The power of social etiquette can be grossly underestimated at times. It's the reason that most of our days are spent in cordial, polite conversation with others, even strangers who really do something that makes us mad or annoyed. We know the polite thing to do is to let it go and forget it. No point in making a scene.
Not every interaction can be like that, though, and sometimes we wind up listening to something very disrespectful, even hurtful. What do we do in a scenario like that, and is there any way we can remain polite in the face of blatant rudeness? One etiquette expert says yes, and it's much easier than you may think.
Trying to remain mentally and emotionally fortified in stressful situations, let alone having the courage to defend yourself, is immensely difficult for those who struggle with self-confidence issues. They muddle one's belief in their worth, and make them think they deserve unfair treatment.
For anyone out there who's suffering these thoughts, know that you're worthy of respect and getting better. This free audio program is designed to help you evolve and grow your confidence beyond your wildest dreams, and it only takes a few minutes to get started!
Standing Up For Yourself
When in an uncomfortable situation, it can be hard to know how to proceed sometimes. Either things are too tense or awkward, making all parties not want to speak up again lest they make the situation worse, or you're faced with behavior so appalling that you can't rationally think about what to say next.
Emotions like anger, frustration, and betrayal rise so quickly, they fog your brain up, and now all you can think of is responding in kind with one of those feelings at the forefront, which won't do anybody any good.
Stop And Think
Making yourself stop in a turbulent moment and think before you respond is immensely difficult and can take a while to learn, but you don't need some carefully written speech in order to diffuse things or make the other person see how they've affected you. In fact, according to an etiquette expert, you only need need three words.
Sara Jane Ho is a Harvard-trained master of etiquette. She's founded a finishing school that focuses on etiquette and other social conventions and was the star of the Netflix show Mind Your Manners, in which she helped people learn etiquette to better their lives.
The Simple Answer
She already knows the perfect response to any sort of social dispute. No matter if it's someone's playful 'joke' that got a little too harsh, or a full blown insult to your character. If it can cause conflict, unease, or shock, she has just the thing to say. It's only three words, too, making it easy to remember.
"Are you okay?"
"If it were a friend who said something mean to you, I usually look up and say, 'Are you okay?'," she explained to CNBC.
Turn It Back Onto Them
It's a very measured response. She does urge that you say this with a kind, friendly tone, no throwing anger back lest you end up on the other person's level. By asking if they're okay, you not only force the other person to stop and think about themselves and what they said, but you also let them know that you don't find what they said acceptable. You're also killing them with kindness by checking in on their well-being.
"I'm not being offensive back," she said. "I’m coming from a place of care and that is usually to put the other person in check.”
If you find that even that is too much, that you wouldn't be able to speak without letting anger or otherwise seep into your tone, you can also say nothing. This is especially true if whoever you're speaking to isn't a friend that you should be cordial with. Saying nothing diffuses the situation and, again, forces the speaker to reflect on what they just said or did.
"Oftentimes, I feel like when people are being rude the best thing is to just not say anything," Ho explained. “Let everyone wallow, and let them wallow in their misbehavior.”
Above all else, your reply (or lack thereof) should let the person know that what they said didn't affect your mood at all. You can be disapproving of what they said or think it was inappropriate without it making you upset. Of course, this is easier said than done, but with time you'll be able to strengthen yourself against all sorts of blows.
Ho agrees too, saying, "The greatest power is showing that the other person doesn't have power over you."
It's never fun or nice to be on the receiving end of some less-than-kind words. Whether it's a misguided friend or someone who's genuinely angry at you, both are equally difficult to handle with tact and decorum.
By keeping this simple, short answer in mind, you'll always have something to retaliate with, something that will knock whoever you're speaking to off balance. The power you'll feel from such a short response will be unmatched, and you'll no longer fear these types of confrontations in the future.
Combating the limiting beliefs about ourselves that stop us from fighting back against those who wrong us, or even delivering a neutral response like the one above, is no easy feat. These beliefs are often deeply rooted and tough to dig out.