What to Say When Someone Is Rude in English

Jan 16, 2019 | Business Professional English, English Confidence and Fluency, English Conversation

Have you ever felt shocked when a colleague, friend, salesperson or stranger says something like, “Wow, you look terrible!” or “That’s not a great haircut on you.” How do you deal with rude people or rude comments? Today you’re going to learn what to say when someone is rude in English.

The truth is, people may say rude things in different situations, for different reasons. Sometimes they know they are being rude and sometimes they have no idea how inconsiderate or disrespectful they are being.

Regardless of the reason the key thing is to always stay calm before you respond. Staying calm and making a good choice about how to handle it gives you the best chance to manage the situation well. So, before you react in anger or hurt, take a deep breath, count to ten and confidently choose how you wish to respond.

Today is your chance to learn what to say in these situations with 4 strategies you can use to confidently deal with someone who is being rude right in that moment.

But here’s one important truth: Kindness always wins.

4 strategies to deal with rude behavior or comments.

Lesson by Annemarie

Four Strategies for What to Say When Someone Is Rude in English

Strategy 1: Kill them with kindness.

Be super polite! Sometimes being extra polite and super sweet can really highlight someone else’s rudeness. Demonstrating your own kindness can really make their rudeness stand out like a sore thumb. By the way, stick out or stand out like a sore thumb is a great idiom to say something is really noticeable or obvious.

Here are some phrases you can use:

  1. It seems like you must be going through a really difficult time. If you need an ear I can be really supportive.
  2. Sometimes when people are rude it is because they are really hurting or feel out of control. So, if i can help with whatever is going on please let me know.
  3. I am not going to take what you just said to heart because I think you must really be struggling with something. I am here if you need to talk.
  4. Let’s talk when you are feeling calmer because I really want to find a way for us to communicate in a more respectful way.
  5. I was wondering what you must be feeling to make you say hurtful/inconsiderate things.

This strategy is great for friends or family or even co-workers, people you need to maintain a healthy relationship with, despite their rudeness. 

Strategy 2: Educate and enlighten.

Perhaps the person is not aware that what they are saying is rude or hurtful. In this case you may be able to enlighten them or help them realize that changing their ways could improve things for them and their friends and family. You could try something like this:


  1. I’m not sure if you realize but what you just said was pretty hurtful/inconsiderate/inappropriate.
  2. I wanted to let you know that when you said … that was hurtful/mean/tactless.
  3. When you say things like that it really hurts people’s feelings.
  4. I feel really hurt/insulted/affected by what you are saying. If you talk to people this way it will really affect your relationships/friendships/cooperation.
  5. Wow, that is a hurtful/inappropriate thing to say/ask.

Kindness always wins.”

Strategy 3: Be calm and assertive

Staying calm should always be your first step, and in this case you stay calm and use assertive language choices to make your feelings and needs really clear. For example:  

  1. When you say… I feel disrespected/sad/disappointed.
  2. When you say things like that I don’t want to continue the conversation.
  3. I need you to speak in a more respectful way.
  4. I am finding your words hurtful and I need you to consider my feelings.
  5. I will give you time to calm down. We can talk when you can be respectful.
  6. I find that really rude, and it’s not okay.


✨Get my in-depth lesson on How to Be Assertive and Sound Confident English.

Strategy 4: Shut it down.

Sometimes rudeness continues because we feel we need to be polite. But when rudeness has gone too far, there is only one thing to do: call it out and put a stop to it. Here are some ways to do exactly that:

  1. That is really rude and there’s no need for that.
  2. You are being inconsiderate and I need you to stop.
  3. This has gone far enough, this needs to stop.
  4. I will not tolerate rudeness, I am ending this conversation.
  5. We can continue when you are ready to speak respectfully.
  6. We will have to agree to disagree and end this discussion.
  7. I will not be spoken to like this, it is unacceptable.
  8. I am not going to engage in disrespectful communication like that.

(Note: these would work particularly well with strangers or people you interact with in public places.)

Now that you’ve watched the video, are you ready to give it a try?

What would you say in response to these situations?

  1. A colleague sits down next to you and comments “should you really be eating that?”
  2. A friend says  “Oh my, I hope you didn’t have to pay for that haircut. It’s terrible.”
  3. You’re trying to organize an event at work and a colleague says, “you always make a fuss about everything and make a mountain out of a molehill (exaggerate or overact).”

Use the strategies and language you’ve learned today to practice. The best place to share with me, get feedback, and learn from others in the Confident English Community is in the comments section below.

Have a lovely, kind Wednesday!

~ Annemarie

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