I’m sure we all have a few people we can think of that have been difficult to navigate. How do we deal with toxic behavior? How do they know how to get under our skin so perfectly? Well, there’s a way for them not to! The main thing to keep in mind is they only do if we allow them to. Easier said than done! We’ve all been there before. Everyone has different tolerance levels, but when tensions hit the fan, it can get quite ugly, right?

Imagine being a mediator for Trump and Biden. How do two very different people and personalities come to some kind of consensus? How do leaders like these provide any hope when all we recently see is chaos, manipulation and misinformation? Maybe they aren’t really a rude person, maybe they are stressed people who are being rude.

If you’ve ever driven during rush-hour traffic or waded through a crowded store, you know all too well that rude people are everywhere. Whether it’s an insulting comment or a dismissive attitude, rudeness is pervasive. All too often, this negativity rubs may rub off on us.

You can’t control someone else’s behavior but you don’t want to be provoked by someone’s ill-mannered attitude. So what do you do?

When confronted with toxic behavior, whether it’s coming from a short-tempered stranger, an irritable coworker or a curt friend, here are some tried and true methods that have been proven to ward off the not so pleasant.

1. Realize that rudeness is nothing new.

Rudeness seems to be part of human nature. We’ve been complaining about it since the beginning of time — Plato famously ranted about disrespectful and ill-mannered youths. Rude behavior can easily become a habit for many people. We often simply overlook or forget the importance of showing kindness, sympathy and understanding to others.

Rude behavior is communicable: it tends to trigger more negative behavior. But if we can see that these negative behaviors hamper our productivity, our happiness and our health, we can recognize the importance of putting a stop to such conduct. Rudeness is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean we have to continue the transmission.

2. Stop the spiral of rudeness.

Rude behavior can spread like a disease if you let it. One act of rudeness can easily spiral and cause other acts of rudeness, spreading foul tempers and poor behavior that can be indicative of a little child.

It’s easy to see how this happens. A rude driver cuts in front of you on the way to work, causing you to feel annoyed and frustrated. You take those negative feelings out in your colleauges when you find yourself snapping at co-workers for no real reason. Your co-workers, feeling miffed, are then grumpy and rude to others. And so it goes.

You have it in your power to stop that cycle of rudeness. With a little empathy you can defuse rudeness with kindness.

3. Don’t take rudeness personally.

The first step to stopping the cycle of rudeness is to stop taking rude behavior personally. We all are having bad days when the world seems to be beating us down lately. It’s all too tempting to take it out on the world, which really means taking it out on the person nearest to you.

This happens to all of us, so realizing that the offending person may just be having a bad day can put things into perspective. Even if they seem to be chronic, it’s really their problem and not yours. Aren’t you happy you are not that way? The best way to break the cycle of rudeness is by avoiding responding to bad behavior with your own negativity.

4. React to rudeness with kindness.

Don’t let a rude person cause you to respond with more of the same. One of the best ways to defuse rude and negative behavior is to stay friendly and positive. This gives the other person a chance to calm down and adjust their behavior to match yours. Kindness can be a wonderful antidote to rudeness.

Showing kindness to someone who is being surly or insulting to others can be extremely difficult. But by setting a calm and well-mannered example, you can prompt them to follow your lead. If this doesn’t work, just realize that you are not lowering your standards by mimicking similar behavior. Stay cool.

5. Use humor to defuse a difficult person.

A rude and difficult person can create tension and anxiety in themselves and everyone around them. Remember, they are probably being rude because they’re angry or upset about something that they’re going through. Humor can create a diversion and break the tension, allowing everyone to laugh it off.

You can do this by finding a way to laugh about a common situation or by joking about a shared experience you can all relate to. Self-deprecating humor can also be disarming. Finding a way to insert a little levity when someone is feeling out of sorts may be just the thing to help everyone hit the reset button and begin again on a better note. Of course this is not always the case so understanding the situation and knowing if humor could even be a possible is approach is important to understand.

6. Call the person out on his or her behavior.

It gets to a point where we may simply need to call the person out. At least addressing the behavior and telling them to stop is key. Setting appropriate boundaries is important for your own health. You should never allow anyone to treat you in a disrespectful way. By making the person aware, it gives him or her a chance to apologize and try to be more polite. They may not care at the end of the day, but bringing light to it at least gives you an opportunity to move on and not place energy into a toxic zone.

7. Don’t escalate.

Don’t escalate! Don’t escalate! Don’t escalate!! This part is so hard. When all the sirens are on and people who know how to press our buttons are waiting for a response, the best response is no response. When someone annoys you, your first instinct may be to lash back. But remember, you always (and only) have control over yourself. Choose not to give in to drama. No matter how another person acts, you own your behavior, just as they will have to own theirs.

Keep your cool. Take a deep breath and give yourself space to calm down if someone has upset you. Maybe go for a walk. Don’t reach for alcohol! Remember, you don’t have to stoop to their level, and doing so will probably only make matters worse. Maintain your dignity and rise above the fray.

8. Show empathy and sympathy.

Showing empathy requires you to try and understand why the person is being rude. Perhaps that person is dealing with a difficult situation in their personal life, or is feeling overwhelmed by deadlines that are piling up at work. Perhaps it’s a state of mental health that the person will need to adres with a professional. If you can find a way to show that you understand and care about them and what they are going through, they will feel more connected and less alone in their struggles.

If you know someone is having a difficult time, let them know that you understand. Don’t judge them for having a bad day or for snapping at others. You might find a way to mention that you’ve had rough days too, and you can relate to how the person is feeling.

If someone is having a momentary lapse in manners, this may help the person become aware of their negative behavior. If the person gets angrier, let it go. There’s nothing you can do to force someone to behave. We cannot solve everyone’s problems and it’s important to take care of yourself.

Keep your cool.