It’s one thing if your best friend says something that bothers you, but it’s quite another when you’re on a first or second date with someone you don’t know. When you’re out with someone new, it can be shocking if he or she makes an insulting remark. How do you respond? I’ll share a few ways that you can deal with this so that you call out the offensive behavior and make it clear that you won’t tolerate that going forward. Early in a relationship, everyone is doing a lot of testing – whether they are consciously aware of it or not. Don’t tolerate anyone putting you down or making rude, insulting comments – especially when they hardly know you. But if it does happen, try using any of the following strategies and your point will be loud and clear.
Excuse yourself for a bathroom break.
Without fail, taking a minute to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom is the easiest – and best, I believe – way to handle the situation when a new date says something rude. By excusing yourself, you’re not reacting in a hot-headed manner; instead, you’re taking a moment to regroup in private. Once removed from the situation, you can look yourself in the bathroom mirror, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself how you want to deal with it. Ask yourself the following question: Am I so angry or hurt that I need to address it right now? Can I simply make a mental note that he or she was rude and be on the lookout for any similar comment in the future?
Don’t respond to the insulting comment and switch the subject instead.
If you don’t want to physically excuse yourself from the situation for a few minutes, try this: Look at your phone or watch and take five minutes to sit with your feelings before deciding whether you want to address the rude comment or not. Switch the subject by asking a general question that will get your date talking and give you time to think about what was said, why you’re bothered, and what you want to do about it.
Examples: “Maybe we could talk about something else. Did you hear about [insert any major event in the news]?” “This restaurant is great but what would you say is one of the best restaurants you’ve ever been to?”
Once you’ve got your date talking, feel free to go on auto-pilot, nod, and say “yeah” here and there. Decide if you want to tell your date that you’re bothered now or if you want to finish the date, and then run the issue by a friend later. Not reacting in the moment is often better, allowing you the luxury later to put the situation in perspective.
If you’re angry enough that you need to discuss it n-o-w…
First, state your feelings clearly. Less is more when it comes to telling someone that you’re upset.
Examples: “I don’t want to be a drama queen, but I should say that I felt a little weird/awkward/upset when you said…;” “I really want to focus on having a good time with you, so I hope it’s okay if I clear the air and tell you that I had a reaction when you said…;” “I’m sure your intention wasn’t to upset me, but it stung a bit when you said…”
Second, get yourself a permanent marker and draw a boundary! Remember, you are in charge of how this relationship develops, so be clear – but nice – about your expectations. Once you’ve explained what upset you and give your date a chance to respond, it’s time for the final act: Say that you don’t want him or her to say something like that again. You may believe this point is obvious, but by circling back to it, you are drilling the point home so that there is no confusion. Don’t forget that you are setting up crucial relationship dynamics very early on in a relationship, so it’s better to communicate too much than too little about your expectations.
Examples: “Thanks for talking to me about that, and I trust that you won’t say something similar again;” “That was uncomfortable, I’m sure, for both us, so let’s not saying anything to each other like that again.”
In making such statements, don’t use an angry or punishing tone which could send your date into defensive mode. Make your comments with a soft and friendly tone, and smile a bit to diffuse the awkwardness.
If you’re on one of the first few dates with someone and your date says something rude to you, this insensitive behavior could be an isolated incident; if it happens again, come to grips with the reality that this is someone who will probably upset you on a regular basis if you continue dating. The best you can do to protect yourself from nasty behavior is to address the issue directly – whether the day it happens or soon after – and ask the person to avoid doing the same thing again. If you draw these boundaries clearly, you will quickly find out whether your new date can handle a real, grown-up relationship.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve