What should you do if someone is rude to you? Why does it sometimes seem like people are always rude to us? How can you make people start treating you better?

Sometimes we know someone else’s behavior isn’t acceptable, but we feel stuck because we don’t know how to set a boundary by letting them know they can’t treat us poorly without coming across as angry or mean. I experienced this situation recently and I learned something valuable.

The background story

I’ve been a New Yorker for 11 years, and I’ve learned many life lessons in that time. One of them is that I need to get out of the city at least once about every month in order to maintain my sanity. It’s an absolute must to escape the concrete, steel, and noise, and put my feet on some dirt or sand.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend and I sat on his couch in New York talking about the upcoming weekend. We were both exhausted and agreed it would be awesome to sit on a beach under the sun.

“Should we go to LA?” he asked from one end of the couch, swiping through his phone, to which I replied jokingly, “Oh, sure,” knowing Los Angeles would be very far for a quick weekend getaway.

Before I could think about it any more, my friend had made an executive decision for us both. “Just booked our flights,” he said. “We’re leaving in the morning.”

Being that spontaneous made me feel like I was 17 again. I ran home, packed a bag, and within hours, we were on the other side of the country. I’m not a big fan of West Coast oysters (too sweet), but West Coast beaches? Huge fan. Huuuuge.

Jordan Bach on the beach in Malibu
On the beach in Malibu.

The boundary crossing incident

After checking into the hotel and unpacking, we headed to the hotel lounge. A server approached and asked for our order. In a warm, inviting, “nice” voice, I told him what I wanted to eat and drink. However, despite my “nice” voice, he wasn’t respectful in return. In fact, he was downright rude.

I should point out that I don’t care whether or not someone treats me like a prince or bows at my feet. Sometimes people just have bad days and you have to let it go. But when I asked him a question about an item on the menu, he got visibly annoyed and sighed loudly.

That’s when he crossed a boundary. My boundary is that if I’m paying a lot of money to eat in your restaurant, I won’t accept rudeness if I ask about the menu. But I decided to shrug it off.

Then something fascinating happened.

Another hotel guest seated nearby interacted with the same server moments later and his voice was way more crisp than my “nice voice” and lacked any sweet niceties. He was simple and direct in his requests. Surprisingly, the server treated this guy with the utmost respect—and laughed at his lame jokes!

If so many of us spiritually-inclined people think “nice” is the only way, what happened here? Why did the server seem to perk right up when the man spoke to him more directly?

My interesting experiment

After witnessing how the other, more straightforward hotel guest got better treatment, I decided to perform an experiment. No more “nice voice” for me. I wanted to see if people treated me differently when I stopped trying to appear nice and instead just spoke simply and directly.

Please note: it’s never appropriate to be rude or condescending. What I mean by “direct” is consciously avoiding putting on a sweet-sounding voice, and choosing instead to speak straightforwardly in your natural voice, pleases and thank yous included.

At first, it felt a little uncomfortable to speak this way, and I learned that I have a small but lingering desire for other people to think I’m nice. That said, the effects of being more direct were noticeable immediately.

The results of being direct

After a period of a few weeks during which I only spoke to people in a direct manner, the results were nothing short of incredible. I noticed a significant positive change in how people treated me.

“Nice voice” often comes across as an invitation to other people to treat you poorly. Perhaps this is because trying to appear nice is actually needy and draining by nature. When you’re trying to get someone to approve of you, what you’re really doing is subconsciously saying to them, “You owe me something.” This may make them understandably resentful.

In any case, being simple and direct in my speech–while keeping compassion in my heart—improved my life and helped me raise the bar for the kind of behavior I’m willing to accept from other people.

Speaking simply and directly increases the respect other people have for you. Click To Tweet

My psychological secret for establishing strong boundaries

In this video, I’m going to tell you something I haven’t mentioned. It’s what I consider to be one of my psychological secrets for establishing boundaries.

I hope this gives you a new and inspiring reason to start raising the bar for the kind of behavior you’re willing to accept from other people.

With love,

XO