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By: Lesley Neff

Best title ever? Quite possibly. The day this post made its way into my in-box, I found myself chuckling at my desk. Forget chuckling, I felt compelled to stand beside my desk applauding. Not only is it humorous, but it goes a step beyond funny to share some valid points and a bit of clarity for how to maintain one’s sanity when faced with stupid people. Let’s face it – they’re out there.

In droves…

My ex’s sister came up with the best quote ever: “there’s no response to rude and stupid” (Kim). Many, many years ago, while I was still in the legal profession, I was frustrated with someone at work, and per usual, I came home complaining about it. My complaining often fell on my ex’s deaf ears, but Kim sympathized greatly. She said that I should save my energy, as it is not worth getting worked up, as there is no fixing stupid and no response to rude. It sounded logical. It also sounded easy. Over the years, I have realized it’s more of a scientific art form that requires patience, practice and, sometimes, even duct tape.

I told Jamie Collins about my idea for this article months ago, but I struggled with too harsh a tone. I left it unfinished and had a hard time coming back to it. Then, I read her article, Two of the Most Important Choices You Will Ever Make. I saw such a connection between her polished piece and my scrambled thought fragments. She motivated me and made me ask, who do I want to be in the same room with? I would choose to be in the same room with her. I also know exactly with whom I would not choose to even be in the same building.

Jamie said she sat, in the stands, at the Pacer’s game “contemplating how one person can truly uplift an entire room of people” (2013, July). I agree. It is amazing. It is also amazing, yet perhaps more negative, that one person can also bring down an entire room. Or an entire classroom. Or an entire office. Or an entire department. Or an entire firm. The power of one.

Why do we allow this?

I do not see this issue as being law office specific, though I am sure they still have their fair share; I think it applies to any work setting, as well as to our personal lives. Random, uncalled for, stupid, rude one-liners can often cause one to want to respond in…well, in a not so good way. That’s when things escalate, and people tend to get fired and relationships destroyed.

What about that attorney who asks why you didn’t finish the discovery after he returns from his 3rd three hour lunch that week and you have 250 cases? What about that colleague who thinks it is okay to make derogatory comments about your weight, or your age, or your clothing or whatever else he/she needs to attack to feel better about him/herself? What about that fellow colleague who pretends to be your boss and explains to you just exactly how things are gonna go down? What about the colleagues who do not understand how to return an e-mail or meet a deadline? What about that family member who always calls the shots at the holidays? What about the neighbor who thinks it’s okay to tell you he thinks your kid is bad? What about that person who feels the need to remind you that he/she has an extra letter at the end of his/her title that you do not?

Oh, how to respond to this stuff? You don’t.

While I have never taken retaliatory retorts too much to the extreme, some of my responses over the years have landed me in unpleasant, awkward situations and definitely strained relationships, both personally and professionally. I am more passion emotion many times, and I have struggled with the difficulty of keeping my mouth shut. It really is the best way to go, and people hate that! They want nothing more than for you to engage. They want control over your emotions. They want to feel important by tearing you down. Do not allow it. Turn, smile and walk away.

It took me a few years to truly absorb the beauty and accuracy of Kim’s quote, but now, I really get it. There really is no response to stupid. Some people are completely incapable of communication, compromise or collaboration. Even an attempt to respond in much of life’s daily haranguing creates an exhaustion from which is impossible to fully recover.

I find that disengagement is the best weapon. Ignore it, and in many cases, he/she/it will actually go away…eventually. This allows time to be spent on things that actually matter. The more one engages, the worse things get, escalating into an unnecessary nightmare for all parties involved. There is just no reasoning with some people, and the more you try, the more crazy you become. Sadly, as cliché as it sounds, life really is too short to waste time and energy on the world’s rude and stupid people, as they are everywhere. They live next door to the Lazies, but that is another article.

My colleague and friend has been on mind lately, almost daily, and she represents a perfect example as to why we should focus on what counts in life. Her daughter is dying. She spends every day wondering when will be her last, and her thoughts have been dedicated to thinking of a plan, a plan to keep herself busy after her child passes.

She sat behind me in our faculty meeting this morning, as my mind raced, worrying about the hiring of a new instructor, the opinions and needs of others, a student’s grade, an attorney’s availability of an internship for one of my paralegals, new policies, the dress I would wear to the wedding at the end of the month and how I would look, whether I should have tacos or pizza for lunch—all stupid things compared to what she was thinking… how do I live the rest of my days when my child is gone and come home to an empty house.

In the end, all that matters is who you go home to, even if that is to yourself, a self with whom you are proud to be. What pet or child is waiting for you? Whose arms do you fall into at the end of the day? I am very lucky. I have that – more important things in life than the rude and the stupid. In fact, I almost feel sorry for them. Over time, it is now much easier for me to save energy from responses to stupid and put that toward more important things. And…when that fails, and since duct taping someone’s mouth shut and shoving him/her into a closet is probably a felony of some sort in most states, I turn to humor with my partners in crime…

We have started a Stupid Cup. I am depositing money in the stupid cup for every time someone is rude. Every rude comment gets a quarter. Every stupid accusation gets a dollar. The only problem is that I have found myself having to go to the bank machine quite a bit. I will save all of my stupid money and take my loved one on a trip.

Lesley Neff is the Director of Educational Services, in Marian’s Adult Programs, at Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana.  She handles academic issues, supervises the faculty, addresses classroom issues, serves as academic liaison between MAP and traditional programs, develops and revises curriculum and teaches in the newly developed paralegal studies degree program. Lesley graduated with a B.A. from Purdue in Political Science and English.  After spending many years working in the legal field, she pursued a career change and completed an M.A. in English Literature at Butler University.  She has taught at several area universities, including Marian, in both the traditional program and MAP, Ivy Tech and IUPUI. 


You heard it here first folks, “There is no response to stupid.” No matter what you hear (or do not hear) see (or do not see) over the next 30,000 days of your legal career, there is no response to stupid. 

Have an absolutely fabulous weekend! We’ll see you soon.