How to Handle a Social Situation With a Rude Friend

Be assertive with a rude friend.
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A friend who is rude in social situations might not realize that others are uncomfortable, might be intentionally trying to make people squirm, or might genuinely think that she is being helpful. Whatever her motivation, your best reaction is to stay calm. Be assertive and help guide your friend toward more acceptable behavior -- and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief.

1 Set Boundaries

As you sit with a group of friends before class, one of the girls says loudly, "So when are you going to get a boyfriend?" Though you might feel angry and humiliated, it's best not to react with emotion. Calmly say, "I don't know. It's not really something I want to talk about in front of everyone." React from a position of kindness and empathy, recommends psychotherapist F. Diane Barth, in the Psychology Today article, "What Makes People Ask Rude or Inappropriate Questions?" Perhaps your friend is jealous or unhappy with something about her own relationship.

2 Shift the Conversation

After answering the rude question, shift the conversation toward a new topic by saying, "How is cheer-leading practice going?" If the friend insists on discussing the topic, focus your attention on someone else, Barth says. For example, turn to the friend next to you and whisper, "I'd really like to change the subject. What was the last movie you saw? Have you read any good books lately?" By moving away from the conversation with the rude friend, you send the message that the topic is not up for discussion.

3 Refocus Your Attention

Perhaps your friend interrupts or ignores others in favor of texting on her cell phone. If someone is disrupting a conversation, it is best to disengage from that person, says psychologist Phil McGraw in the article on his website, "Dealing with Rude People." Ignore her when she interrupts and focus your attention on the others in the group. If she takes forever to answer questions because her nose is buried in her phone, stop trying to talk to her.

4 Be Assertive

Although it is important not to react from emotion, in some situations you may need to use an assertive tone to communicate that what your friend is doing is not acceptable. Make eye contact with the rude friend and use her name. For example, say, "Julie, I appreciate your input, but I like my hairstyle the way that it is." Stay calm, don't get upset, but be firm about your boundaries. Be sure to treat others with the dignity and respect that you would want for yourself. In this way you show them how to treat you.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.