As you go about your day, you might find yourself doing or saying something that can make you seem rude, even though that obviously wasn't your intent. It can happen at work, while interacting with strangers, and even when hanging out with friends. Everyone will make the occasional mistake, but it's also never a bad idea to be more aware of how your words and actions impact others.
"Building empathy, in general, is a massive win in any personal or professional situation," Jen Oleniczak Brown, an author and educator who specializes in building social skills, tells Bustle. It can not only help you better understand others and connect in a meaningful way, but it can make them understand you, too.
By being aware of what might come off as rude, you can avoid making a social faux pas, and pushing others away. If you do mess up though, it's not the end of the world. "Even if you did something that was perceived as rude," McBain says, "you can often make the situation better simply by saying sorry and addressing your actions with [the other person]." Here are a few common mistakes to keep in mind, according to experts, that can easily seem rude.
1. Getting Distracted During Conversations
It's so easy to get a bit distracted during conversations — maybe by looking at your phone, or thinking about what you need to do later on in the day. But even if you don't mean anything by it, it can still be perceived as rude.
If you catch yourself drifting away, "try staying fully present in the conversation by making eye contact, nodding appropriately, and asking questions to seek further understanding," Angela Medellin, LPC-S, RPT-S, a licensed mental health counselor who does person-centered therapy, tells Bustle.
This will not only help you connect with the other person, but it'll help them feel heard and understood, too.
2. Having "Avoidant" Body Language
Body language is a powerful thing, and how you hold yourself can make all the difference when it comes to being viewed as rude. Take avoidant body language, for instance. This includes standing with your arms crossed in front of you, or turning away from someone as you talk, all of which can make it seem like you don't want to interact.
"Instead, be fully aware of your body and the direction that it is facing," Medellin says. "Try not to cross your arms in front of your chest as this sends a message that you seem guarded." Standing in a relaxed way, with your arms naturally at your sides, can send a totally different vibe.
3. Not Texting Back
Life is busy, and not everyone can (or should) look at their phone 24/7. But if you're in the middle of an important text conversation, you might want to treat it like a face-to-face conversation, and not drop out midway through.
"Poor text etiquette and not responding back to others can feel like a rude gesture," Medellin says. "This can seem rude to your friends because they might interpret your lack of communication as your lack of interest in them."
While everyday back-and-forth texts obviously don't need to be this formal, you might want to save deeper convos for when you have time instead of leaving someone hanging. Simply let your friend know you saw their text, and that you'll get back to them soon.
4. Venting To Friends
Friends are some of the best people to reach out to when you want to vent, and that's certainly an OK thing to do. They want to hear what's on your mind, and nothing can make you feel better quite like letting it all out.
That said, it's easy to go overboard and form a habit of "emotional dumping," which can be perceived as rude. "After talking about something negative, you may leave feeling a little lighter, though the load has been transferred to your friend," Derika Buckner, a brand strategist and coach who specializes in public image, tells Bustle.
To avoid this situation, you can balance it out by giving your friend a chance to talk, too. You can also share peaks and valleys (or highs and lows) of your day, Buckner says, so that the negatives are balanced with positives.
5. Saying "Nice To Meet You"
Saying "nice to meet you" when being introduced to someone may seem like the right thing to do. But since there are so many ways it can go wrong and come off as rude, it may not be the best way to respond.
"If the individual corrects you that you've met before, the individual who stated it feels poorly, but if the individual doesn't make the correction and point out the mistake, they're left feeling forgettable and negative," Jennifer L. Silvershein, LCSW, psychotherapist and founder of Manhattan Wellness, tells Bustle.
Instead, Silvershein recommends saying "nice to see you," which removes whether you've met before. It's a simple switch that can help prevent a lot of awkward moments.
6. Reacting To What You *Think* Someone Said
"One of the most common mistakes people make that can come off as rude is reacting to what we think somebody said instead of what they actually said," Sacil Armstrong, an intuitive life coach who helps people to see other people's points of view, tells Bustle.
This is a common mistake, since most of us are wrapped up in our own thoughts and busy listening to our own inner voices, Armstrong says, especially if the other person has an opposing viewpoint. It's easy to have an unhealthy or rude conversation, all based on assumptions.
But that's where active listening can come in handy, Armstrong says. By listening and making sure you understand what someone is saying, you'll be able to respond in a more understanding way.
7. Using The Word "But"
It's interesting to think about how different words are perceived and how they can make others feel. And a good example of that is the word "but" versus the word "and."
"The word 'but' is argumentative and confrontational, and it also pits two things that might be equal in your mind against one another," Oleniczak Brown says.
It also shuts people down. So going forward, you might want to use the word "and" to add to ideas, instead of using "but," especially in situations where collaboration is necessary.
8. Forgetting Common Courtesies
There are so many little moments in the day where it's possible to be polite, but equally easy to seem rude. Take, for instance, holding the door open for someone behind you, or saying "please" and "thank you." While everyone's going to forget from time to time, making these gestures a priority is important.
As McBain says, "Even if you’re in a hurry, these small actions go a long way, and show that you’re courteous and notice those around you." And if you've ever been on the other side, you know how it can impact your day.
9. Not Using Someone's Professional Title
While you don't need to go around using everyone's professional title all the time, there are moments where it is appropriate — such as in an interview, or when addressing them in an email — where not using it can come off as rude.
"This can come across as disrespectful to some people," McBain says. "It’s often better to ask others how they would like to be addressed so you don’t end up looking rude when that wasn’t your intent."
It's easy to make a mistake or two and seem rude as a result. But it's equally easy to fix these mistakes by apologizing, and possibly even avoid them altogether by being more aware and empathetic — all in the name of having better interactions.