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Business Etiquette: How to Handle an Offensive Remark

While being on the receiving end of an insult can be jarring, if you're routinely around a person who dishes out cutting remarks, it pays to be prepared. Here are ten ways to respond the next time someone says something rude.
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All of us occasionally deal with being stung by an insulting remark. Sometimes we don't think of the perfect response until several days after the initial insult. Or we may instantly fire off a sharp retort which leaves everyone around us stunned, and the person that tossed out the snide remark suddenly becomes the victim. While being on the receiving end of an insult can be jarring, if you're routinely around a person who dishes out cutting remarks, it pays to be prepared. Here are ten ways to respond the next time someone says something rude:

1. Ask yourself what the "get" is for the other person. Is it an innocent attempt at a conversation starter, or a mean-spirited remark? Is it their way of showing dominance, or are they just displaying a lack of good judgement? If the remark is a one-time offense, you may want to give him or her the benefit of the doubt and let it go. If it's a routine occurrence, read on...

2. Don't assume it's an insult. Take a good look at how you are reacting and evaluate if you are being overly sensitive, have misread the situation, or are feeling insecure because of other circumstances at the office. If you still feel you have a credible argument, use a trusted mentor as a sounding board on how to professionally address the issue.

3. Think before you react. Rather than mouthing off with a flip comment you may later regret, take a breath, compose yourself and concentrate on what you really want to say. Thoughtfully neutralize the remark by saying, "I'm not sure I understand what you are trying to say to me."

4. Turn the insult into a direct question. By saying, "This is obviously a topic that concerns you since you mention it every time we are in a group meeting," it will put the other person on alert that you are not afraid to hold your ground.

5. Keep your game face on. Don't show that the remark has upset you by resorting to a fit of anger, welling up with tears, or throwing an outright temper tantrum. You lose your power when you become overly emotional. If you think you're about to let bruised feelings get the best of you, excuse yourself, regain your composure and follow the next step.

6. Address the issue privately. If someone consistently makes disparaging remarks about you in front of your coworkers, calmly ask to speak with them privately. Find a public place to meet and let them know you don't appreciate their comments. It shows consideration not to call them out in front of the entire group. Let them know your expectations and request they immediately cease and desist. Clearly mention that the next time it happens, you will be forced to take it to the next level of authority.

7. A text is not the proper venue to address an insulting comment. After talking to the person face to face, follow up with an email so you have a form of documentation. "I appreciate the opportunity to get this situation out in the open. It is my hope that moving forward we can develop a professional relationship."

8. Don't laugh. Polite, sensitive people tend to want to smooth things over and find themselves uncomfortably laughing along rather than showing their distaste. If you don't think a remark is funny, or find it to be offensive, don't feel obligated to laugh or smile. You can send a powerful message with silence, or by immediately moving on to another topic. Removing yourself from the situation is another good option. If the person making the disparaging remark is your boss, you still have the right to let him or her know you don't appreciate their humor.

9. Set boundaries. If you know your coworker likes to push your buttons at employee events, take matters in your own hands and say, "John, I am asking you to kindly keep the focus of your conversation off of me. I would appreciate it if you would positively interact with the rest of our team and allow all of us to enjoy the team building event."

10. Rest assured, the insults are ultimately not about you. It's always about the other person. Some people simply try to make others feel bad so they can feel better about themselves. Don't allow someone else's opinion to influence the rest of your day. Take actionable steps, even when the step is to ignore the other person, or go to your supervisor for additional assistance.

To learn more about my take on how to handle condescending remarks, go to HuffPost Live and see what I have to say about rude remarks made about a woman's stature.

For more tips, refer to my blog, connect with me here on Huffington Post and "Like" me on Facebook at Protocol School of Texas.

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