjoys my two cents so I’m happy when someone does!

  29. For me, as I get older (and wiser), the trick is to not take anything anyone takes personally. As soon as I remind myself not to get defensive, I begin to be able to think about why they are acting the way they are and empathy and redirection to the actual issue at hand seems to have an amazing effect. The thing most angry people want most is validation. Let them know that their emotions are completely understandable without letting them off the hook for their bad behavior and it’s astonishing how they change.

  30. Love this blog. Mom you really are raising amazing daughters.

    Rude people are a pet peeve of mine, but I think I’m slowly getting to the point where maybe I can see what the motivating factors may be and try to let that guide my response. I am not a doormat by any means, although perhaps I was for many years of my life. I like your idea of there being a third option.

    Here from SITS!

    • I may have to work on that — seeing what causes the rudeness and letting that guide me. For now, I’m just not that enlightened! Love the title of your blog. I’m off to check you out!

  31. Hi, what a great blog you have here.

    I too, feel slightly uncomfortable when I stand up for myself in public in front of my 14 year old, who does not want conflict if at all possible. She is usually pulling on my proverbial leash to keep me at bay. Sometimes I wonder if I am pushing too much just to be right on principle, but I hope I am modeling to her that you can be assertive without resorting to rudeness. I was door-mattish when I was younger until I developed the confidence to be otherwise.

    • Well, as you saw in my post, Shira was embarrassed too. But, I still think you are exactly right. We must model for our kids the behavior we wish them to have. It’s even more important when it doesn’t come naturally. Sometimes, though, the motivation of having our kids watching us is enough to make us step up. Keep up the good work.

  32. This was hysterical

  33. I have to agree with your dad. I’ve found that killing people with kindness is the best way to go!!

    To Mom, I don’t think the salesgirl was trying to rip anyone off. However, I do agree that if they made a mistake with the pricing on the tag, it’s their problem, not yours, and they should respect what it says and learn from the experience.

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