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Harvard Etiquette expert reveals 3-word response to handle rudeness with grace

If you find yourself receiving a joke or a sassy remark from someone you know, or even strangers, that you find offensive and rude in some way, here is a three-word response that you can tell them, according to a Harvard-trained etiquette expert: “Are you okay?”

Sara Jane Ho, an etiquette expert from Harvard, teaches people how to respond with class and kindness in rude conversations and uncomfortable situations. As the founder of “Institute Sarita,” a finishing academy that focuses on social norms and habits, and the star of “Mind Your Manners,” a show on an online streaming giant that helps many students learn and practice different types of etiquette to improve their lives, Ho believed that a simple question was enough to ease the tension that is built from unwanted remarks.

“If it were a friend who said something mean to you, I usually look up and say, “Are you okay?,” Ho said.

She explained that asking this question will send a signal to your friends that you don’t appreciate their comments. Aside from the content, it is also important to consider the tone; use a warm and friendly effect, not a sharp one.

“I’m not being offensive back. I’m coming from a place of care, and that is usually to put the other person in check,” she said.

On the other hand, if the remarks came from people, whom you are not close, Ho emphasized the importance of “silent treatment,”  saying nothing is appropriate for strangers and colleagues for the sake of formality. She said that these people should ‘wallow in their misbehavior’.

To end her words, Ho gave a piece of advice to avoid a negative comment ruining your entire day:

“The greatest power is showing that the other person doesn’t have power over you.”


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