skip to main content


“That is so rude of you to say that.”

I’ve heard this phrase, or some derivative of it, occasionally used and I’m not exactly sure what it means.

Perceived as Being Rude

For this comment to occur, someone had to say or do something. I suppose rudeness can also be found in not saying something, but for the most part, someone thoughtlessly or intentionally uttered some words or performed some action that someone else heard or saw and did not like.

Generally, the perception of rudeness involves two people: the speaker who produce the rudeness and the hearer who received the rudeness and was subsequently offended.


My experience is that someone either thoughtlessly, intentionally or erroneously made a comment that was perceived as rude. Thoughtless comments often originate as someone saying something they perceived as clever, humorous or informative. These comments are thoughtless because the speaker did not consider their audience in formulating their comment. Most of the time, when these comments are pointed out, the speaker will quickly understand their mistake and apologize.

Intentional rude comments, on the other hand, are designed to be hurtful. These comments often come from a differentiating power structure and, as opposed to unintentional comments, are often well thought-out before they are made. Pointing these comments out as being rude generally have no impact on the speaker.

Thirdly, erroneous comments frequently come from cultural differences These differences can be geographic, generational or income related. What is commonly said in one cultural setting can be perceived to be rude in another.

All three of these types of rude comments can all be found in non-verbal forms as well. Examples of non-verbal rudeness include being late for meetings, lack of cleanliness, and simply avoiding another person.


The speaker does or says something and a second person receives the rudeness and feels slighted. The receiver of any one of the three types of rudeness has three choices.

First is to simply ignore the slight, putting it in the category that the speaker simply did not know any better.

Second, the hearer could respond as in the question beginning this blog. They have taken on the responsibility to inform the speaker of what they perceive their comments to be. Many actions can follow this choice most of which are not healthy in a work environment.

Only if the speaker agrees the comment was rude and apologizes will this circumstance be beneficial. Otherwise, the situation occasionally devolves into arguing, shouting, and maybe worse with the result of two or more employees holding a simmering grudge.

Finally, the hearer can go to the appropriate supervising authority and express their complaint. Workplaces with sound HR policies will immediately know how to handle this situation. At this point, the hearer needs to let the comment go knowing it is in someone else’s hands to resolve.

The Bible

If you have experienced rudeness, do not feel alone. The apostle Paul spent much of his time working out workplace conflicts in the churches he started. Paul wrote to Titus.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:1-2)

Paul first recommends us to leave the problems to the proper authority and not take the responsibility on ourselves to solve. Secondly, we are doing the works of God, and we need to treat our workplace as a place of worship for “every good work.” Finally, Paul teaches us how to stop rudeness in our workplace by practicing civility and courtesy at all times.

Remember, rudeness is normally not premeditated. To avoid the potential damage that rudeness can cause, we need to practice listening first, then thinking through the situation, and only after thoughtful consideration, speak.