Disrespectful behavior takes many forms. It can be intentional or accidental, verbal or physical, overt or secret. But what causes rude behavior? Is there anything we can do to stop it?

It is important to understand the root causes when a person behaves disrespectfully. Only then can we begin to tackle the behavior. But first, I want to examine the different types of rude behavior.

Types and examples of disrespectful behavior

It can be verbal or non-verbal; for example, swearing at someone or glaring at them. It can be an aggressive or a passive act; for example, invading a person’s space or ignoring their input at a meeting.

Here are 6 types of rude behavior:

  1. Verbal
  2. Non-verbal
  3. Dismissive
  4. Aggressive acts
  5. Passive-aggressive acts
  6. Cultural or gender disrespect

1. Verbal:

  • Constant interrupting
  • Raising your voice
  • Swearing
  • Threats
  • Angry outbursts
  • Name-calling
  • Shouting and screaming
  • Laughing and mocking

2. Non-verbal:

3. Dismissive:

  • Taking a call on your phone
  • Texting whilst on a date
  • Playing games on a phone
  • Not answering a question
  • Ordering from the menu for you
  • Sending or receiving texts/calls at inappropriate times

4. Aggressive acts:

  • Invading your personal space
  • Pushing or shoving
  • Throwing objects
  • Having a tantrum
  • Threatening physical violence
  • Bullying or intimidation
  • Overbearing or arrogant behavior

5. Passive-aggressive acts:

  • Gossiping behind your back
  • Always late to comply with requests
  • Backstabbing behavior
  • Badmouthing colleagues
  • Playing the victim card

6. Cultural or gender disrespect:

  • Mocking a person’s race
  • Stereotyping someone based on gender
  • Retelling racist or sexist jokes
  • Calling someone a racist slur
  • Belittling someone because of their gender

So why are some people disrespectful? Is it a matter of their upbringing? Do disrespectful people have no manners or are they a bunch of narcissists that only care about themselves?

Actually, the way a person is disrespectful can reveal a lot about their character.

10 causes of disrespectful behavior

1. They have control issues

Some people use disrespectful behavior as a form of control. Control freaks like to dominate a situation to have power over other people. You weaken self-esteem by belittling, bullying, mocking, or degrading a person.

2. Childhood abuse

For others, a disrespectful attitude is all they know. It is a way of life that they grew up with. Perhaps they saw their mother being disrespected or abused by their father. Now they are adults they are desensitized to the trauma they are inflicting.

3. Fear

When we are afraid, we feel defenseless, so we go on the attack. This can be verbally or physically. For example, we may fear that our partner will leave, so we demean them in public. We are showing the world that we don’t care about this person.

4. Personality disorder

People with a dark side or those with sadistic tendencies take pleasure in causing pain and suffering to others. Psychopaths and sociopaths, for example, abuse their victims for the sole purpose of fulfilling their fantasies.

5. Anger issues

Disrespectful behavior often comes from a place of anger and rage. This aggression is triggered by something you are not aware of. However, it causes violent and uncontrolled outbursts, which are difficult to predict.

6. Lack of empathy

When you have no feelings for your victim, it’s much easier to disrespect them. You don’t care if your actions upset or harm them. You want to see the results. A lack of empathy is also associated with anti-social personalities, such as sociopathy and psychopathy.

7. The relationship is over

If you don’t love someone, it’s hard to respect them, especially if you are in the dying stages of a failed relationship. Your partner may want to move on with their life and have no feelings for you. Unfortunately, once the love has gone, so too does the respect.

8. Reached breaking point

disrespectful behavior

Many people are not typically disrespectful. So when they are, it comes as a shock. In such cases, I would examine the circumstances surrounding the disrespectful behavior. Did something prompt an outburst? For example, have your parents been nagging you to clean your room, and suddenly they just lashed out at you?

9. Sense of entitlement

We all feel entitled these days. What we want we usually get. This leads to a selfish and sometimes disrespectful attitude. When we don’t get what we want, we can become spiteful and say things we’d never normally say.

10. Bullying behavior

Sometimes, the simplest explanation is the best. Perhaps this person is not used to being challenged. If a person’s behavior is consistently disrespectful then they may be a nasty bully. Perhaps they’re used to getting their way all the time.

How to deal with disrespectful people?

1. Examine the situation

If you feel disrespected, take a step back and examine the situation. Ask yourself:

Is the person being intentionally disrespectful?

If the person has called you a rude name or threatened you, then the answer is an obvious yes. However, if someone has been a little snappy with you, or told a rude joke, they might not realize that you feel disrespected.

If you are not sure, ask for clarification.

For example: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand, what do you mean?” or “Can you repeat that please?”

2. Think about perspectives

When we encounter people, we don’t look at the world from their perspective. We also neglect to take ours into account. Are you feeling particularly sensitive today and may have overreacted? Perhaps something has happened in their life to upset them. Contemplate both scenarios.

3. Is it worth a response?

We don’t know how a stranger will react if we confront them. If a stranger has disrespected you, my advice is to let it go. However, address the issue if a partner, friend, or family member has behaved in a disrespectful manner.

4. Be calm, but direct, and set limits

Keep emotions under control when you confront the offender. Just state the facts. You can say:

“When you tell those sort of jokes, it offends me.” or “I feel disrespected when you call me names like that.”

Make sure they understand that this sort of behavior is unacceptable.

Final thoughts

No one has to put up with disrespectful behavior. However, it does help to know the causes if we want to end it.


  1. princeton.edu
  2. hbr.org

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Julie

    Thank you Janey. Helpful information.

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