Primary Blog/Communication & Public Speaking/5 Smart Ways to Respond to Rude People in High-Level Meetings

5 Smart Ways to Respond to Rude People in High-Level Meetings

Friday, May 05, 2023

Picture the scene: you’re participating in a meeting with other top executives at your company. There are decisions to be made and opinions to be heard. The discourse is as you may expect in a corporate setting with the C-suite – lively and impassioned, but respectful.

Until one colleague says something that is outright rude. It seems to come out of nowhere and is out of sync with the rest of the room. What do you do? How do you react? Rudeness in a situation like this can be a challenge to navigate.

Here are five tips (through the acronym
C.L.E.A.R.) that can help you deal with rudeness in a high-level meeting.

Tip #1 — Contextualize

The first tip to keep in mind when you perceive someone’s speech or action as rude is to contextualize the behavior.

Contextualizing a situation allows us to view the “big picture” behind it and recognize the layers of complexity around it. When encountering other people we perceive as rude, we may tend to individualize the behavior rather than see it in context. Individualizing makes the behavior personal. And when we personalize rude behavior, it is easy to mistakenly characterize the individual as rude, instead of realizing it is their actions or words that you perceive to be rude.

Instead of personalizing rude behavior, you might consider asking yourself: “What is underlying the behavior here?” or “What is this individual seeing that I’m not seeing, and what are they frustrated with?”

When viewing the behavior through a contextual lens this way, it’s possible to see that the individual’s response is to something external, rather than characterizing the individual themselves as rude.

Contextualizing has another advantage: It allows you, as an executive, to maintain your presence, poise, and professionalism. And while keeping your composure, you become open to understanding the true driver of another person’s rude behavior. This state of being will open you up to realizing what the real issues are in the conversion, and how you may be able to add value by helping to address them.

Tip #2 — Lead

The next tip is to step up and lead in this situation.

As an executive moving along a track of career progression, you are stepping up into gradually greater levels of leadership. Your goal is to have an impact on your organization and to be taken seriously. And in this situation, you have an opportunity to do just that.

Acting as a leader, you can set an example for others to follow, especially in a situation where others may be taken aback by an individual’s rudeness.

To step into greater leadership, reflect on where you see yourself going next and who you see yourself becoming. This opportunity can be a key moment to begin transforming into the vision of your future self. With these first two tips in mind, contextualizing and leading, not only are you reframing rude behavior in context, but you’re remaining poised and positioning yourself to lead others.

Tip #3 — Expand

The third tip to handle rudeness in a meeting is to expand your view.

Often, in the moment, rude behavior might initiate the emotion of shock. However, consider the setting: You’re among top executives who are leaders at the company and at the top of their field. These colleagues have adopted a very top-level view of situations and events. Executives at higher levels tend to have a time horizon that is very far out. So if you find yourself perhaps feeling stuck in an uncomfortable moment in a certain conversation, consciously expand your own time and space horizons to match those of your colleagues. Then evaluate your perceptions of the behavior.

Consider whether the rude person may simply be very future-oriented. They may have a visionary mindset, and perhaps their vision came across as rude initially. As you progress to higher leadership levels, learn to expand your time horizons so that you become more visionary in your thinking, and match the mindset of other leading executives.

Tip #4 — Acknowledge

The fourth tip is to develop an acknowledgment phrase.

This is a phrase that you routinely resort to if you find yourself in a situation with a rude person. By using an acknowledgment phrase, you’re choosing to break a neurological pattern that has been established as your normal response.

For example, if you typically freeze in these situations or become angry, this is your pattern. To change that pattern, lead with a phrase that is well-practiced ahead of time so you don’t have to think about what your response will be.

A couple of examples might be, “I can appreciate your perspective,” or “I can appreciate how this is frustrating.” Decide on your own phrase, so when you’re confronted with a rude person, you can say it without deliberating. In doing so, you’ll acknowledge the conversation, without participating in rude behavior in return.

Tip #5 — Reconcile

The fifth tip is to reconcile our judgment of another person.

Each person we interact with in life can reveal to us parts of our character that we aren’t aware of. Every encounter with people can guide us toward being more authentic versions of ourselves. Facing a person who is rude in an executive meeting is one of those opportunities. We can learn about ourselves by asking ourselves why we feel hurt by the rude behavior, or why we are offended.

Our reactions to rude behavior are symptoms of emotions we have. If we explore our reactions, we can start to understand why those emotions exist. When reconciling layers of emotions, you become free from feeling that certain behavior was “hurtful,” and instead become able to show more of your authentic self. And when you show up as your authentic self, you are fully present. Being your authentic, true self is when you contribute the most value. When you are showing up secure and confident in yourself, others around you will start to view you as a leader.

You’ve just finished the knowledge-gathering stage, so now it’s time to move on to the application stage to put what you learned into practice. Discover how to put the principles outlined in this blog into action in my executive coaching program, where I introduce you to powerful self- and career-development methods.

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© Mastery Insights Inc. All Rights Reserved