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.”
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.