12 Comebacks for Dealing With Rude People

What do you say to someone who asks you a rude or inappropriate question or says something offensive?

That was what several friends asked after I shared my advice on Getting Unstuck from Sticky Situations. What do you say, they wondered, to questions like, “Have you lost weight?” “How much money do you make?” “Is that your real nose?” “When are you going to have children?” and “Did you mean to wear that today?”

Finding the right comeback can be a tricky thing. Assuming you’re unable to ignore the person or just walk away, how you handle inappropriate remarks says as much about your own character as the person ticking you off. And the comeback choices are limited if the insulting person is your boss -- assuming you want  to keep your job.

So let’s say you don’t want to handle rudeness with rudeness. For me, that means passing on the two-word expletive that's top of mind when I’m confronted with the rude and offensive. It also means refraining from tossing out overtly snarky lines, such as, “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” or, “I'll try being nicer if you'll try being more intelligent,” or, “I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce,” or “I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public,” or  “I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.”



Thought This Might Be of Interest

1. Attitudes. A fascinating column in the Washington Post uses new research from the Pew Center to compare the attitudes of U.S. Democrats and Republicans to those of citizens around the world. The U.S. appears more forgiving of gambling and drinking than most other countries, and more approving of contraceptive use than everyone but the Europeans. Look at the attitudes about premarital sex, divorce, or homosexuality, though, and things get interesting: The supposedly conservative Latin Americans look like libertines compared to U.S. Republicans, while Democrats tend to be more in line with Europeans. Asian and African nations, as a whole, seem much more conservative -- except when it comes to extramarital affairs. 

2. Pregnancy and bad drug choices. A recent study published in the journal  Obstetrics & Gynecology found nearly 23 percent of the 1.1 million pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid filled an opioid prescription in 2007, up from 18.5 percent in 2000.  The study also found that 9.6 percent of all pregnant women in New York were prescribed opiods. Some research suggests that opiod use early in pregnancy can cause birth defects; use later in pregnancy may cause newborns to go through withdrawal. Some speculate that doctors are forgetting to ask women in need of painkillers if they are or could be pregnant, causing doctors to prescribe opiods such as codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone instead of less dangerous drugs.

3. The story behind gay marriage.  The New York Times Magazine takes a deep dive into the story of how President Obama came to endorse same-sex marriage -- and to frame the issue so Americans would support it. Obama told his top advisers that "voters were far more likely to be supportive once they understood that gay couples wanted to marry for the same reason straight people did: It was a matter of love and commitment. Polling indicated that voters would best respond if the issue was framed around shared American values: the country’s fundamental promise of equality; voters’ antipathy toward government intrusion into their private lives; and the religious principle of treating others the way one would like to be treated."  

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