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October 17, 2023

Responding to Perceived Rudeness

Recognising what pushes our buttons and strategies to respond appropriately.

We all have things that ‘push our buttons’. One common challenge for many of us is when it feels like an individual we are supporting is being deliberately rude. When the behaviours we see feel personal, it’s easy for us to react to them, rather than respond.

Perceived rudeness is something we all can face, although what’s seen as ‘rude’ may vary widely between us, and can look very different depending on the age and needs of the individual concerned. People can appear to be rude without realising it, and what one person thinks is rude may differ from another. Sometimes, honesty can feel very rude, particularly if it’s about something like our personal appearance.

Rudeness is not always unintentional: some individuals may say or do things to get a reaction from us. Instead of thinking of this as ‘attention seeking’, we can reframe this as ‘connection seeking’. It can also become a habitual response, driven by experiences and feelings. It can be hard to remember that this behaviour is still a form of communication if we’re feeling upset, angry, or embarrassed by what’s been said.

Behind the behaviour, an individual may be feeling anxious, angry, or attempting to deflect us away from something else. Whatever the feelings that are driving the behaviour, how we respond to it can help diffuse or further escalate the situation.

What does ‘being rude’ actually mean?

What one person thinks of as rude behaviour might not faze another person. It’s also very much dependent on the setting we work in and the needs of the individuals we support. So, let’s think about what we might consider rude behaviour.

It could be:

    • Intentionally not listening to someone, or acting as if they can’t hear or see them

    • Choosing not to follow instructions, rather than not understanding them or being unable to follow them

    • Swearing and offensive language

    • Spitting

    • Making someone feel uncomfortable by discussing taboo subjects, such as sex, someone’s weight or appearance

    • Turning their back on someone or moving away from them

    • Gestures, such as showing a middle finger

    • Mocking and laughing at someone

We should all be guided by the policies in our settings that will govern whether we need to record or report an incident, and who we should inform about it. A puzzle-solving approach to behaviour often means that seemingly insignificant events can form a bigger picture when we bring them together. We can think about who might need to know what has happened to help support this individual.

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