My meeting with two women I had never met was all set. Yet, when I arrived at the designated spot, introduced myself with a smile and said nice to meet you, one of the women turned her back toward me and ignored my greeting. I asked her if something was wrong, to which she waived the back of her hand at me as if she was waiving me away. So, I asked again.
“I’ve never met you before, yet it seems you have an issue with me, have I done something to offend you?” This time she looked right past me, walked away and over her shoulder said, “let’s just begin.”
Not sure what she was irritated about, I looked at the other woman who shrugged and then silently mouthed, “she didn’t like your text, but she’s always like this.”
Ah, the text! When we were trying to schedule the meeting at a time of her choice, I explained that the owners of the facility where we were meeting didn’t want us to arrive as early as she wanted to be there. She responded that she knows the hours of operation, doesn’t need me to tell her what to do and furthermore, she had gotten permission to arrive whenever she wants. I asked who gave her that permission and she curtly replied, “will you be there at this time or not?” Irritated and a little confused at her condescending dismissive tone, I simply said “okay” and stopped texting.
While some people are unintentionally dismissive, others very knowingly dismiss what you say. They are patronizing and uninterested in your thoughts or feelings. Perhaps trying to make you appear inferior makes them feel superior especially if they can do it in front of other people like a lion leading the pack.
I’m sure you’ve met these people at work. They can be hurtful, embarrassing and make you feel irrelevant. If you’re like me, your natural instinct might be to lash out and let them have it, but then you are stooping to their level. Furthermore, if you do that, they will find a way to blame you and tell others what a jerk you are.
Instead, consider the following five approaches:
- Don’t take it personally
While easier said than done, take a breath to stay calm. Remain friendly and nice. Even if they continue to dismiss you, you can take comfort knowing that you remained professional.
- Call out
Calling someone out on their behavior is not the same thing as blasting them. If this type of behavior continues, consider telling them what is offensive and calmly ask them to stop. If it remains a problem, you may need to seek help from a manager or human resources.
- Culture clash
Sometimes, what seems rude to you might be a cultural difference. The person I interacted with was from another country. Perhaps she thinks she is being direct and doesn’t realize how her words are perceived. The same is true when Americans travel to other countries. For example, we are used to requesting adjustments when we order meals. In some countries, that is considered an insult to the chef.
- Walk away
If you’ve tried to de-escalate a situation and find out what is bugging this person without success, then it may be best to just walk away. A dismissive person has no ammunition if there is no one to aim it at.
- Body language
Remember that nonverbal communication is as important as what you actually say. If you do call someone out or walk away, be careful not to use negative or disapproving gestures such as rolling your eyes, crossing your arms or leaning too far into someone’s space. It’s also important to look them in the eye.
While you can’t always change someone’s behavior, you can change the way you react to it. It’s so easy to let a dismissive person put you on the defensive. However, if you handle their inappropriate actions appropriately, you will come across as professional and self-assured. They may not notice, but others will and respect you for it.