Help Me Understand: How Do I Treat People Who Are Mean?

Somebody help me out here: How do you deal with mean people?

I usually try to be uncommonly kind to people who serve me as part of their job (bank teller, sales girl, customer service rep, etc.) because I know that a lot of times these people deal with the flack over issues that they have little to no control over.

But what do you do when they are just straight up rude to you?

Today the girl at the Subway counter was being just awful. I asked for spinach on my sub and she put on literally 4 leaves of spinach. I said, “Could I actually get a lot of spinach?” She then proceeded to reach for the next ingredient. I assumed she didn’t hear or didn’t understand what I said, so I repeated myself. This is logical, right? She responded with, “I know I heard you! Hold on!”

Then I decided I wanted some avocado. They charge by the scoop, and in the past I’ve been asked how many scoops I wanted. I said, “I’ll just have one scoop.” She responded with, “I know, that’s what I was going to give you. You didn’t have to say that.”

This is not a matter of “I’m the customer, I’m right”, it’s a matter of “I’m a human being, I prefer not to be snapped at and condescended to.”

I almost said something along the lines of “you should lose the attitude” or even “don’t be such a bitch, please” (because using the magic word cancels out the vulgarity of the b-word, I’m pretty sure), but I wanted to say those things because I felt contention in my  heart and wanted her to feel small.  No matter how people treat me, I never want to be unkind to anybody- I don’t want the character of others to determine my own character.

This was a small and essentially meaningless incident, but it has raised in my mind this question: How do I respond when the incident is, in fact, meaningful?  I know that I will have situations where I deal with cruel and spiteful people.  How do I deal with that?

One might say, “kill them with kindness”, but I feel like even that is spiteful- a way of making them feel belittled in comparison to our aggrandized unalterable righteousness.  So help me understand- how does one maintain love and humility when faced with a person who is intentionally cruel?  What is the Christian way to behave?

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2 thoughts on “Help Me Understand: How Do I Treat People Who Are Mean?

  1. Heather says:

    I would suggest telling them your honest opinion. That’s what I try to do because it is usually (but not always) the most productive thing to do. If I like the way someone is acting, or treating me, then I tell them. It reinforces their positive behavior. However, if I don’t like the way someone is treating me (or someone else), I also tell them so they know not to repeat the behavior. I probably would have said something like, “I appreciate that you are making my sandwich and you’ve done a good job, but the way you are talking to me is making me uncomfortable”. Hopefully this helps a bit.

  2. chococatania says:

    Situations like this are the worst! When it comes to rude people, I have to admit, I’m not always on my best behavior. Here are two things I try to do:
    1) Silence. Seriously, the old advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Is totally legit. In fact, even Christ employs this method when he’s being judged by Herod. Often, I’m silent at first, and in my mind saying a prayer – that I’ll understand the person who’s being mean, or at least have the patience to endure the situation and get outta there!

    That being said, I can see that the circumstance you gave may not always allow for silence. This is when I employ:

    2) Humor. I have noticed that trying to have a sense of humor, especially if it is self-depricating, can go a long way. The person you are dealing with may not deserve such a nice and entertaining response, but at least you are able to leave happy.

    The worst part about dealing with rude, mean people, is that when you leave the situation (no matter how you’ve handled it), you feel like you’re dripping with that same cruelty.

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