"How I came to be able to deal with rude strangers."

David the International Model from The Bachelorette was known for his rude remarks to Sam, such as: “I’ll just imagine you’re drowning.” (Source: Channel 10.)

The one thing that’s guaranteed to frustrate and infuriate me is a rude stranger. It doesn’t matter if it’s a snooty sales assistant or a passive-aggressive mum in the playground; a sharp, disagreeable word from a stranger can destroy my whole day.

Recently I was at a local shopping centre which had an enclosed soft play area for kids. I opened the child-proof gate to let my daughter in for a play and another little girl shoved her way out of the gate. This girl may have only been three, but boy, was she strong and slippery. She managed to escape the play area and run away. Her mother and father then stood up from the distant coffee shop where they had sitting. The mother picked up her little daughter, glared at me, and then said loudly to her daughter, “People shouldn’t let you walk out of the gate,” as she deposited her daughter back inside the play area.

“I didn’t do it on purpose. She pushed her way out, ” I reasoned with the mum. I talked to her directly, instead of pretending to talk to my child, as she had.

The mother became even more angry. “Well, push her right back in. Last time, she ran all the way into the carpark after someone let her out.”

Hell hath no fury like a mother Catelyn Stark from "Game of Thrones".

So, who was the bad parent? Me, for opening a gate only to have a random kid escape? Or the parents who had left their daughter in a play area as they ignored her and had coffee? (What, me, judgemental? Never!)

I felt so angry and indignant; the interaction actually ruined my afternoon. Oh, I know, that rude stranger isn't deserving of my feelings. I most likely won’t see them again. And yet, the emotions that I felt at the time – and for several hours after – are real as anything. I’ll be hurt, upset and confused.

According to psychologist Maria Faustino, it all has to do with something that Aretha Franklin sang about: respect.

“Everyone deserves respect. When a stranger is rude to you, it can be infuriating as this person, who does not even know you, is treating you in a disrespectful and judgmental way,” she explains.

Breaking this code of respect often results in people “feeling shaken, upset, and wondering what they did to deserve this,” according to Maria. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Should I say something?

For me, the big question is always this: should I have said something back to the rude person? If I don’t, then I’ll regret it, but if I do argue back, the situation often escalates and invites the stares of onlookers. (Post continues after gallery.)

“It is important to express how you feel when you have the opportunity. You don’t have to be rude or aggressive to the stranger to get your point across,” explains Maria. Without a response, the real issue of that stranger’s rudeness remains unaddressed. And it’s all about how you’ll be feeling in the long-term.

“While not saying anything alleviates anxiety in the short-term, it can increase anxiety in the long-term as it is a form of avoidance, and you were not able to truly express how you were feeling at the time,” Maria warns.


The key is to keep your response about the person’s behaviour, and not make it a personal attack. When calling out someone’s rudeness, keep in mind also that the person is not likely to apologise – but that shouldn’t be your main goal, anyway.

“Don’t expect them to understand your perspective,” Maria reminded me. “The purpose of the exercise is to be assertive and allow you to stand up for yourself, not to get an apology, which is out of our hands.”

But if you didn’t think of that perfect comeback until hours later (which always happens to me), that’s also okay. Go easy on yourself.

“Don’t beat yourself up if you were unable to express yourself in the moment. Often times when a stranger is rude to us, we can be so shocked that we freeze,” explains Maria. Yep, been there, done that.

Should I vent?

When I’m confronted with a disgruntled stranger, my next instinct is to vent about the situation to anyone and everyone. I’ll often turn to the person nearest me, roll my eyes and say, “Well, that was rude,” and then call my husband to whinge. But is this actually doing me any good?

Stephanie Tanner from "Full House" delivered a catchphrase repeated by disgruntled 90's kids everywhere.

The best thing to do is strike a balance between expressing yourself, but to also avoid overthinking it. There’s no need to tell everyone you know about what happened, as this will cause the situation to plague you. And this can include social media, too. One status update can result in hours of comments about the incident, which means that you’ll be re-living the event for longer than you should.

“It’s important to be selective about whom to share the experience with,” suggests Maria. “There is also a point where excessive venting can encourage overthinking and ruminating about the situation.”

Rosa from "Orange is the New Black" did not tolerate rudeness, and knew exactly what to say...and do.

But it’s still important to share your experience with someone close to you, as bottling up feelings of anger and resentment can have “a negative effect on your emotional and mental wellbeing, but also on your physical health,” according to Maria. Choose a supportive person who can sympathise with you, but also keep things in perspective.

It’s a sad fact that there are rude people everywhere, and it’s more than likely that we will continue to encounter them throughout our lives. But what we can do is change and control the way we react next time it happens.

Rudeness? A dealbreaker.

3 tips from psychologist Maria Faustino on how to deal with rudeness.

“Acknowledge and validate that the experience has made you upset, and that it is normal to feel this way.

“Avoid overthinking the situation. A person’s rude behavior is something that is not within our control, and therefore there was nothing anyone could have done to change how that person reacted. Chances are we won’t bump into that same rude stranger again.

“Thinking of it from their perspective, such as, “Oh that person must just be having a terrible day!” or “That person was just so rude but that’s not my fault!”. It doesn’t excuse their bad behavior, but it allows you to separate from the belief that you are to blame for their bad behavior. Most of the time, rudeness from strangers is rarely ever personal.”

What's your best tip for dealing with rude people?