I have taken time to speak deeply this past week with influencers in my life and one of the points of conversation has been about how to interact with people who are rude, antagonistic or negative.

Your natural reaction might be, like mine, to simply avoid the issue by staying quiet

Or you may be more confrontational and choose to make a sarcastic comment. Or you may play the “victim” and complain about being treated badly.

None of these responses is particularly appealing if you want to move on in a positive way, if you do not want to leave with the bad taste in your mouth.

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I did some research and the following phrases (inspired by the works of the teams at powerofpositivity.com and brightside.me) can help you resolve interpersonal issues:

Practise these five phrases so that they roll off your tongue when needed

Remember, you choose how to react to any given situation, so choose a response that facilitates your happiness

“Thank you for your feedback”

This is not what anyone will expect you to say and will demonstrate that you are not going to allow their words to negatively affect you. “Your polite answer means that you acknowledge the person’s rudeness, and you choose not to let it affect you”. This reaction will likely disarm them too, giving them an opportunity to pause and rethink their intent.

“I appreciate your perspective”

This is a powerful statement that shows you intend to continue the conversation with dignity and respect. Practise this phrase until you genuinely feel this way; valuable feedback may be unattractively presented in rude words and recognising the potential wisdom in the perspectives of others can serve your happiness. See each encounter as an opportunity to uncover that treasure.

“What do you hope to gain from this?”

Thoughtlessness is often the driver behind rude behaviour and this practical question serves as a reality check. It deflects the attention away from you and onto your aggressor.

All you need to do from there is to wait for a response, repeating the question if necessary to prompt an answer. The use of the word “gain” also reminds your aggressor that the dynamic may not be fair, that she may be trying to benefit at your expense.

Social conscience now has a chance to replace thoughtlessness.

“You’re right”

If you are not vested in a long-term relationship with the person who is being rude to you, then this phrase is perfect for shutting down an exchange.

If you respond with the words “You’re right” there is little else left for your aggressor to say. He will feel like he has secured a (likely unsatisfactory) victory and you benefit from an easy exit from the exchange.

Just remember to disengage by walking or looking away so that it is clear that you do not want to hear any more.

“Let’s not say any more”

Cutting the conversation short in this way can help you avoid an exchange of words that either party may regret later. It also preserves your ego more than saying “you’re right”.

The open-ended nature of this phrase means that you can come back to your aggressor when you have both had a chance to reflect and calm down.

These five statements reflect positive intent, an acknowledgement of your personal boundaries and respect for your fellow humans, no matter how abrasive they may be.

Conflict, if managed properly, can have really positive outcomes. If you would like to have a more detailed conversation with us about this, contact deirdre@theofficecoach.co.za