Verity Johnson is a writer, speaker, Weetbix addict, Leo, and part time hypochondriac.

Verity Johnson: How to deal with rude people

Rude people don't seem to care. Photo / iStock
Rude people don't seem to care. Photo / iStock

The first drug dealer I met was a man I'll affectionately call Ferret.

An ex of mine unexpectedly brought him to a dinner party at my house. I really don't know why. Although if it was so as to avoid any awkward post break-up talk then it certainly worked. I was so furious that I didn't speak to him at all that night. Actually, I haven't spoken to him since.

It wasn't so much that Ferret was a drug dealer. It wasn't even the fact that he left a soggy trail of Carlsberg and sweat everywhere. It was the fact my ex had brought an unintended guest to a dinner party.

I've always found bringing uninvited plus-ones particularly rude. Especially to a dinner party. I don't care if he's been living off tinned tomatoes in a skip for the last month. If you wanted him here, then you should have asked. But you didn't. So don't.

This tuna salad is exquisite. It is golden. It is culinary dynamite. It took four minutes, two can openers and several of my most exuberant swear words to prepare this.

It is not just doled out to anyone you happen to be shacked up with.

I also find the signs of the back of toilet doors instructing me how to wee properly very rude. Goodness? Do we sit on the toilet? Do we not throw paper on the floor? Do we put pads in the bin?

Thank Christ you told me! I've been imitating a helicopter, running around the bathroom shouting "wheeeee" and spraying my urine on unsuspecting mothers my entire life. Why did no one tell me I was doing it wrong?

(Actually, I understand why we have these. It just doesn't shake an instinctual, unthinking surliness at the idea of regulating such an intimate moment.)

I could go on. People who are rude to waiters ... people who stop in front of me when I'm walking .... people who remind me that they've heard the story I'm telling before ... I find all of these things rude. And it seems you do too. This week when I've mentioned I'm writing about public rudeness, everybody has downloaded a week's worth of fermented grief. There were rants about queue jumpers, people who call with No Caller ID, eating on the street, urinating while on the phone and people bumping into you because they're too busy snap-chatting their feet.

So it seems all of us have lot of different ideas about rude people and behaviour. The next question of course is how you deal with these social verrucas?

There are only two responses. First, is what I call the kea response. The kea's primary defence mechanism is to stand very, very still against predators in the hope they go away. (It's not a flawless strategy.) This approach is inspired by the kea: it's to say nothing and look away. Keep quiet, suck in your breath, hope they stop, nibble a passing worm, ignore it, ignore it, ignore it right up into the point when it's screaming for immediate action ... then cough once (lightly!) and go back to normal.

The problem with this approach is rude people don't seem to care. They do not notice your internal fury, nor would they change even if they did. But the saving grace of the kea is that it prevents you, as the offended party, breaking the rule of silent tolerance we seem to have for rudeness.

The other approach is the Robin Hood approach. This is the approach favoured by wily social vigilantes. Here you call out the offending partner either with politeness, anger or humour.

You could also take the Australian approach and yell, "oi, softc***!"

The advantage of this approach is that the rude person will likely stop. Nobody likes being called out by strangers. If they queue-jumped, they will leave. If they bumped into you, they will apologise. If they are talking too loudly, they will be quiet. It's an approach that gets results.

Everyone loves the social vigilante, no one wants to be them. It takes an enormous amount of guts and conviction to challenge someone like that. Plus most of us are afraid that we ourselves are being rude by doing so.

So what do you do? My suggestion is to settle for the happy medium. Give the offending person your most judgmental glare. (Imagine you're Parisian. It helps.) Glare hard. Glare consistently. Glare at them until they make eye contact with you ... and then drop your head in embarrassment. It's okay. They know.

- Canvas

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Verity Johnson is a writer, speaker, Weetbix addict, Leo, and part time hypochondriac.

Verity Johnson is a writer, speaker, Weetbix addict, Leo, and part time hypochondriac. When she's not Googling diseases she's performing comedy, writing bad jokes and nursing a failed career as an RnB singer. You can find her at or bulk buying cereal in Pak n Save.

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