How To Manage Bad Behavior In 3 Simple, But Not Easy Steps

How To Manage Bad Behavior

Here is my strategy for dealing with the friend:

  • I leave the restaurant, going on with my day. I say or text something like, “I missed having lunch with you today since you were unable to make it at the time we arranged.”
  • I then say that not making it on time did not work for me, namely, it did not suit me to wait 20 minutes. For example, I might say, “I was not willing to wait for you as I had other plans. I have a pretty tight schedule today.”
  • If I want to maintain the friendship, I then say, “I would love to reschedule when it works for both of us.”

Also, read 13 Practical Strategies To Handle Being Mad or Angry

Here are the general principles I used in the above example. First and foremost, I act to preserve my own autonomy—I act on my own behalf. I went on with my day; I did not sit and fume about her “rudeness.” I described what the person has done that did not work for me. I am a stickler for addressing other’s behaviors that are not okay with me as actions that “don’t work for me.” “It doesn’t work for me” is a powerful statement of my position without putting anyone down.

I don’t characterize their behavior (e.g., “You are being rude to me by being late”). I described the action, being late or unable to be on time. It takes a lot of willingness and practice to describe rather than characterize or label another person’s actions.

I did not make any assumptions about the other person’s intentions toward me. Making assumptions about why she was late will take me back to see her as “rude.”

I guarantee that most people do not accept/agree with our characterizations of their actions. At the same time, they cannot really dispute a description of their actions as they affect me. Even though you make herculean efforts to treat other people well, they may react as if you had accused them of some ‘injury’ and react defensively.

Do not lose your cool. Don’t try to explain. Do not undo your good work at managing your own reaction. Just repeat what you have already said, emphasizing that it just didn’t work for you to wait, not that they were behaving badly.

Also, read 3 Cognitive Strategies To Deal with Bad News

Give Up Labeling People As “Toxic”

Joanna Williams wrote a great article, noting that “we’re all toxic now.” She thinks, ”The fashion of putting toxic in front of everything tells us that there are some who perceive all aspects of life—and especially other people—as not just wrong, or bad, but as actually physically harmful and dangerous.”

Interacting with others, even when they behave badly, is manageable with both an effective approach and the effort to carry it out. It takes courage.


Williams, Joanna. “That ‘toxic’ is the word of 2018 speaks to a growing mistrust of one another. Spiked. November 19, 2018.

Written by:Catherine Aponte, Psy.D
Originally appeared on: Psychology Today 
Republished with permission
How To Manage Bad Behavior In 3 Simple, But Not Easy Steps
How To Manage Bad Behavior In 3 Simple, But Not Easy Steps
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Catherine Aponte

Catherine Aponte is a clinical psychologist who worked with couples for more than thirty years. She writes a Psychology Today blog and contributes posts to The Good Men Project. Throughout her career, she has been devoted to helping couples create and maintain a committed and equitable marriage. Her guide to achieving a committed, equitable, and vibrant family and work-life is in her book A Marriage of Equals ( She trained at Duke and Spalding Universities and taught marital therapy courses at Spalding University as an Associate Adjunct Professor.View Author posts