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The rude and nosy coworker
Sometimes, colleagues are not even aware
they are perceived as being rude
I work in a small office with just the doctor and three staff
members. The business assistant is always sticking her nose in
my business. She asks personal questions that she shouldn’t be
asking, such as how much money my fiancé makes. Sometimes
she is quite rude to me, and I’ve had to bite my tongue to keep
from telling her to mind her own business.
But what really steams me is when she questions decisions
I make regarding patient care and often changes the time I need
for subsequent appointments. I don’t like gossip, which is why
I sometimes go and sit in my car at lunch just to get away from
her. I haven’t said anything to the doctor, because I don’t think
he would want to get involved.
She is very good with patients; they seem to love her.
But I’m getting to the point that I do not want to be around
her. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this
nosy, rude person?
One of the pitfalls of working in a small office is the propensity
of some people to pry into their coworkers’ lives. Some people
live boring lives, so extracting some piece of juicy gossip about
someone else gives that person a thrill. I much prefer working
in a large office with a large cadre of coworkers. It seems there
is less opportunity for busybodies and general nosiness.
I can understand your reluctance to confront your
coworker. You don’t want to create a feeling of hostility in
your small office, so up to this point, you have “put up” with
her rudeness and nosey behavior.
However, since her behavior has become increasingly bothersome, it’s a safe assumption that you feel the pressure is
building. If you are ever going to stop the behavior, you must
deal with your coworker.
First, let’s talk about your coworker’s rudeness. Sometimes
when people are rude to us, it takes us by surprise. We don’t
know what to say immediately, but after we have time to process
the rude comments, the typical reaction is anger.
Most of us do not wish to handle rudeness with rudeness.
Here is a great reply that I learned from a speaker at a National
Speaker Association meeting many years ago. (I wish I could
remember who said this so I could give them attribution.) You
could say, “That comment sounded rude to me. Was that your
intention?” Believe it or not, some people do not know they are
being rude. With this remark, you are letting the person know
that she has been rude.
Another great comeback is to question the question with,
“Why do you ask?” or “Why do you say this?” This forces the
questioner to answer for their rude inquiry or statement.
When your coworker launches into some bit of gossip, the
best thing you can do is to walk away. If she is addressing you
directly, you can always say, “(Person’s name) is not here to
defend herself, so it’s better if we change the subject.” I’ve used
this: “ You need to take this situation to the person who can do
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An article titled “ 12 Comebacks for Dealing
with Rude People” ( levo.com) gives us
several good rejoinders to rude comments:
1. Excuse me, but did you actually just say...
2. So sorry, I wasn’t listening.
Can you repeat that?
4. Well, I think we’ve reached the
end of this conversation.
5. Whatever you say.
6. You don’t really expect me
to answer that, do you?
7. That’s the most pretentious thing
I’ve ever heard. (Then laugh.)
8. You’re kidding, right? Hold on.
You are kidding, right?
9. Ouch. Did you mean to be that rude?
10. Help me understand why you think that
was an appropriate thing to say, and
why you think I should answer you.
11. Thank you. We’re all refreshed and
challenged by your unique point of view.
12. My apologies. I don’t speak English.