Displaying bad manners is never good for your reputation or your business. But when a vendor or client is rude, impolite, or discourteous, it can help you decide how - or if - you want to proceed with that relationship. After all, choosing to sever ties with a rude person might save you a lot of headaches.
As a case in point, not too long ago I observed bad manners in a potential vendor, and it made me decide not to do business with that person. The situation was a business lunch. Even though the restaurant's menu had a large variety from which to choose, nothing seemed to work for this person. The person acted very disgruntled and begrudgingly asked for something that was not on the menu.
When the dish arrived, the person became the ultimate Prima Donna, pushing the plate back toward the server as if it contained a flesh-eating, carcinogenic bile. This was followed by a snide comment, "can you take that back and have them fix that? That's not what I ordered."
I cringed in embarrassment at the condescending and snobbish behavior of my guest. Previous statements and actions made by this person had raised a yellow flag, but now the cat was out of the bag. I knew that if I entered a business relationship with this person, I would eventually get the same treatment.
An old maxim played loudly in my head:
A person who is nice to you, but not nice to the server, is not a nice person.
Not wanting headaches down the road, later that day I told this person that I was choosing another vendor.
I thought about the possibility that this person might have been having a bad day or was experiencing stress at home, but the overt rudeness I observed was actually part of a trend. And, because I was under no obligation to do business with this person, I chose to look for a friendlier vendor.
When bad manners deteriorate your workplace
The situation will be different if you're an employee and don't have much control over who your company does business with- or what kind of people your company hires. Here are a few suggestions for when clients, vendors, or coworkers are rude and you are required to deal with them:
Remain objective. Making sideways or insulting comments may bring you temporary enjoyment, but professionalism wins in the end. I recall a vendor pressing a point with me that I thought was unreasonable. The conversation could have easily turned into an insult contest, but I held to the main points and kept it objective, not personal (that is, I talked about the issues and didn't make any negative comments about his perspective).
About ten minutes later the issue was resolved to both of our satisfaction, after which the vendor told me "You know, I really appreciate the way you handled that."
Get help if necessary. Whether your trouble is with a client, vendor, or coworker, you might be better off talking with your manager about someone else's bad manners. Your manager might offer some sage advice, or maybe even step in to change the environment. Usually it's better to iron out the wrinkles in a strained relationship than it is to separate two parties altogether without even trying. But if total separation is the best solution, so be it.
Exercise compassion. This can be difficult to do, especially if the rude person is making personal comments. However, if people are rude for no apparent reason, it's possible such people are unhappy about something in their life. It could be a self-esteem issue or perhaps a personal problem that's weighing them down.
The key is to remember it's their problem, not yours. By doing your job and truly assisting such people, you are free to mentally reject any "stuff" they try to lay on you, because you know you are pouring kindness all over them.
Bonus: Not only could you be the only person that treats such people respectfully all day, it's possible that the light you shine into their life might begin to melt their hardening heart.
The bottom line: No "one-size-fits-all" answer exists, but if you observe someone displaying bad manners, they may eventually get turned on you. If you see that as a real possibility, one choice might be to avoid doing business with that person altogether.
If that's not possible or realistic, stay objective and get help if necessary. You might even choose to take pity on such people and cover them with compassion.
The idea is that when you are on the receiving end of bad manners, you can either let it put a stain on your day, or you can respond in a way that's good for you.